There’s a man, there’s been many men, standing on a stage calling for an extermination of people. Then, a clarification: eradicating an ideology.
How does one eradicate an ideology? What steps can one take?
Erasing history books is a start, but a fruitless one. Stories are not only told through the vessels published by the majority. They’ve been told for centuries in locker rooms and on graffiti stained walls. Oral histories are spun from throats in bunkers and published in subtext. You cannot kill an ideology. You cannot erase every trace of it.
I think of Marsha, discarded dead in a river. I imagine you imaging this scene, breathlessly whispering your D-list movie star line about it being good, breathless and ecstatic and the thought of death. What image, though, comes most readily to your mind when you think of her? Is it her dead, lifeless and shredded in a river? Or is it her smiling? Made up? Flowered and wigged?
That is an ideology, no longer a person. You can’t kill it. It rises from the river in full color. You cannot erase every trace of us.
You cannot kill an ideology.
Of course, you also cannot kill an ideology. I think then of the worst one, the unmatched horror of atrocity. I think of a man who shoots himself in a bunker. I think of a trial on the world stage, an agreement that Never Again. I think of the men in white sheets burning crosses in yards. I think of a failed coup to honor an ousted president. I think of a salute and a march with faux torches from men afraid of fire.
No, you cannot kill an ideology. You cannot exterminate it. You cannot erase every trace of it.
Belief is an unstoppable force. Immovable from the minds of the devout, even the devout to come. Ideology reincarnates. People come back to life.
So if neither ideology can die, if love and hatred perseverate, what then? A stalemate? Futility? Should we give up? Sing kumbaya with the murderers and the murdered?
A better question than survival is worship. If both are immortal, which is worth your devotion? Our choice has to be made based on something more than survival.
I think now of Sisyphus and his damn boulder. I imagine hatred as the sisyphean ideology. Its only goal is to eradicate. To kill. To eliminate. But as we’ve discussed, ideology cannot die. People cannot be killed in a way that is meaningful. The ideology of eradication is futile. You are dedicated to an eternal thing, sure, but it is a torturous one. Something that can never be accomplished.
Consider then, us. The worship of an eternal ideology whose only goal is to exist. To live. To perseverate. Survive. To do, in essence, what an ideology does. To be what life is.
Both will survive; The choice is not survival. Both will exist. But only one, by its very nature, can succeed. And I am not a masochist.
There has not been a time in recent memory where being an American was as terrifying as it is on this election day. With over 232,000 COVID deaths, LGBTQ rights on the precipice of being gutted, Black men being gunned down in the middle of the road, uterus-owners continuing to be the occupants but not owners of their bodies, children parentless in cages, and stark political divisions pitting neighbor against neighbor, I find myself feeling marooned in my American identity. Whatever happens tonight or, more likely, in the days and weeks to come, I fear we will still be left in the remnants of the Disunited States for months and years to come. There is a deep and vast hopelessness I feel in the very pit of me while writing this.
A few weeks ago, in a Facebook conversation on COVID, a Christian I went to church with flippantly suggested that I simply have more faith in God. I know it was flippant because she included that emoji of a woman flipping her hair after she said “Have more faith in God.” This is another example of the Christian-ese we speak with dripping tongues when we face something scary. Hear me say, I’m a staunch believer that faith is important, having trust in something greater is the only thing that drags me, kicking and screaming, through the darkness of each day. But it’s a little empty when your ability to exist as a human is threatened like so many people stand poised to now. It’s a little daunting when you’re standing in a desert for forty years waiting for some miraculous promised land to appear.
I am also a believer that truth does not come only from sources with the Church’s broad stamp of approval. We can find little miracles of grace, overwhelming calls to justice, and broad evidence of God in anything the Creator had a finger in making, which if you believe in any form of Genesis, is everything we experience. I want to pull today from the book of 2nd Frozen.
At the end of the movie, we see Princess Anna curled in a ball inside a dark cave after the death of both her sister Elsa and her best friend Olaf. She utters the heartbreaking refrain “Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb.” I’m writing to you now from beside her. I feel hopeless, and not just about the election, but about the state of life itself, that so much of my ability to exist in the world depends on other people. That so much happiness can be sourced from another person; that so much pain and heartbreak can too. I feel overwhelmed at the currents I find myself drowning beneath, and the future that I am not yet in. How much longer do I have to walk through a desert before I can taste the sweetness of honey? How many more callouses must I bloody my souls with before I’m allowed to sit and rest?
Anna does not lay there forever, though. Her first act of resistance is to stand, and I love the way she lays out how we can keep going when everything is telling us to succomb:
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
Kristen Anderson-Lopez / Robert Lopez copyright Walt Disney Music Company
This is my election night message to you, America. No matter your aisle, no matter your identity, no matter war, unrest, or peace, when you are presented with your next opportunity, make the right choice. Do what is loving, seek what is just.
There is immense power that other people have over you. You can be fired from your job, broken up with, cheated on. You can have your marriage invalidated, your body erased, your autonomy decimated. You can be robbed and beaten, threatened. You can be killed. But you can always choose the next right thing.
You can wake up and get dressed. You can be as kind as possible to your classmates, your spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors. You can choose to cling to that tiny and fierce hope in making a better world. You can cry and embrace your fear. You can love.
Stumble, eyes open or shut, unsure or certain, bloody or intact, towards that great light which calls us to make Heaven here on Earth. I believe that presidents and congressional members matter. I believe that they have the power to make my life a living and dying hell. I also believe in my power to make the world one degree better each day I refuse to give up, to open doors for those shut out, to gasp with my dying breath into the leathered boot of oppression stepping into my neck.
And no man can take that away from me.
Bryce Van Vleet is the author of Tired Pages which can be purchased here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.
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(Spoilers for the 2018 edition of Halloween and Mother!)
It’s no secret that I love Halloween (the holiday and the franchise) as well as all things horror. There’s something cathartic about a good horror movie. You have two options with horror, depending on its direction. Like the age-old tragedy genre, you can abandon the protagonist just before their inevitable death. There’s something freeing in a world where we understand our mess and neuroses innately, to abandon all that is too difficult, too hard to pursue, and simply enjoy the collapse of it all. On the other hand, you can fight until the bitter victory and rejoice in the moment that even the darkest nights won’t prevail.
There’s very few horror movies I haven’t enjoyed to some degree. In fact, the only one that comes to mind now is the Jennifer Lawrence-led flick Mother! While a poignant reminder to protect Mother Earth, there is something truly un-get-over-able about seeing a baby ripped apart by a hungry, crazed crowd. I suppose that’s the point. But still. I do have a few all-time favorites though: Both Halloween movies, Doctor Sleep, The Conjuring, Annabelle Comes Home, and Kubo and the Two Strings. By far, though, Halloween (2018), the reboot of the iconic franchise, is one that I will never get tired of. This film is the perfect blend of classic and modern horror and, like its predecessor, will forever be iconic. Here are just a few reasons why:
The best example of Halloween’s merger between classical horror and modern horror is most clearly seen with the literal cut in footage of the original movie’s opening scene. There’s other subtle moments of connection – the obsessed therapist, the scene of Laurie being attacked through a door, horny babysitters, and the melodramatic overtones. There’s subtle differences too, though: Laurie’s tumble over the porch instead of Michael, the unmasking of Michael when we first see him, and a larger exploration of feminine heroics. Yet we also see a complete modernization: an emphasis on sexual violence, acceptance of modern-day gender norms (crossdressing costumes, a dancing hunter, and independent womanhood), technology, and a more thorough understanding of evil.
The film opens with two podcast journalists working towards an exposé on Michael Myers, a perfect way to immediately modernize the characters and world. Podcasts, particularly those in the true crime genre, have skyrocketed in the past few years. Their aggressive, sensationalized attempt to portray Myers quietly highlights the controversy of the true crime drama at large. The storyline makes a critique of modern society’s fascination with real horror for some true meta-narration.
Allyson and Laurie’s relationship throughout the film highlights the complexity of strained inter-generational family relationships. Allyson very clearly wants her grandmother to be a part of her life but Laurie’s trauma perpetually prohibits them from growing any real roots. Allyson forms a bond with her grandma in plotting against her parents in typical high school frustration, while also bonding with her mother in her anguish against her grandmother’s unresolved trauma. For people with complicated inter-generational connections, this tension is all too real. You have to reconcile your own relationships with the traumatic relationships your parents formed.
The portrayal of Laurie’s trauma deserves its own book. From breaking into her daughter’s house, to silently crying on the side of the road while her granddaughter hugs her, trauma is its own deeply developed character. The community manifests its trauma in the way a random woman gets a call from a friend (Sally) seemingly warning her to lock up her house. She, keenly aware of the danger an escaped Michael poses, closes her blinds as her neck is slit from behind. Generationally, Karen manipulates her fear of the basement to trick Michael into getting shot, blood spattering against a hidden Laurie. And, as Allyson runs through a dark forest, tripping over her grandmother’s target practice, we see the way that generational trauma lingers in families and haunts communities in the long run. Typically, we only get to see horror victims in their moments of vulnerability. When we do get to see the trauma-afflicted remnants of the horror-stricken, such as we do in Doctor Sleep, The Conjuring, and It Chapter 2, it is deeply and immediately satisfying. We get to see not only the chilling portions of horror, but also connect emotionally to the drama of a difficult existence.
By far the best aspect of Halloween is the expansion of feminine strength. While the first movie predominately focuses on Laurie’s strength, remarkable for the time, Halloween expands her domination of Michael to nearly every female character, even the ill-fated ones. Vicky, despite asking her boyfriend Dave to check out the strange noise her and Julian hear, is the only one brave enough to actually investigate. Ray has the iconic line “This is my own home and I can take care of my own family” in response to Laurie telling him how to better defend the house. In a twist of irony, Ray is killed after venturing outside Laurie’s fortress. Even our dear old Hawkins doesn’t make it. The easy expenditure of men and the bad-assery of women, makes Halloween strikingly cozy for fans of Ready or Not, Knives Out, Midsommar, and countless other female-driven horror films.
Compared to modern marvels like Ari Aster, Halloween seems a little flat. The actual horror is classic: one legendary slasher taking people out. For modern audiences accustomed to more esoteric technology-assisted horror, it’s a testament to David Gordon Green that the atmosphere of the film still feels so scary. Unlike even modern bad-guy-conquers-all thrillers like Hush (well worth your time), there’s little in the way of unique characterizations. It’s classic horror, in every sense of the word, delivered in a way that feels fresh to modern audiences.
This isn’t to say that the horror is necessarily expected in Halloween. Our definitions of horror are challenged throughout the film. The iconic character isn’t the only thing we’re taught to fear. Michael’s mask is donned later by his psychiatrist. This moment, horrifying in its brutal murder of the beloved police officer, signifies that there is innate evil in everything and the pursuit of understanding, of humanizing evil, is as dangerous as being murdered. Sometimes the thing we trust most is the thing we should most deeply fear. Sometimes what feels safe is damning in its lure. But the best moment, and the most unexpected, for us as much as the characters, is Karen’s line at the end of the movie. “It’s not a cage, it’s a trap.”
Like the three generations of Strode women we the audience come to understand that facing our fears head on is the best way to cope through the chaos.
And, well, there’s Jamie Lee Curtis. All I’m saying is, it’s the perfect movie.
Three years ago, after the release of their album Followers, Tenth Avenue North looked to be on the brink of a breakup. A brutal touring schedule, a loss of commercial relevance, and a wandering of purpose led the boys to reconsider their vocational identity. Then I Have This Hope and Control peaked on the Billboard charts. They dramatically reduced their touring schedule. They wrote and released an EP that pushed the boundaries of CCM. No Shame marks a new season in the band’s life – one of maturity, refreshment, and passion. It also coincides with frontman Mike Donehey’s first (official) book launch. Click through to read reviews of both of these projects.