Issue #1

  1. Introducing PROTOCOLS

  2. Something That Could Feel Alive

  3. An Argument After Watching Gentleman’s Agreement

  4. Hard Times

  5. Fear and Isolation in American Zion

  6. Untitled

  7. Becoming Disco

  8. Project 2x1

  9. The Hamsa Flag

  10. Finding Home #61: Beloved

  11. Three Poems

  12. Judaica

  13. The Other Within

  14. Am I Anne

  15. On Choosing

  16. This Shall Also Pass

Something That Could Feel Alive

Hannah Rubin

Illustration by Margalit Cutler

I started writing this while sitting on the side of the road in Northern California. Sunlight dappling its way through canopies of leaves, falling onto the grass in gentle rusts of dark, then darker. There were many words churning through my mind, but two in particular kept showing upno then yes, then no, then yes. And within them I was seeking a footholdsomething more than just a bridge. Something that could sparkle when caught by light, refracting into perpetual tangibility. Something that could feel alive.

Ive driven through the out-of-reach parts of Nevada too many times to not understand how different parts of the heart of this country humdrop-down TRUMP banners cascading at least six feet wide over balconies and typed manifestos decreeing The End of Christian Americapegged to the doorways of shuttered windows. Im not saying this is everywherejust that it exists. That its ripe. I first learned who George Soros was during one such trip a few Aprils ago, while stopped at a gas station in Eastern Nevada. According to the pamphlet given to me by the stations attendant, he was The Jew in charge of Americas decline.

And now, according to the Twitterverse created by a certain sect of Trump supporters, hes The Jew bankrolling the ANTIFA terroristmovement and bussing paid activists to #fakeprotests in order to spray paint Kill Whitesonto city buildings. All this language, and its corresponding ideas, have a way of cycling through itself. In closed places that extend outwards and back.

Im a writer, I pay attention to language. I read Trumps Twitter, click on the links he uses for sources, go to the websites that they send me to, and then I read those fucking comment sections. I dont recommend it. But it does tell an important story.

A story of dysfunctional communication dialectic divides that are only getting wider and more full of sharpness. A story about language stolen, reshaped, retooled, oiled, and then exploded. A story about propaganda, about social media, about the internet: weapons cocked and loaded, words as ammunition. Im telling you: pay attention to memes. They are the greatest gift Fascism ever received. Theres nothing more violent than using a good joke as cover.

Maybe part of antisemitism is shame in even bringing it up.

The anxiety, for me, about naming or claiming antisemitism is that its very existence as a realthing is contested. Namely: the joke has become the schleppy Jewish character complainingabout minute moments of antisemitism while other, more realer and visible oppressions run rampant. As though oppressions dont work in concert: As though anti-blackness and vigilante nationalism arent part of the same virulent antisemitic ideology of domination through othering. Yet, most people dont make that connection. Its not just that it gets left out of the conversation, its that it has become the butt of the joke. In America, where oppression is conceptualized around axes of skin color and representation, no one quite knows what to do with it.

The it I refer to is a wound. A wound that Western Christendom has organized itself around since times in utero. Namely: how is it so easy to convince people that Jews are non-beings? Demonic. Devilish. There has been so much historical glee in the killing of Jews. Where does that glee come from? It takes only a few minutes on 4chan, or in the Breitbart comment sections, to make my body chill: jokes tossed back and forth about the lol oven apartmentand the media elite.”  

Antisemitism is nearly the only kind of hatred that Trump doesnt name directly; instead, he feeds into white supremacist codes more subtly, by referringconstantlyto fake news, the dishonest and untrustworthy media, the greedy and immoral liberal elite. These codes, whether known to him or not, have been around for centuries. With Glee.

And what underlies them isnt funny. From a flyer found in Berkeley a few weeks ago, written by the National Alliance (a whites rights group based in Tennessee):

“They hate our flag. They hate our monumentsThey control our mass media for now. They control our corrupted elected officials through bribes and intimidationBut more and more of us refuse to accept extinction and genocide.

Who do you think the theyis? Perhaps the same theythat was being referenced in Charlottesville, when the white men torched their way through the streets chanting, They will not replace us.Could it also be the same theyrunning rampant on DTs twitter?

And, in all of this, a silence about who and what is actually being talked about. And in that silence, only jokes. An evasive language that is purposeful. Everything in such gross exaggeration, white minds teeming with insecurity: millions of illegals, millions of voter fraud, millions of media elite, millions of lizard people, millions of ANTIFA terrorists, millions of transgenders.

A confusion around quantity, around language, around what is possible, what is real.

Everything in such gross exaggeration, white minds teeming with insecurity: millions of illegals, millions of voter fraud, millions of media elite, millions of lizard people, millions of ANTIFA terrorists, millions of transgenders.

This rhetorical strategy creates a haunting. Creates an environment where Trump is able to dismiss the claims of trafficking in antisemitic stereotypes and employing antisemitic tropes with the response, Im the least antisemitic person youve ever seen in your life.To that being the beginning and the end of the conversation.

On the morning of inauguration, I chained myself to a door in San Francisco along with hundreds of others and together we blockaded nine buildingswhich included Trumps one property in SF, Wells Fargo, Uber, CalTrain, and the Israeli Consulate. The energy was tremendous. There was a place for me to put my fear and angertogether we held hands and we sang and we chanted and we said no to what was going on and yes to each other. When I got home, exhausted and exhilarated, I asked my roommates if they had heard about it. The big blockade. All of them shook their heads. They hadnt. There were images on Instagram and Twitter, pulsing through a schematic of specific hashtags, but if you didnt know where to look, it wouldnt show up for you.

There had been a physical resistancepeople had locked their necks together and stood in front of a CalTrainfolks were late to work, train lines were shut down, banners were dropped. But because we dont inhabit public space the way we used to, because our reality is filtered to us through a skeleton of hashtags rather than our bodies taking up space alongside each other it existed and then stopped existing alongside the news cycle. That morning had been one of the most exhilarating of my life, and it took nearly one day and no representation for it to completely fade. If I remember correctly, the story that the news did focus on was whether Sean Spicer had lied about DTs inauguration numbers.

Similarly, the Womens March came and went. People showed up, felt unified (and divided), took pictures, posted them on feeds, and then kept scrolling.

NO is a strange small word that, in turns, can mean a lot or nothing at all. It caught my attention early last yearcovered in glitter and painted onto a huge cardboard sign followed by a big exclamation point. A few folks were walking around Oakland with it, everywhere. NO! in silver, sparkling. Every time I saw it, I felt something in me. Even though it was so supremely and pointlessly absurdthat word floating down the street while I was walking to get a morning bagelit was also, in those moments, exactly enough.

That sparkly cardboard NO! kept popping up: at protests, at the airport, when we went to go shut down Milo at UC Berkeley. Everywhere around me things were fumbling to contain themselves, but that NO! was providing continuity, comfort. I decided I wanted to try and find and photograph it, that wordNOsomewhere in public space every day for the duration of Trumps first 100 days in office. A group of artists in San Francisco were running a project called 100 Days Actionthat featured an 100-day calendar of resistance art,acting as a counter-narrative to Trumps 100 day plan, and I wondered if working with them might provide me some sense of footing. So I decided to utilize the activity of searching for NO as a way of counting. Marking the governmental shift through an activity that required me to challenge myself visually shift the way I saw the streets around me, pay attention to the things that usually go unnoticed. Like street signs. And graffiti. And space. To push myself to include the act of finding and creating while working through the trauma of his election. Each day I posted it on Instagram, because I was lonely, because I was seeking some kind of archive that lived outside of my own library, because I wanted to help others keep count too.

On day twenty-three, I wrote in my journal: the only routine Ive had since Trump was inaugurated is taking a picture of the word NO every day and posting it on Instagram. God, that sentence makes me cringe.

And yet, there was something that felt weirdly appropriate about it: activism and art and social media, all hopelessly blurred. Isnt that how so much of this all happened? Through bots buying ads on Facebook and Twitter, through fake news spreading viral lies about Hillary Clinton, through dirty memes that had a way of sticking? Were all just beginning to learn the extent to which Russia manipulated internet content to sway the hands of American voters, and I imagine it will continue to unfold in deep, scary ways. Because, were addicted to the thing. The internet, I mean. Its a space we all inhabit like moths to a flamewe cant move away from it, were encompassed by it, consumed. Addicted and dizzy and always feeling less-than. It never felt good to post the NOs on Instagram, but that also felt like part of itpart of nothing feeling good and everything feeling stuck, and getting adrenaline rushes from being liked anyways.

The surprising part was that people responded to the project. As in, they would bring it up in real life. People I had thought I wasnt in touch with reached out to me to tell me that the NOs were helping them find footing in what was going on. Helping them feel less alone in their anxiety, more empowered in their desire to show up. A bunch sent me NOs they had found on their ownI remember NOs coming in from rooftops and billboards and the palm of a sweaty hand. A scrabble board. Someones poncho. All sliding into my DMs.

This isnt to say that my project was anything more than what it was: a metaphor, a process, small and image-based. Rather, Im interested in it as an example of how our lives on the internet and our lives in our bodies are haplessly connected. That the things we scroll through are just as real as the things we touch. That we have to stop drawing this inane divide between the two, because then we miss the larger picture of: how reality gets shaped.

Trump won the election because of a large confluence of factors, many of which relied on his manipulation of our social media dysphoria. He didnt invent post-truth”—we were already living in ithe just knew about it and contorted it to his advantage. Used it as padding. Cuz if nothing was really true, then he couldnt actually be as bad as he was. Right?

And all those angry people who supported him were just on the internet, right? They were just blowing off steam and making jokes in chatrooms, right?

I will speak for myself here and maybe you will see yourself in it. My life has been shaped by whiteness. My Jewish parents grew up in New York as working-poor immigrantschildren and then, because of their conditional whiteness (allotted to them through the shifting boundaries of our pigmentocracy), were allowed into college, into medical school, into the job market. As they accrued money, they were then able to buy a house.

I will speak for myself here and maybe you will see yourself in it. My life has been shaped by whiteness.

This is what it means for those of us who are white-passing Jews to benefit from white privilege. This doesnt mean that were safe or that the world cant turn against us again, as it has again and again. What it does mean is that we have been fortunate here. And that fortune fuels the lightness with which antisemitism is brought up. The frequency with which antisemitism is used as the base of a shitty meme, a coded 4chan joke, an alt-right flyer. So: hiding in our whiteness does not make us any less visible. In fact, it puts us in more danger. We cant let our fear of being differentturn us straight and quiet and abiding because were never not going to be differentat least not in Trumps KEK-America.

I think the phrase Im searching for is: unregulated. How in this age of unregulated digital propaganda, its hard to find footing in meaningful resistance. Its hard to see how LOL humor is being used to spread white supremacist toxicity/to undercut our attempts at earnestly and sincerely coming together/to mandate that we only get heard if we are coolor in on the joke.

And in this age of unregulated digital propaganda, the question becomes: how to be?

I spent one hundred days wandering our country searching for the word NO in all its formations, looking for a foothold.What I didnt realize at the time is that what was catching my attention wasnt the word NO, but rather the space next to it. Providing the room and context for possibility. For answers. Because NO can only ever be a beginning. And there are a fuckton of NOs floating around, with very little direction being offered by any of them, other than fodder for cruel jokes and anxiety about whether or not were doing it right.

When all we say is NO, we leave no space for us to consider what we actually want, what we need, what were working together to build. Were locked into a dichotomy of violence with the thing were against, always reactive, always reifying. NO is a necessary foundation, its how we find space for roots. But, where will those roots take us once they start growing? Maybe the word that can take us there, from No to Yes, is the small word and.

As in: and I want, and together, and Im here, and will you be here too?

I think we should write it on protest signs and billboards and rooftops. A sweaty palm. A scrabble board. Someones poncho.

And we have our work cut out for us.

Because the only times that Ive felt okay this past year have been when other people were holding me or I was holding other people. When we were allowed to be sad and terrified and grieve. When we didnt try to wipe away each others tears, but instead held out our shoulders and let ourselves get wet with it. When we showed upagain and again and again even when we felt like it was all meaningless and going to shit. When we danced togetherat the protest, in the basement, in the bookstore. When we challenged each other. When we were discerning. When we cared. When we were open. When we let ourselves feel sick. When we asked for help. When we werent afraid to not be in on the joke. When we made our own jokes.

We have to do our work to unwind from our generational trauma and the ways in which it impacts our relationships: turning them toxic, imbalanced, violent. We need to learn how to say NO to things that arent working and move into the plentiful, shattering, constructive reality of what comes next. Refracted sunlight and being in relation to one another. And if that means locking arms with all the people you love in front of a construction truck at the San Diego border, than thats what it means. And if that means creating a Muslim-Jewish-Alliance group at your parents synagogue and delving even further into the violence of Christian Normativity, then thats what it means. And if that means taking a discerning look at what you have and what you need and redistributing whats left over, then thats what it means.

Hannah Rubin is a queer poet, artist and community organizer who splits their time between Los Angeles, CA and Oakland, CA. Follow them on Instagram @andtheir.