Seattle, WA: Our heritage tells us that we must say their names, our ancestors, the ones that did good things and bad, to remember them well enough to learn from them.
Sometimes, your ancestors are real assholes…They make mistakes. They hurt one another and themselves. They suffer. In the stories of their lives there is sorrow, pain, insatiable hungers, stupidity, anger, violence, idiocy, bitterness, laughter, boredom, unrequited desires, survival skills, wrongheaded decisions, mediocrity, and unmet dreams…They are stories we learn from. (Salomón 2015, 186).
To not make the same mistakes that they made, to be a little less confused, a little bit more free. I am confident that the queer Boriqua compañerxs that were violently taken from us on Sunday morning, plead with us just as loudly in their absence as those lost earlier in this struggle against global capitalism, for their violent deaths to awaken us from the isolation that we’ve come to falsely accept as normal.
That is why I write this essay, to remember the millions that have been lost to this earth because of the toxic masculinity that violent capitalism has wrought against us and has embodied itself in our own image. I am placing toxic masculinity and global capitalism in its place, as something foreign to who we are as human beings, as a community and that is purposefully imposed upon our us through the process of capitalist “time, work, discipline” (Thompson 1967). Omar Mateen was also lost in this way before he committed this unspeakable act of violence. We must remember that all of us are fully capable of giving up hope, and often act out in relation to the mega projects of death that advance capitalism rather than the many projects of life that are our birthright by inheritance and of which it is our duty to pass on to our ancestors. As beautifully written in the closing of a 1973 prison letter by Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains” (Shakur 1973). I feel that it is a responsibility to remind the reader in that context that the agents of global capitalism can’t cage us all, can’t deport us all, and can’t kill us all. It simply isn’t possible. What is possible in mourning the loss of Omar Mateen and the millions that have been lost to toxic masculinity is to prevent more deaths.
We must resist the imperative driven by the fear that targeted acts of violence are meant to produce: to self-isolate, to reproduce the violence, whether that is targeted upon others that we feel safe doing that to such as our families or other vulnerable communities or to ourselves. It is our duty to fight back in this way. To fight for connection and nurturance rather than the isolation we’ve become accustomed to (Samaran 2016). The politics of recognition (Coulthard 2014; Fanon 1952)in the context of necropolitics (Mbembe 2003; Bulter 2001) are but fancy academic jargon for the problem of the creation of the managerial class through “Time, Work, Discipline” (Thompson 1967), a problem that even Karl Marx strove to understand in Capital: Volume I (1867) as the double-edge sword that made people that were once workers into agents of Capitalism to work against their own class interest, to work against life.
Hence, staying connected to one another, no matter how difficult it is, is a form of anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-heteronormative resistance. Yes, you must “learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served” as Nina Simone once mentioned, but to heal this toxic masculinity, it requires that we collectively walk into the gun of people like Omar Mateen and refuse to stop loving those that have given up hope as modeled by Lidia Ynavitch (Ynavitch 2014) and actually move ourselves towards the ugly, as the 2011 Femmes of Color Keynote Speech in Oakland pleaded for,
those of us who straddle the lines between multiple oppressed communities. For those of us who are working to end all violence for all of us, not just some of us. For those of us who truly believe that no one’s safety is more important than anyone else’s, even when we feel unsafe… (Mingus 2011)
To move through the fire of the ugly in order to change the world even when we are afraid requires everyone’s support. For those of us that continue to exist and persist, damaged from the violences of global capitalism, I remind you that we are not broken and we are alive. We must work collectively from this place of “the world we want, the world we collectively desire,” (ibid) and not from the nightmare that global Capitalism offers us in commodities. The toxic masculinity that caused Mateen to abandon all hope and give in to the will of global Capitalism and do its bidding, first for a wage at G4S, and later at the cost of his own and the lives of so many other people. Yes, Omar Mateen acted as an agent of global Capitalism. He acted against the interest of his own class of people. The purpose of capital in this context was to drive a wedge between our communities in the interest of capitalism; to sell more guns (which has happened) and to justify its wars.
The EZLN once stated through their collective voice of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos that they rebelled because they had to, “cover their faces in order to be seen, and die in order to live” (Oikonomakis 2015). In many ways, when we lose so many people at once, a part of us also dies. I for one am not finished mourning yet. We must live and we must be seen, for the sake of those that come after us, for the sake of future generations.
I have written about the topic of toxic masculinity in the past, particularly how it is manifested in the process of time, work, discipline in transforming young boys into a labor force for agriculture in Washington State (Madrigal 2013 & 2014). I’ve sat with the ugly regarding the browning of the managerial class (Madrigal 2014) and the importance of moving beyond fear when greiving gun violence (Madrigal 2015). We need one another, you don’t have to do this alone.