Conditional Love


[Image description: photograph of a patch of dried grass on fire. The bottom of the image shows untouched dried grass, the center is aflame, and the burnt grass at the top of the image is partially obscured by pale smoke.]   ale  / Creative Commons

[Image description: photograph of a patch of dried grass on fire. The bottom of the image shows untouched dried grass, the center is aflame, and the burnt grass at the top of the image is partially obscured by pale smoke.]

ale / Creative Commons

My father and I haven't spoken for almost a year now. In fact, my father and I haven't genuinely spoken for decades. So many people extol the idea of unconditional love, but that concept feels unhealthy and impossible to me. I refuse to remain so vulnerable in the name of an ideal that feels like a trap - sharp teeth of guilt and tradition, bleeding me to compliance.

My eyes are gritty with exhaustion and salted with grief, and were my hands stronger they would pound this keyboard into dust in this attempt to capture my rage and betrayal and fear into words on a screen. The betrayal is not just the sorrowful but small loss of one parent by one queer, but of the rifts opening in families across our country as people we thought loved us show themselves to be willing to destroy lives and countries and the planet itself. To see children put in cages, and the cross-hairs of automatic weapons, and graves beneath deadnames. To be complicit in the deaths of black and brown and female and queer and nonbinary and disabled bodies. Complicit out of complacency, and hate, and greed, and ego, and fear.

The scales of this country were tipped in that direction from the beginning. Killing and slaving and raping and silencing and stealing are the foundation, and the walls that were built upon it. What is happening now is a magnification of all that we ever did wrong, and all the reasons we thought justified that wrongdoing. Every ugly thing we’d like to erase from our history is now being written into law in a horrifying high-speed race to extinction - of our humanity, if not humanity itself.

This was never just the betrayal of a father who voted for Trump. As we watch family members and employers and co-workers and neighbors and friends choose consumption over compassion, choose authority over humanity, choose to support or stand by as hate marches in the streets and preens in the white house, this is the betrayal of common sense in favor of capitalism, of solidifying wealth rather than sharing, of righteousness over human rights. Of the ideals of the sixties by much of that generation under the ongoing pressure of being part of the system they didn't finish dismantling, and the increasingly selfish values taught to each generation that followed.

We are taught that we should love and respect our elders, and authority, and our country without question. That blood is thicker than water and borders are solid truths and the USA is the good guy. We are taught eminent domain and nuclear family and imperialism and gender roles and bootstraps and racism and white heterosexual male as the baseline for normal, and boys will be boys and girls will be property and oil is the best option and water will never run out and the rest of the world envies us.

Reality is none of this. The reality is that we are killing the reefs and the baobab and species that have been alive since before we swung down from the trees and started making fires and hierarchies. The reality is that the US is a bloody-minded country that stole the land we claim as our own. That destroyed countless lives in the process. That still does. We've turned the reins over to the embodiment of the worst of us - a spiked knot of ego and greed bent on owning everything it wants and erasing everything it doesn't. People so sure of their ascension to a heaven ruled over by a God as selfish as themselves as to welcome the apocalypse, and those that plan to rule over the ruins that are left in their safe havens, stockpiled with the wealth and resources harvested from the blood of a million million lives.

The reality is that my father and I haven't talked about any of this, and we probably never will. He is averse to conflict, and wants a simple truth to hold on to as reassurance of being a good person. He is not unusual in this - now, or throughout centuries of human history. I believe he would not knowingly participate in hatefulness. I believe he chooses not to know. I believe there is a core of decency hiding amidst the willful ignorance, but I do not believe it is enough to help save our planet, or our relationship.

Another year of abuse of power and atrocities - of the value of marginalized people shown to be disposable. Of agendas made of lies told by a tiny group of men deciding the outcome high above our heads. Of #metoo and #whyididntreport and #abolishice and #takeaknee and #resist and #wewontbeerased. Of heatwaves and hurricanes and hundreds of miles of plastic oceans. Another year of deepening depression and deterioration of even the ghosts of love. Another year we don’t discuss.

I am re-reading an email exchange we had where he tried to assuage my fears about the incoming administration by telling me that, no matter who wins, “they are not kings or dictators who just do what they want, but are still constrained by Law and the 3 Branches of Govt.” I am wondering if he thinks of that sentence as often as I do. If he sees just how fully he was fooled, and if he regrets his choice. I am wondering if he realizes how much he has lost, and if he counts me as part of that loss. If I'll ever stop wondering about this. If I'll ever stop feeling betrayed by my father and our country. If we'll ever have a real conversation about this, or even survive long enough to try. I am wondering and crying and raging and writing and resisting. I am afraid to hope, and afraid not to.

Sossity Chiricuzio is a queer femme outlaw poet, a working class crip storyteller. What her friends parents often referred to as a bad influence, and possibly still do. A 2015 Lambda Fellow, she writes as activism, connection, and survival, and is found in places like Adrienne, Gertrude, Lunch Ticket, Crab Fat, |tap| and Argot. More info at: