I haven't celebrated Independence Day since 2016. I know I'm not alone in that regard because this is the second 4th of July in a row marked by a noticeably dismal quiet. No one of my acquaintance is hosting—or even having—a barbecue. Nobody who lives near me has set off a single firework. For all intents and purposes today feels like any other Wednesday. There is no laughter echoing through the valley, no loud music, no shared bond of hope and nostalgia with friends and strangers alike. Although the phrase has been used so often during 45's farce of an electoral college presidency as to have become something of a cliché, I truly do have to keep reminding myself this is not normal.
No matter where in the country I was living and no matter who the incumbent president was, Independence Day used to be the Christmas of summer—a day we collectively put aside our differences without even realizing we had done so and simply enjoyed each other's company at parades, barbecues, and picnics. Fireworks were a must! The familiar sound of animated crackling and boisterous booms would start at the stroke of midnight and not end until the following one. Then everything changed...
People used to muse aloud that the 4th was merely an excuse to get drunk and set off fireworks, but I don't hear anyone even halfheartedly trying to reassure themselves of that anymore. The sad part is, I think most of us really did believe it was just America's excuse to party hardy. Aside from politicians and other talking heads, few of us consciously equated the holiday with a celebration of freedom. Today, as so many of us continue to lose individual liberties on a daily basis, we finally recognize what we've lost and the freedom the 4th of July once represented. That freedom wasn't perfect and America still hadn't realized her full potential, but she was firmly headed in the direction of progress. With that proverbial rug having been pulled out from beneath us, it's little wonder that summer's Christmas feels like any other day in this dystopian version of our former glory.
As I sat here and reflected on what was versus what is, I couldn't help but see the parallels in my writing. Notwithstanding everything I'd been going through pre-election, I finally realized precisely what it was that had hammered the nail into my erotic muse's coffin. To put a fine point on it, as a woman whose works of adult fiction all revolved around capture fantasies (a PC way of saying rape fantasies,) it grows increasingly difficult to work up the necessary libido to pen more of them. In the pre-45 world, I felt in control of my life, my body, and my future so it was little wonder how alluring capture fantasies were to me. I wrote for similarly situated women who felt empowered enough in real life to enjoy giving up that power for the length of a book or novella. Fantasies are supposed to be in the realm of make-believe and stay there.
In today's America, I can't truthfully say I genuinely believe women will still have the right to vote in five years, much less the right to control our own bodies. Evangelicals and white supremacists have teamed up and turned this country into the fundamentalist Christian version of ISIS-meets-Apartheid. The United States of America is now South Africa at its ugliest inside Saudi Arabia at its most oppressive. Conservative white women may be living in subjugated bliss—at least until the oppression begins affecting them in ways they hadn't anticipated—but the rest of us are living in a twisted nightmare.
I used to dream of semi-retiring so I could move either to Paris' Montmartre district or to the tiny Shakespearean hamlet of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Whichever opportunity presented itself, I dreamt of spending my days typing away on a laptop at an outdoor cafe, writing my books in an atmosphere conducive to creativity. Now? I don't really dream. I'm not situated high enough on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to think beyond immediate survival. I'm very sick, I have no healthcare, and I'm watching the GOP dismantle any hope for better days ahead.
On the rare occasions when I do daydream, my psychological flights of fancy are downright macabre: Civil war. Vengeance. Deporting white supremacists and rabid evangelicals. Watching 45 and his regime stand trial before The Hague. As I said, very macabre.
I know I've changed—and not for the better. But then the same can be said of America.