Books / loss / politics / Writing



Glacier National Park, July 2016

I have been ruminating on the idea of worthlessness today. I wish my mind could focus on something positive, or at the very least constructive, but the terribly contrived metaphors feel neverending in This New, Not Normal Reality. Just one of today’s such dispatches on the eve of the inauguration.

Via The Washington Post:

House Republicans on Tuesday changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, a move that will make it easier for members of the new Congress to cede federal control of public lands…

Under current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules, any transfer of federal land that generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury — whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing or other activities — has a cost. If lawmakers wanted to give such land to a state, local government or tribe, they would have to account for that loss in expected cash flow.

Bishop authored language in the new rules package that would overturn that requirement, saying any such transfers “shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”

Setting the value of Glacier, Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Rocky Mountains all to zero. It’s a small thing in an avalanche of millimeter shifts toward an authoritarian state, where our country is dismantled and sold for parts in a plot ripped right off Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman.

To visit these parks as we’ve made a point of doing in the past few years is to feel the heft and comfort of eternity. There is a comfort to knowing that Wizard Island and the Road to the Sun will still be present and seen for years, decades, centuries after we’re gone. They may accurately have a value of “zero dollars” because a price tag on these wonders that have withstood and carved themselves over millennia transcends currency. They do not contain the soul of the United States–they are much larger than the idea of our nation will ever be. They reflect the entire soul of humanity as witness to what the earth can be at its most magnificent, powerful and wondrous.

Their worthlessness would be impossible enough to swallow as a headline of its own, but it arrives with another.

Via The Hill:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned…

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

“The Trump Administration needs to reform and cut spending dramatically, and targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step in showing that the Trump Administration is serious about radically reforming the federal budget,” said Brian Darling, a former aide to Paul and a former staffer at the Heritage Foundation.

From the moment I read this article in Starbucks, fueling up for the job I work 40 hours a week to afford the cost of surviving so that I can make time to actually live (here in my office, trying to patch together a writing career), I felt the totality of how worthless my life is to this administration. How useless and trivial and dismissive Trump, his staff and his supporters are of truths I was foolish enough to think were universal: that education is paramount, our parks are treasures, that science and history and art are, at the very least, important in some capacity.

This disregard for the only thing I’m good at or care enough to devote my life to (and the glee Republicans take in dismantling it) couples with the worthlessness that I feel as a woman in this monster’s eyes. I think back on the men I’ve campaigned and voted against: Bush, Romney, McCain. I detested their policies. I thought they were backwards. I believed that their ideas would put lives and livelihoods at risk. But I never imagined a scenario of being in the same room with one of these men and being brushed aside as worthless because of my sex and appearance. If the radiant Miss Universe 1996 was a “Miss Piggy,” I can’t imagine what sub-grade of meat I’d be labelled.

We are meat. Our land is up for auction. Our passions are bloated waste.

How do we not, in this reality, lay across train tracks and wait?

The answer to this question has not been easy today. I have spent the day regretting that I was born here, and questioning the logic of remaining. I have given thanks to endangered species like birth control and decent healthcare that have allowed me to avoid having children, because the only thing I can imagine as worse than living in this world is knowing that those I love most in my life will inherit this abomination. I have been embarrassed because I know it is a ridiculous level of privilege that has kept me from feeling this fallen for so many years.

I have been short on constructive ideas.

But I need to find one, because it is my only way out. I can’t drown down here, and neither can you.

I’ve taken stock of what I have to give. I can write, which hasn’t been easy lately, but then again nothing has.

I can give–not extravagantly, but enough to make a smidge of an impact to small and independent presses that have welcomed and ushered my work into the world. They are the editors and publishers who have introduced me to so many friends in the literary community, those who have been some of the only buoys since November. Facets of life that never feel worthless.

With such a daunting, looming threat to the NEA and NEH programs, the teensy bits of funding that these presses can draw are likely to dry up. To keep them alive is to keep literature alive. Most of them accept donations, but you can also just buy one of their fantastic books or journal issues. I know that it is a small thing. But if they are going to kill us with small things, we can at least shove a small avalanche right back.

Here are some good places to start with donations, subscriptions and book purchases:

Future Tense Press:

Forest Avenue Press:

Split Lip Press:

Alternating Current Press:

Coffee House Press:


The Establishment:

Glass Poetry Press:

ROAR Feminist Magazine:

December Magazine:

Midwestern Gothic:



Outpost19 Books:

Unchaste Readers and Press:

(Have a press suggestion to add? Reach out to me on Twitter @tabithablanken and I’ll be happy to add it.)


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