Between Two Leditors by Martabel (2008 and 2012)
“In this chaotic moment of flux and change, we have the opportunity to dream bigger than ever. Now is the time for us to state our demands about how we believe issues of sex, sexuality and gender need to be rearticulated in the 21st century…”
So wrote my twenty-year-old self on the heels of Barack Obama’s 2008 election for my campus sex magazine. Revisiting this statement I feel the expected cringe factor evoked by old writing, along with nostalgia for college, the autumn in New England. The cringe and nostalgia intertwine and yell at me the loudest when I think about optimism I felt during that time. Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 2009 inauguration evoke this feeling for me. The last image of dispersing crowds hits on the melancholy of staying too long at a party, amplified to scale for the theater of war and peace.
My friends and I spent long hours in my room talking about and working on the election, crafting our dreams for the future. DIY propaganda was our medium. Rebecca made temporary tattoos of Barack Obama’s face. We did our first collaboration: purple felt armbands in the design of the McCain/Palin logo reading “Cuntry First.” We had a bucket full of melty children’s beads that we appropriated the templates of to signal to our political awakening, turning them into pink triangles, feminist symbols and hearts. I remember wearing an Obama pride pin everyday as I slowly began to peek outside the closet door. Ana and Jenna made stencils with text like “Irony is so 90s” and “make cupcakes not war,” to be spray painted on hoodies. Iman was just barely old enough to vote. We made mixed CDs to drive to New Hampshire where I met up with Colette on election day.
After the election I felt a kind of a euphoria induced surrender to a faith in electoral politics just as I was on the precipice of understanding how to resist their grip.
Our materials did not lend themselves to imagining a future where the legality of abortion would be a topic for debate four years later. We naively pictured renewable energy and not pilotless drones to be the legacy of Obama’s first term. We did not see war tribunals at Guatanamo still be played out. But on the other hand nothing in the utopic vocabulary we were experimenting with led to visions of an Arab Spring or Occupy Wallstreet.
What can we craft with to imagine the future of these movements? What is the adhesive we need for global solidarity? Are the virtual threads of cyber networks strong enough?
While asking myself these questions and struggling to envision what the RECAPS election issue would look like, I came across the following quote in Cruel Optimism by Lauren Berlant:
“Preaching to the choir is always undervalued. But, as a world-confirming strategy of address that performs solidarity and asserts righteousness, it is absolutely necessary to do. When an intimate public is secreted in its own noise, it rehearses affectively what the world will feel like when its vision gains mass traction.”
In 2008 we began to build our choir. I don’t expect the content of this site to sway any swing voters, but I hope it can be amplify our collective chants, moans, laughter, and sighs to riot and revolt to.
This issue is dedicated to Steve Paul, who taught me how to show, share and shine. R.I.P