“The Pope Elected Joe Biden” & That Wasn’t Terrorism, That Wasn’t an Insurrection

Conversations with a Denver cab driver about the future of the U.S.

The Stout Industrial Co. logo, designed by Leo Wyatt.

The sun moves into the blinds of my friends’ apartment’s windows, splitting into rays. It reminds me of my favorite cubist painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, by Marcel Duchamp.

The plants lean toward diffracted rays. A lime-green light seems to float into the room & linger as I zone out.

Everyone’s chasing a rush. That rush.

I imagine I have to be at a place for a thing to artificially inject urgency into my departure.

I stayed at a friend’s apartment; they won’t let me sleep in the streets. Sometimes I do. When there’s nowhere to go, even when you’re on the streets, profound perspectival shifts take place.

I feel untethered, closer to the concept of freedom because, in part, it’s met with itinerancy & few demands. Other people take on a huge significance; I’m quicker to empathize, listen, attempt to understand.

There’s a greater trust in strangers because one experiences the limited bodies of knowledge one does store within & the scant capacity to get on okay without another—their wisdom, guidance, criticism, or support.

It humbles you.

The very being of others grows in complexity, like orbital patterns intersecting & shifting such that one sees other astral bodies differently or for the first time.

The significance of those around you—a sociality of the outside surround (to borrow Fred Moten & Stefano Harney’s phrase)—supplants & subverts the sociality that everywhere is defined by aggregation during a lull in productivity: i.e., We hang out when you’re off, when I’m off or, if we’re never off, we never hang out, And so on. It’s as if labor births the very possibility of the social. Maybe, as Moten & Harney write, we should keep listening to that brokenness of the social.

In Marx’s classical analysis, alienation occurred between laborers/comrades & between labor & those owning the technical means of production, the very tools with which laborers harness mechanical power to produce gains for the owners of those mechanical productive capacities.

Paradoxically, the very intimacy between labor & machinery, a synergistic & physical connection to mechanization & machinery is the very intimacy that banishes labor’s ability to wrangle the extractive fruits of the labor; for it is already abstracted from them into ledger & for purposes outside the scope of labor.

My friends have saved me a few times already. I leave a note, pack my backpack, sling it around so it’s situated right, & light a cigarette as I leave the stoop toward 20th street.

I’ve got a 30-block walk before I can catch an affordable cab back to a house I’m no longer living in. In front of Denver’s Capitol building, people gather in the sun. Hundreds of homeless people & drug addicts move about their day.

I’m in the mix of it, heading south on Broadway. I stop & chat; sit on a bench; burn a few cigarettes.

Everyone’s chasing a rush. Everyone’s rushing the chase, too.

Everyone’s rushing the chase, too.

Heading south on foot in the sun—it’s sixty degrees in mid-January—I walk a few miles. I catch a cab, a 2012 Camry, silver.

The cabbie’s a Brazilian-American man with Jesus pamphlets in the passenger door slots. I exhale, relieved. It’s easy to talk about faith & prayer because it proceeds with a skeptical lens when assessing one’s positionality or authority—there’s always a deferral to God. This is its power & often a sensibility easily manipulated.

In my limited experience, as of late, and—and this is a big and—barring that pathetic contingent of capitol-storming mass who seemed like they were carrying out a simulated insurrection, a reenactment that couldn’t fully get costumes to peacock just so, couldn’t get a stage to hum coalesce like a string quartet, couldn’t get any elements of the dramaturgy to gel.

(Too great a task to fracture by way of insurrection, the machinery of this Republic, the institutions of which still present a formidable foe. The architectonics alone for a coup—I guess what’s so horrifying is that uncertainty. Would the CIA, FBI, DNI, DOD, ad nauseam, rally around a crooked baby-legs—without an army, without all of the machinery in tow?)

The exercise, however, emphatically demonstrated the settler colonial isolationists dying off. . Do not be fooled. The left will try & ensure that everyone sees this act as a dagger to the throat of all that is good with this hallowed Republic. But it was a crowd of people who’re lost & they will remain so forever. Vigilance. No doubt. I think, however, there’s a collective donation of power & legitimacy to explicit hate groups parroting ideology of white racial dominance when we don’t deliberately say, way that commentators cowered from the event’s flaccidity & re-injected a coup-like potentiality to it.

These speech & type cycles move so rapidly no one even cares once the late empire hands off another leader whom no one really believes in, who’s there to play themselves as a character of diplomatic power, strength & unity… Yeah yeah.

No one even remembers the bogus affect on steroids, proclaiming their prophecies have come to be (just check their MEDIUM for TIME-STAMPED PROOF!). They dissolve like the rest of it.

There’s so much pressure right now to inject affect, revivifying a system that half the country wants nothing to do with & the other half apparently would prefer Trump & consent to any number of hats—explicit white-supremacist bringing in good old boys for a couple of cases of beers after a lynching or just the caricature of a human being unable even to simulate the decorum expected by the ruling governmental bodies & their like classes in order to prevent the idiot class rest of us for threatening to kill them or riot if they don’t fix this shit.

Mostly, though, arrogant idiocy & stupor (encouraged by POTUS) were met with a kind of TellyTubby dance by law enforcement. Things were haywire as police retreated & the mass bobbed toward the capitol.

In the most disturbing ways, Tump couldn’t simulate the formal attire necessary for the role. Trump, pathetically sycophantic to dictators, is a slave to a bloviated narcissistic dream-image of himself, the projection of which truly appears to be the only thing he really orbits, his sole gravitational core, his monocular vision one tunnel fitted with mirrors all around.

But there it was, the peaceful handoff of duties people couldn’t even stomach watching it.

Barring that, in other words, I’ve been reflecting on the leftist-progressive friends whom I love dearly but who, in all likelihood, I won’t see for much of 2021. They weaponize discourse against the uninitiated while bolstering their social capital, the gains from which will temporarily fund me as I participate in performances which often auto-ratify as a vague proof of a discursive awareness & fluency. We’re disturbed, we’re anti-fascist, antiracist—it often feels like white people are using the discourse as a purity ritual whereby the right speech releases one from participating every day in a racialized colonial project—with freedom & equality as pillars of its founding documents.

In a weird reproduction of white supremacy, it still emerges in pockets of academic whiteness, including pockets dedicated to the destruction of white supremacy. Often white people are learning a lot about their advantage from scholars & artists of color & so, absorbing what are, for white people, seismic realizations, but for POC who are both experiencing the systematicity of white supremacist violence & are often teaching or making work that influences white people, it must be—& there I go.

What are the best practices when it comes to listening to, learning from, admiring, & championing black art & black culture as a white person? What if we began from a baseline acknowledgment of theft & moved then to a reconciliatory measure without the bureaus, with, in other words, each other?

People of faith, in comparison, are wont to ask, to reckon with our inadequacies in determining the outcomes of our lives. There’s an inverse relationship between the data out of which grow our models & explanations for people’s beliefs, motivations, & animating factors, the further we are from actually hearing the beliefs as flawed but singular expressions from a fellow organism.

The closer we get the further we are.

Speech & discourse line up in rows as an armada would, speaking for a particular group, transforming into the Police 2.0 if necessary. This a kind of cybernetic ensuring their status as Guardian Angel for all POC & queer-trans people. Like they don’t know how to take care of themselves from within the system specifically privileging the white speaker, the revolutionary cum academy graduate.

People of faith are more likely to speak from a position sketching their limits, their unknowing, while demonstrating acts of service with a regularity not oft found in the hallowed halls of MFA programs, say. I’m doing the very thing I’m trying to address now. It’s sick.

I’m homeless, unemployed, & trying to maintain an equilibrium when everything feels like a ball joint removed from its socket.

I’ve applied to sixty jobs in fifteen days; started a company back in November of 2020 — The Stout Industrial Co. — which is more of an artistic collective emphasizing custom streetwear to raise liquidity for organizations like Asian Americans For Equality, the Romare Bearden Foundation, & the Center for Afrofuturist Studies.

I’ve tried to maintain disciplined creative practices (poems, essays, painting) while managing my depression with psychotic features (sounds worse than it is) during two consecutive evictions.

This country, the cabbie keeps saying. I ask him if the economy’s really in freefall.

“Oh my God, of course. It goes in half.”

I ask him about the Federal Reserve’s approach to printing money has begun to sound like prophecies from the land of PCP & crystal methamphetamine. When you’re feeling like a genius.

My older brother, a bit of a doomsayer, is confident of a total collapse.

“When do you think the United States will, like, dissolve, or die off,” I ask.

“Oh.— United States? It’s been dead since Obama’s years. That’s what Trump was trying to bring back, make the world respect the country again.”

It was both inconceivable to me that the greatest orator of the 21st century (in English, at least) who oversaw the Republic’s dissolution but also plausible deniability, in retrospect, Obama’s administration pursued policies that extended the terroristic policies that were used to justify the wholesale slaughter of untold Iraqi citizens (estimates vary but hover around 120,000–500,000 killed).

Can the case be made that Barack Obama, were U.S. presidents subject to international laws & U.N. protocols, was a war criminal?

We’re snaking through traffic. Breweries, weed shops, vacuum repair shops, thrift stores, pawn shops with yellow & green lettering.

“I am terrified for this country. We are in big, big trouble. & Biden? Elected by the Pope. Elected by the Pope so he can run one world order. That’s what I think,” he said.

“Interesting,” I lamely reply. Not Catholic.

It feels like this nanosecond in the hyperreality we find ourselves in is defined by feeding data-centric machinery through mediatized infrastructure—traditional & machine-learning optimized algorithmic machines—our affect & speech.

Speech the currency, our physical bodies the commodity, if only because the data is burdened with our physical form.

The end of every dialectic, Baudrillard wildly writes in 1984. The simulation of dead differences is a kind of zombie fuel for oppositional forces that merely simulate dialectics or interdependence.

As a cheap example consider how enthusiastically democrats have supported financial deregulation & supremacy of an unchecked multinational plutocracy; or consider the mediatized shitshow whereby CNN/MSNBC & FOX parade their rubbish as if the sole mission of their duties as defined by their nemesis, their opponent dressed in the other color, either blue or red, depending on who’s home & who’s away.

The characters, or caricatures, of the anchors, literally anchor profitability for the companies; a forever war approach maintains synthetic differences to drive political machinery’s gears, machinery that can make death very real even from the simulated notions of unique opposition to another.

The blackmail of speech by way of the media: that’s directly from Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations & Simulacra. People compare simulations of binaries, of oppositions, of scenarios, people narrativize their effect, giving speech itself as much airtime as possible as if the participatory modality of the Republic hasn’t proven a tool capital conveniently manipulates, making “two sides” compete. It’s like watching pawns fight to the death for the queen’s entertainment.

People define themselves as discourses, not as mysterious singularities dependent upon others; discourse is traded in & upsold.

It’s broken by the immense violence, our guiding myth full of proofs. People are going to be shot in places of worship, in theaters, at music festivals, in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, universities.

“I was born not in this country but I live here 50 years. Let me tell you I love this country.” I look at an old rubber factory getting converted into luxury apartments.

“But I don’t know if it will come back. This is why I drive. I have wife, two kids, three grandkids, but I think they—the government—will not pay my social security to me.” He shakes his head. He seems at least 75 years old.

The profitable chaos & catastrophe masks more nebulous systems of violence. Animated by involvement, speech, ACTION!, we symbolically gesture toward that social upheaval that no longer seems possible; it does not affect fundamental structural elements of a global economy that, as ever, relies on exploitation & hierarchical organizations of corporate bodies, governmental bodies, of sociality itself, & one that absorbs every negativity & critique, eventually positioning the anti-capitalism discourse to register in the black, to become profitable.

The yard’s posters read RESIST! They sit in the lawns of the $400,000-dollar homes. The Trump-supporting man who makes $17,000 per year at Jiffy Lube & the liberal professor both wear clothing made in Cambodia & Malaysia. One calls for domestic manufacturing’s importance; the other strategically vote with their surplus dollars to support the kind of crisis-rich but silky smooth late capitalism Americans have grown accustomed to.

“You need to pray every day, to ask God for guidance, to submit to His will & trust that he will work things out.” My brother’s backyard is entirely dirt.

The schisms I feel inside me fracture a sense of knowing, confidence of existence & difference between the real & the simulated. The Pope propping Biden: I don’t even perceive the difference between a policy wonk with briefcases of data & conspiracy theories, not because I don’t believe one is truer than the other, one uses specific methods to build its case & argument while the other relies on different means; it’s that they’ve blurred into a pulsating fuzz, radiant with potential & an involutional heft—like precursors to dissolution.

“Read that whole book & I think things will turn around for you.”

I grab two copies from the door as he prays for me. I shut the door & am aware of the sound of the door’s rubberized seals that waterproof the interior from rain & moisture outside the vehicle, like a silicone tool, smacked flat on water’s surface.

Momentum Blog Team ILLUMINATION

Leo Wyatt is a painter, poet, educator, & founder of The Stout Industrial Co. Leo's homeless & lives in Denver at work on a ms. of poems & paintings.

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