Are you familiar with the Philadelphia MOVE Bombing of 1985?
I remember reading the multipage feature about this in the Detroit Free Press and being outraged. It was 1985 and I turned 15 that year.
I asked how this could happen and saying I thought the objectives of MOVE made sense. Even the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult my family was members of just said this was an inevitable “sign of the end times,” but there was nothing for us to do about it because we were waiting on Jehovah to decide when we could stop knocking on doors and trying to make converts and he could bring Armageddon in full swing. And only after that and a restoration of planet Earth to Edenic conditions, then, maybe, if the people had converted to being Jehovah’s Witnesses they could be a part of a new just society. And if they died in the meantime they might get a resurrection back onto the planet with a new body.
For some reason, this answer was not good enough for me. I had lots of questions and nobody had the answers. I was growing increasingly agitated with the idea that we should just wait for justice when I had read that it was possible to organize directly in a community to bring it about for one another. And that obviously threatened the unjust order, because the state decided to come in and bomb the place.
I remember my Dad sitting with me to talk me down, cast doubt that the victims may have been criminals, and even if they weren’t, we couldn’t put our hope in imperfect human institutions when our hope as Jehovah’s Witnesses was in God’s kingdom. He also talked about how he grew up in the civil rights era and that not everyone and everything is as it seems and not everyone who is Black is actually oppressed.
I’m sure he was just repeating what he’d been told himself as a kid. It’s a family tradition here in the US, but it’s also a systemic tradition. We have all experienced it from our different perspectives, but we all have in common who it protects. It should be obvious to anyone paying even slight attention to the news cycle and daily events that this system is designed to exploit most of us in order to create profits for a very small minority of humans who are using up more than their fair share of resources simply because the system allows them to.
I wrote recently about the parallels between the control methods that the Jehovah’s Witness cult uses and that capitalists use to control workers. I think that my Dad, being a small business owner trying to succeed in this system, has had to adopt certain cognitive dissonances, just as we all have. I think that is reflected in his behavior at that time. I’m certainly glad that we all escaped the cult decades ago in the ’90s but I also have PTSD from traumas I have endured. In coping with the life-altering symptoms caused by those, I’ve found that I must take the same approach I did with my escape from the cult back then, and that is to face down my fears and reframe some of the trauma.
My heart aches knowing that back then the best thing we could’ve done as a family is abandon that cult and get class conscious, as well as addressing active and latent white supremacist and racist conditioning in ourselves.
It really hurts knowing years later that Dad bought a copy of a book by a former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses – something we were forbidden to read – that same year, 1985. He and Mom had a fight about it and it just so happened to occur simultaneously with the first time I skipped school and immediately got caught. Mom was sick in bed, there was fighting behind closed doors, and Dad was openly hostile toward me. At the time I had no idea about the verboten book, which Mom had discovered in his office desk and pitched into the dumpster because it was full of DEEMINZ. Or so we’d been advised at weekly meetings and through Watchtower Society publications ad nauseum.
So ten years later I found out about their conflict. I’d spent the previous decade thinking I’d fucked up and disappointed them so badly that I damn near broke up our family. I remember talking to my high school teacher Mr Cates some about it, but only because he drew me out. I felt guilty. He assured me it wasn’t a big deal, and that he said it as a teacher and a parent. He told me if I felt scared at home to let him or my counselor know. I didn’t feel scared. I felt like a disappointment.
I was able to reframe that through a lot of work in therapy over the decades and now realize that even if their anger was only about me skipping school, my parents reaction was overblown. They hid their own fight within their being upset about my behavior because they never had open conflict in front of my middle brother and I growing up. They’d go to their room & fight quietly in private.
But my current struggle is reconciling with the fact that I saw the way out decades ago, was dismissed and chided, and now we’ve all been hurtling along toward extinction in the meantime when we could’ve been doing the work everyone needs to be doing for avoiding that extinction. All my recent efforts since becoming a Marxist-Leninist to convey the need for massive personal and systemic change continue to get dismissed and eyerolled despite the fact that the science, math, history, and our own senses are showing us that it’s needed.
We don’t have another 35 years of Liberal complacency and Conservatism that’s taking off its mask and showing us the Fascism underneath.
So I sincerely hope that my Dad and others his age either do the work they need to in order to get past their Anti-Communist conditioning and get to work helping to build the new world or if they’re unwilling to make any effort, then they should adopt the motto “No examination, no right to speak,” and adhere to it while the rest of us put the work in.
We do not have time to waste arguing with people who continue to accept propaganda as reality.
I’ve taken to reading this essay every night to use it as a metric for analyzing my day’s thoughts, interactions and behavior and determining where I could’ve done better. It’s helped me identify even more layers of Capitalist conditioning. I hope more will consider incorporating this practice with me and perhaps we can even discuss it together.
I think my brainmeats my finally be ready to settle in for slumber – my body has been ready for hours.
I may come back and make corrections/edits tomorrow, this is very stream of consciousness.