the enemy within

i have been waiting to write this post for a long time.  some of you have already heard this story, but now i get to tell it on my blog.  about a year ago, a little more now, i got my first tattoo.  when i was growing up this was certainly never anything i imagined doing, i never thought i’d be so compelled to put something on my body permanently.  but then i was riding along the interstate outside of cincinnati ohio two thanksgivings ago and saw something that made me simultaneously laugh in amazement and shiver with fury.

in a fateful glance up from my book i saw a billboard on the side of the interstate.  on it was a picture of a stern looking, finger
wagging uncle sam.  he pointed intimidatingly down at the highway talking about searching out the “enemies within.”  for a moment i was stunned by the blatant return to mccarthyism.  not that i didnt know we had been sterotyping and classifying and eliminating anyone who threatened the status quo for years between now and the “red scare,” but now we were advertising about it on the side of the interstate.  i was shocked.  and appalled.  oh that combination of clueless white person emotions.

and then i was more.  i was angry because i could imagine the people uncle sam was threatening with that finger, that finger that, when pointed at the right person, could be a death sentence.  i was furious that we live in a society that deludes itself with notions of “national security.”  as if more guns and more bombs and more murders make us safe.  as if its not that very mentality that threatens lives.

and then i was amused.  i was self indulgent.  because if they’re actually paying attention i too, with my striped socks and colorful dresses, with my chin hair and my insidious wiggle, with my child nurturing and friend healing, i too am an enemy within these unrelenting and well defended borders.  and i want uncle sam to be shaking in his patriotic combat boots.  because that pointing finger is also an indication of their fear.  their misguided, dangerous fear.  and i understand it is a privilege to self identify as someone uncle sam should be afraid of, and not only to self identify but to write this story in a public format.  because i do not come from a people systematically persecuted and oppressed and killed by the scared little boy that uncle sam is.  because thats all our militaristic, terrorist hunting is: the posturings of a little boy who wants to maintain control and only knows one way to do it.  through fear, intimidation and  murder.

that night as we sped between the two sides of cincinnati, i made a promise to myself.  that forever and always i would act in ways that defined me as an enemy of this state.  and i felt so connected to that identity, to that promise and lifestyle, that i wanted to have it written boldly on my body, so that i couldn’t back out, so that it was something i carried with me always.  i chose a spot on my body that is mostly hidden, but that i can see regularly.  and that i can share as i want to.  and with my beautiful friend lesley, in a totally female owned and operated tattoo parlor in denver, i got my first tattoo last february.

and it is an identity piece that corresponds to my affinity for the graham greene short story “the destructors.”  in which a band of adolescent boys in post wwii england destroy, from the inside out, a building.  piece by piece, they dismantle the house until it falls apart all on its own.  i’ve always loved that image.  of slowly, thoroughly and thoughtfully destroying a beautiful but broken facade.    of working inside the structure to actively destroy it.  i am excited about living that every day.

and yes, i now have plans for at least two more tattoos.  one that my sisters and i will all get together–russian dolls: i’ll get the largest, molly the middling one and samantha the smallest.  the other will be the foreshadowing word “okupat” which appeared etched onto the breast of a faerie drawn onto my wall by a magical friend.  i will get it also on my left breast, along with a black ink city scape, but only after i’ve earned it by successfully squatting an autonomous zone somewhere in the states.  which is my longer term plan to fulfill my role as enemy within.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. paxus
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 04:30:11

    i have always loved the parts of this story i knew and now i am glad to hear it all and have you out about it.


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