I’m just a mouse, alone in a bucket

1 Jun

I keep thinking about this time about 15 years ago when we had a mouse in our apartment. What were we, a few twenty-somethings without the heart to hurt a mouse, to do? My best friend’s boyfriend, staying with us at the time, decided to take matters into his own hands. He put a bucket in the sink, built a little weighted plank with one half of the board resting on the countertop and the other half hanging over the middle of the bucket and placed a small snack on the end of it. Sure enough, our mouse pal – too enamored of the small bit of food at the end of this board to nowhere to realize the danger – marched his little mouse behind across the board and tumbled (uninjured) into the bucket. The sides were too high and too slick for the mouse to escape. I’m sure the poor thing was terrified. Lucky for the mouse, we were benevolent overlords and took it to safety in Prospect Park, located a little more than a mile away. In hindsight, there’s a not-so-tiny chance that it got eaten by a hawk or an owl inside that 526-acre plot of land in the middle of Brooklyn, but better that natural end, I think, than the one humans would have imposed upon it.

I’ve been thinking about that mouse a lot recently. Not because two of my good friends have been battling with their own unwanted furry visitors, and not to reflect on the complete ridiculousness of the fact that our simplistic, makeshift trap actually worked. I’ve been thinking about that mouse because recently I’ve felt a lot like it. Stuck at the bottom of a bucket, alone, every avenue of escape just as steep and as slick as the one before. Right now, and likely in the forever before now, we’ve all, knowingly unknowingly, been that mouse.

Maybe that’s a bad example but I’m having a really hard time putting anything into words these days. Let me try this. One of my friends recently introduced me as someone with a lot of rage. She meant is as a compliment and I took it as such. I’ve always been quick to anger; anger is something I can work with. I can redirect it towards productivity, I can use it as motivation to speak out about something, hold someone to account for their bad behavior. Somehow anger makes me feel like I have some utility in this world full of so many difficult, horrible, inhuman, unjust things. Recently, all that anger has been replaced by a deep, aching sadness. Every horrific thing that happens piles onto the thing that came before, compounding it. The thing that makes it so hard to deal with is that all of this horror, if not completely preventable, is at least mitigable. This pandemic didn’t have to be so deadly. Those children in Texas, those adults in Buffalo, did not have to be massacred. George Floyd didn’t have to be murdered by the state. It certainly shouldn’t have taken a video captured by a teenager, a video that showed a man in the worst and last moments of his life, to hold his murderers accountable. At he very least, that video should have caused the entire system to burn.

I recognize that I’m late to this party and that people have been saying this for years, decades, centuries. But, I’m going to go down this road anyway. I’ve always had some vague understanding that everything was a scam, everything interconnected, everything orchestrated for a singular purpose. Since George Floyd was murdered, it’s as if the top blew off the whole thing. All of these incidents throughout history that felt somewhat maybe related are in fact all deeply intertwined with one another, so tangled up in a ball that it’s hard to distinguish one thread from another. And this was all intentional. I’ve written a lot about the American Dream being a load of horse shit. That lifting oneself up by one’s bootstraps is actually not possible unless the person in question happens to be very, very strong and also a contortionist. Even then I struggle to imagine how it would look. The purpose of this false narrative, the false telling of human capability within our current system, is to leave us all feeling as though we, alone, are in control of our own fates, our own futures. That any success we have is due to our own hard work and any failure is due to a moral shortcoming. In the story of the American Dream (which, let’s be honest, was imagined to empower white people, specifically white men, and disempower everyone else) there is no role for society or community. There is no acknowledgment that the people who are in power were born into power and generations of their families will stay in power until their greed destroys everything we have.

I’m sorry to sound so gloom and doom. I just don’t know how else to view it anymore. We were all born into a system of brainwashing and, over time, it becomes increasingly more difficult to discern the difference between truth and fiction. This, too, was all be design. Call the press liberal elitists even while they parrot police union talking points. Spend decades arresting and incarcerating Black and Latino men for drug offenses, then make marijuana legal, doing nothing to mitigate the lifelong effects of inhuman imprisonment. Oh, and for funsies, how about we let white people reap all the benefits and use the new tax stream to give more money to the police state. Just last week, the President of the United States, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, said this:

Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?

I know he is using the word “we” which normally would be interpreted as meaning the collective, but in our context, this “we” is every one of us, individually. You and I are not doing enough to stop this carnage. Never mind that I (and maybe you, too) are against guns, that we vote to put anti-gun politicians into power, that we march and scream until we’re red in the face. You and I? We need to do more. That’s how it can be guaranteed that nothing will ever change, that the same people will continue to hold all the power and more and more money will land in their bank accounts. We have some people who think there are rules and decency and others who see the current state for what it is, what it has been, and are wringing every last bit of power and money out of it. Then there’s the rest of us, stuck somewhere in the middle.

I’ve been crying a lot, down here at the bottom of my bucket. I tear up when I see kids playing outside of a school, thinking about all the kids who have been killed by gunfire. I can’t watch shows about the environment anymore, because all my mind focuses on is how corporate greed is destroying everything and we’re powerless to stop it. It’s hard to see old or immunocompromised people moving through the world without thinking about how we failed them in this response to the pandemic, how we continue to fail them every single damn day. It’s impossible to walk past a police officer without tumbling down a rabbit hole of how much money we give these fuckers to keep people down, money that could be so much better used to prop them up. I could continue. I don’t think I need to.

It’s a rough go for all us mice in all our buckets. I don’t know. I wish I had a little uplifting thing to put at the end of this, but I’m plumb out of uplifting things. Maybe next time.

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