"yeah, the lights are a drag, but its a lot better than the sun."
- Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem for a Dream
Six years ago, I watched it all happen on a television in a basement laundry just a few blocks from Johns Hopkins University. I was living in Baltimore at the time, no money, just a couple of part-time jobs, but I was dating a fabulous little girl-with-glasses and getting lots and lots of fantastic sex. There were books to be read, I was doing some low-frequency organizing with ACORN, and things generally seemed to be looking up, horrible terrorist attacks and neanderthal Presidents notwithstanding.
That girl, who adored me, is gone from my life now, as are the friends I had back east. With about four more years of school under my belt, I am probably much smarter than I was six years ago, and with more possibilities, or "prospects," but I do not feel any better for them. I don’t mean that my apartment’s not much bigger than it was in Baltimore, or that I still have no money. But the last six years have felt like a decline. Something is missing now. And those of us who weren’t running as fast and as hard as we could over and off a high place managed to be carried along just the same, and now we are all falling but don’t quite know it and probably won’t until we hit bottom.
I miss hope. I miss feeling as though I had something to add to posterity, that things I do today will matter in the long run. I miss being earnest. I miss feeling unashamed and unafraid.
I don’ t believe, not in the least, any of those old feelings will come back with a new President, or another Congress, or even if we leave Iraq tomorrow and rebuild New Orleans the next day and scientists discover a way to make global warming into Doctor Who toys the day after that. The lesson that we should’ve learned on that day was that some things cannot be undone. We should’ve learned to be careful with one another and with the places we live. But we didn’t see that then, and we don’t see it now, and we won’t see it six months from now. Though a lot was taken from us on that day, we’ve willfully – cheerfully - thrown away a whole lot more.