On November 9th, 2016, the day after the election, I awoke not knowing how to feel, or what to think. I felt like I didn’t recognize my country. I felt like I didn’t know what was next to come. I was generally in shock and trying to process the upcoming changes in our country. The next day, I went back to work on my press still trying to work through everything. I created the first piece in the series that would become its name sake and posted it to instagram with a rather free form caption of what was running through my brain, and was honestly shocked by how much people related.
Since then, I’ve been working on small scale, small edition pieces, often with accompanying journal based text reflections. The body is on going, and I’ll be updating as frequently as possible, or keep up on my instagram, www/instagram.com/zachclarkis.
All pieces are letterpress on paper, with sizes varying from 6×9″ to 8.5×11″.
11/10/16: This election was decided almost entirely by white voters. 80% of “evangelicals” voted for a candidate who actively denies one of the truest aspects of their faith (recognizing the need for and seeking of forgiveness), because he aligns with a Conservative party. I’m a straight white Christian male. Because of my wife, I live comfortably in the middle class. On paper I am solidly in the trump camp, except for the fact I live in California.
This should bother white Americans, on both sides of the aisle. There should be some serious introspection as to why one group of people is sitting by themselves at the celebration table, and what that means. I don’t think all trump supporters are racist bigots, in fact, I doubt most of them even know any people of color or LGBT identity which is a symptom of the problem. No one has lived in true homogeneity, and I doubt many really want to, so why is one group ending up that way.
I think we first need to come to terms with recognizing this monolith. White folks, myself included, have to stop pointing the finger and dissociating, and figure out how to break the monolith. Preferably we dismantle it rather than destroy it, but something needs to change. I have no idea where to start. But I’m going to fumble around with the words and type and ink for a while to start trying to figure it out.
11/12/16: I already went back to political radio and podcasts today. Listening to representatives of the Democratic Party, one woman made a point that, while not everyone is ready or even wants to find a silver lining to this, Donald Trump has broken the idea that one needs to do their time or have a certain level of pedigree, or even be that spotless to become an elected official or political leader. Now, we’re kind of free to look to almost anyone as a potential leader to get behind. Of course, this could sound ominous and has its own set of downfalls, but also felt empowering at the moment. I have my list of excuses of why I’m not more politically active (I’m a white guy who’s still rather new to a very diverse city, there are those couple of years I was in a band and maybe didn’t file my taxes, I’ve accidentally put my foot in my mouth on the Internet more than a few times, etc…), I’m sure you have yours. Maybe we move past that? Maybe we start recognizing and supporting our peers with promising capacity?
11/14/16: I woke up this morning to what felt like social media feeds that had stopped being shocked or numbed and were now officially dedicated to pointing fingers and grasping for someone to blame. It’s appearing incredibly likely actual nationalist & racist people will be in the White House for the next 4 years with the hope of dividing us by racial, religious, and ideological lines even more than we already are. We need to make it a point to not do this work for them. I mean this for my fellow progressives especially at the moment as we start to ask “what’s next” in our leadership, but I also hope this for the country as a whole. We can not fight divisiveness while dividing and casting out. We have to try to lift each other up.
11/18/16: I turned 33 one week ago. In two years I’m of presidential age. I’ve been able to vote in 4 elections, 2 of which Obama won. My first election was Bush’s second term, so while my guy “lost”, it was status quo, there was no “transition”. I feel like I should have a handle on how all of this is going, that I’m “old enough to know better”, but I admit, I don’t know what’s going on at all.
Every few hours is seems a new set of people are announced to be moving into positions of power, most of which cause an uproar, and within a few more hours it appears maybe that person isn’t seriously being considered, but maybe they are, and it feels like a complete shit show. And then the next day it’s easy to forget what people were upset about the day before. Then, I listen to a podcast with Ex-Obama staffers and they point out it was 2 full weeks before anyone was named to his cabinet after Rahm, and you level out. And then Steve Bannon compares himself to Darth Vader, or Satan, and says it a good thing, or anyone repeats almost anything he’s ever said, and things are on the verge of a dumpster fire again.
I remember my mom having a meltdown with Clinton won, and thinking it was the end of our country. It’s actually one of my only memories of the first house I grew up in, along with when we watched pope John Paul 2 come to America on TV. I desperately want my feelings to be nothing more than a partisan freak out, that my team lost and some progress I hoped for will just have to wait. But this feels real, and feels serious…
11/23/16: My high school photography teacher, Jon Costello, had a rule in the photo lab that we weren’t allowed to swear. Not because he was opposed to swearing, rather that he wanted it to still mean something when someone did swear. I once accidentally exposed an important roll of film while developing it, and let out a “shit!”. He called me out, I explained the situation, and he agreed it was a worthwhile usage of swearing, and even had everyone in the room then repeat it with me. I was really looking forward to after the election, when I could say “now that that’s over, can we stop comparing everyone to Hitler, so that when someone actually IS comparable to Hitler, it still has some tooth and people might listen?”. Obviously, there is a cruel irony in that hope.
Either way, the feeling is still true. I freaked out at first, I was more upset than I expected to be, and I hyper analyzed every piece of breaking news. I’m really trying to slow down and decipher what’s going on, and to figure out which matters are worth making a scene over, and which are just ideological differences. (Nazis for instance, are worth making a scene over. Our contemporary history is defined by the fact nazis were the most terrible people ever, why anyone idolizes them or resonates with their thought absolutely escapes me… but I digress)
I mean this with politics, with the media, with information… but I think this sentiment holds true with just people and relationships too. Stopping to listen, to learn, and to know a person is really something to focus on these days.
11/26/16: I shared a wall with @kristinhough for two years in grad school, where we formed a bizarrely immediate friendship that may have devolved into an emotional co-dependency. She’s misguided and decided she should move to LA, so we now just have to text everyday. The last few weeks we’ve been discussing our bad habits of the last two years, and how much of the recent panic attacks I’ve been having are related to post-grad school adjustment or deep fears our country is on the edge of something terrible. In one text so wrote these words, “so fragile, so true”, probably to be sarcastically over dramatic, but they’ve stuck with me since. .
12/11/16: There’s a lot going on out there. If you aren’t at least a little overwhelmed by it all, I’d love to hear your strategies. But we’re all breathing, and in a season that we’re likely seeing some folks important to us we don’t always have enough time to see. Let’s keep in there dudes…
12/21/16: I’ve had this piece planned in my mind for a few weeks now, but had partly avoided making it simply because I didn’t have a set of type big enough to be as loud as I wanted. Thankfully, I stumbled across exactly what I wanted and was able to purchase it last week. (And good God it’s a beautiful font…)
I might have also avoided making it because I don’t want to admit being on the verge of numbness to the growing list of things that matter and require attention lately. We all are familiar with the international list of concerns in the world, and we each have our own list of local and personal concerns that, at the moment, each seem to be the loudest most important thing in the world. I’m hopeful the next few weeks, as we spend time with friends and family, we find space to breath, and can start 2017 with discernment and determination. Maybe we can all get together and divvy up the tasks? We can all lend a hand when someone needs it? That’d be pretty cool you guys.
1/3/17: This is my hope for this year… to be able to admit when I have no idea what’s going on, which is often, but remain hopeful and curious and searching for solutions.
My old pastor in Chicago, a man I look up to very much named Bruce Ray, posted the full version of this verse (2 Corinthians 4:8) along with a Bill Ayers quote several weeks back. It has been rattling in my mind ever since. Over the same several weeks, there has been an uptick of media coverage featuring white supremacists, attempting to understand their point of view. With each interview I hear and read, I struggle with how these folks immediately and confidently reach to the Bible and Christianity to justify their beliefs and actions. In one interview, a man used exact words and logic that I have spoken to argue the complete opposite point. I can not come to terms with how we are reading the same book and professing the same faith. Admittedly, this has been a struggle for me for years and applies just as much for issues ranging from LGBT rights to social support systems, but has grown sharper in the past year with how many people have so publicly sold out our religion for their political gain or to excuse their selfishness.
Conservative Christians often ask why more Muslims don’t speak out against extremism (even tho many do). As a white Christian male, I recognize the importance in speaking out that the god of white supremacy is not the God I believe in, and the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters agree, many of which are doing far more for social and racial justice in the world than I ever will with my art and words. Unfortunately, these are rarely the loudest voices, but perhaps this year we can grow louder. .