To Write about Politics is to Write about Heartbreak
A Note for the New Year
Last year, I finally read Akwaeke Emezi’s 2022 novel You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty. It’s a kind of “second chance romance,” but not quite. Maybe a sub-genre of the sub-genre. Typically, second chance romances are stories following a relationship that dissolved at some point in the past, and the new circumstances arising to give that love another opportunity to blossom. This book is, instead, the story of a 29-year-old widow who, after surviving the same car accident that killed her husband, struggles with the desirability of having a second chance at life (much less love) in the wake of almost unbearable grief. “He was dead, and what was she doing? Being alive, making art. How frivolous.” The only kind of love that stands a chance of penetrating her world enough to convince her that she is not irretrievably alone in the aftermath of her personal apocalypse is that of another who has borne the unbearable. There’s no room for a love that has not known the pain at the end of a destroyed world. Or the limits of mortality. There’s no room for a love that puts bliss and ease on a pedestal. What the protagonist needs is a love as enduring and formidable as her loss.
As I write, 5% of Gaza's population is now dead, wounded or missing. That would be 16.6 million people in the United States. How many love stories did Israel destroy in 86 days? The Biden Administration has, for the second time in less than a month, bypassed Congress to greenlight an emergency weapons sale to Israel, which has only intensified and broadened its attacks on the Gaza Strip despite growing international outrage. And the current state of domestic politics is characterized by an inability to decisively address the most consequential, day-to-day survival issues of our time like gun violence, student debt, inflation, and access to healthcare while the war machine functions like clockwork, even managing to evade our dysfunctional legislative branch.
As is the case in most relationships, underneath expressions of outrage is heartbreak at a perceived heartlessness. In all the talk of newness and hope for the future is the reality that love after heartbreak, if it has survived at all, is not the same as love before it. It really can’t be. It will, necessarily, be either better or worse for the wear. Here’s to another attempt to write through it. Or about it. Of refusing to be made unfeeling and unthinking in the face of all that is before us. Of refusing to be crunched into other people’s fantasies and eaten alive. “I was telling her how much I love being here. With you. Like even if I still felt alone, at least I felt like I was alone next to your alone, like our alones could walk together.”
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