Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


Are you going to hell?

Americans are confused about this question, so I’ve come up with a way to simplify it for us.

Here’s a brief quiz. Today, you can learn if you’re going to hell in only two easy steps.

Step number one: take the brief quiz.

1.) Do you know the Earth is older than 4,000 years?

2.)  Can you name a single book

3.) Are you making America great?

Correct answers:

1.) Yes

2.) Yes 

3.) Yes  

Step number two, let’s debrief.

If you answered “no” to any combination of the questions, here’s news: hell’s not on its way. It might already be here.

Let’s take a close look at the questions:

Question 1

You’re aware that it takes a tree 50 or 100 years to grow, right? You know a fetus gestates for 9 months, no matter the pregnant woman’s religion? Your body requires 6 to 8 hours to go from chewed-up Italian Beef to Chicago-style bowel movement. It takes an ice cube 20 minutes to melt on a summer day. Rome rose and collapsed over the course of centuries. It takes you fifteen minutes to fill a bathtub with water, yet you think the oceans are 4,000 years old? It takes a child 30 minutes to build a sand castle, but the Himalayan Mountains popped up instantly 4,000 years ago?

Question 2

Where did you get that story about how old the Earth is? How do you win friends and influence people, and where did you first consider the possibility that dealmaking is an art form? Unlike those who think things are black and white, book readers consider the possibility that gray might have 50 shades. That possibility extends itself, quite naturally, to believing that values might also be fluid, that evil might put on a disguise.

Question 3

So…you’re not making America great? Well, what exactly are you doing? How are you going about it? If you need the qualifier…if you need to make America great again—back, for example, to the days when the masses could neither read the Bible nor compute beyond the most basic equations—you need to reconsider. To believe we were ever great is to think we never had anything to improve. It’s to suffer from a sin of pride, which at least one famous book identifies as a grave transgression.

And what, according to the book, is that transgression’s punishment?

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Image of the Medieval illustration of Hell in the Hortus deliciarum manuscript of Herrad of Landsberg (about 1180), from Wikipedia


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How to kill the middle class and ruin the environment 

In our attempts to make sense of how anyone would have voted for the president (when the answer is obvious), we keep losing sight of what’s happening. 

The following bills have been introduced:

1. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

2. HR 610 To distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.

3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education

4. HJR 69 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Department of the Interior relating to “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska”. 

5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act

6. HR 785 National Right to Work (this attacks collective bargaining, ending unions)

7. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” or PRENDA)

8. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran

The assault on unions and public schools all at once is driven by nothing more complex than basic human greed. At institutions of learning nationwide, educators are perceived as liabilities, a waste of money that could go to an administrator. If they could get rid of the teachers union and all faculty, they could teach classes with software, and a pile of money would appear for whomever was left.

How are any of these proposals acting in the best interest of the middle class that “feels forgotten”? How is the pollution of our planet, and acceleration towards an extinction event, in the interest of the wealthiest Americans, or of college administrators, or of tea party activists, or of Nazis? Don’t you think it’s weird that the 1%, tea party “patriots”, gun addicts, skinheads, Nazis and champions of Jean Raspail now form a political coalition? 

The swamp was drained to reveal monsters who had only been stuck in the muck. Now they get to crawl up on shore. 


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Coleson Whitehead on delusion

I must admit that I’ve yet to read The Underground Railroad, although it’s high on my list of books to get to soon. This quote gets to something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, for longer than we’ve had a fascist leading our country, a man most everyone in America disapproves of, except for white men.

And America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all. The white race believes–believes with all its heart–that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn’t exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty. Yet here we are.

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Photo of Coleson Whitehead from Wikipedia


PTSD sufferers against fascism

There was never a moment in my lifetime that so clearly delineated the right and wrong sides of history. Shit’s real, America. We’re either going to choose a raving mad lunatic who lacks even the most basic shred of empathy, or we’ll face this threat down and pick up the pieces afterwards.

Those pieces are going to be vile. It’s frightening to know I share streets, highways and public spaces with people steadfastly on the wrong side of history. It’s terrifying to imagine an abusive, unhinged narcissist should be put in power by the will of my countrymen and women who’ll remain upset if they don’t get what they want.

Honestly, what do you want? Today “god” took to demeaning the mentally ill, soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

PTSD is not a joke. Sufferers are at risk of an entire spectrum of self-harm. Their loved ones suffer and are often helpless, confused about what to do. The sufferer, frequently living in a waking nightmare, so often wonders what use they are to anyone. Worse, they might perceive, in perverse delusions of empathy, that the world is better off without them.

Not every PTSD patient survived war. Some may have witnessed a house fire, experienced a car accident or gotten mugged or raped. While our culture usually responds (at least in a common narrative) with care to veterans afflicted with the condition, those sufferers who did not serve or experience war can feel estranged. What’s wrong with you, the inner voice says, if you’re flipping out? You didn’t go to war. Snap out of it.

Studies have actually shown that “violent homes have the same effect on brains of children as combat has on soldiers”. The effects of complex trauma are nothing to sneeze at. Abused children grow up to be adults who mistrust the world, struggle to form relationships, tussle to know the difference between real and imagined emotions. This study breaks the ground to reveal the similarity between the experience of war and child abuse.

Among the worst experiences for a traumatized person is to find oneself in a society or social network that worships the abusive narcissist and dismisses or even refuses to accept transgressions. I know people (many of whom, staunchly middle class, will in November vote for a narcissist) who would rather pour an abuser drinks and chat with him than face the abuser’s true identity, even when it’s out in the open. It takes a society, a system, to keep abuse going, and the easiest thing to do when you find yourself an accessory is to pretend the abuse never happened in the first place. You claim you can’t understand why the victim shouldn’t sit at the dinner table where his abuser receives free drinks and the freedom to spew what nonsense comes to his head.

I know I’m not alone. Apparently, psychiatrists and social workers have noticed a spike in people anxious about the election. This is hardly strange to me. Yes, our fellow citizens want a man who’ll publicly ridicule, demean and bully, who’ll deny the thing he said or did just a moment ago. It’s triggering and frightening. Where should a traumatized person turn when an entire nation empowers a narcissist to abuse at will, to do so on an international stage, the American military at his disposal? How should a PTSD sufferer rationalize that this man now represents the sufferer politically? It’s a nightmare.

I don’t believe he’s gambling that most of America actually considers PTSD sufferers weak. This man has proven a poor player of political chess. He gains votes not by tactic but by hook and emotional trap. His comments today are exactly the kind of calculated barb a narcissist uses to pry into people and leave some afraid, confused, disoriented, while others—the ones who need their strength reinforced—feel empowered, superior, true but now dependent on the narcissist for the feeling.

Ironically, the latter group is at greater risk. We’ll know in only a short time just how many Americans are actually seduced enough to choose this kind of madness. In case you’re confused, let me present this simple warning:

Don’t expect the narcissist to love you back, America. He’ll use you until you’re extinguished, reeling and unable to tell your memories from your fantasies. Should you be bruised, he’ll say you hit yourself, then accuse you of lies in the next breath, speak your bruises away as if they were yesterday’s gossip. You won’t have known that kind of betrayal before, and when he’s out of your life, you won’t recognize what’s left of you, what pieces remain to pick up.

Should this madman get in, our constitution will face its greatest test. If the system fails to be stronger than its citizens—if it fails to remove him before a pivotal moment from which we won’t return—his biography will prove the same as the ones of his narcissist predecessors.

He’ll raze what fields he can, hoard what he thinks he can protect, delude himself for a while with victories and grandeur but eventually find himself alone. Depending on the exact nature and placement of his transgressions, he’ll either find some place to hide and whither away, some tribunal will pack him into a cell, or he’ll descend to the darkest part of his basement. History shows they all have a place where they keep a loaded pistol wrapped in a soft white cloth.

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Honestly, Europe, now’s not the time

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten into several conversations with Europeans—British, Dutch, German and Lithuanian—who were having fun at America’s expense. Just today I received an article written by a friend who contemplates American identity as the stuff of hyperbole, superficiality and non-sense. Of course, none of these people could hide their current trepidation, not entirely.

The joy that Europe usually feels poking fun at American idiocy is at once an expression of bewilderment, superiority and self-consciousness. Honestly, I think it’s past time to be poking any fun, and Europeans really do need to start asking themselves some serious questions. What will the continent do in the case of American political, cultural and economic collapse?

People might shrug this question off. European nations are, after all, survivors of calamities. But the current moment is troubling. Europe has looked at the United States, at least since the late 40’s, as a stable global player, and American political and economic interest has been predictable, even dependable, no matter how often it has proven vile. Currently, the threat of chaos is real and I don’t feel Europe is having the necessary conversation.

What’s Europe’s plan if America turns fascist? Make fun of our lack of culture and our poorly educated population all you want, but a fascist America would really put the heat on you. American descent into abjection would strain and risk so many systems. From a bird’s eye view, perhaps a massive teardown of the world’s power structure is exactly what’s necessary for our long-term survival. But it really won’t be any fun to watch the fields getting torched, or to find ourselves standing in the middle of one.

I suppose I’m saying, Europe, that your American friends are ashamed and frightened, and it should embarrass you if at this moment you need to feel better about yourselves by calling us idiots. We know we’re idiots. This thing in America is a mess: we’ve a critical mass of people holding jackhammers to the home’s foundation. If that crew gets to work as it wishes, you might be forced to bunker down in a way you haven’t for many decades. Sure, you’ll survive, as you always have, but I don’t see you laughing on your way to survival, just as I don’t see any global foundation being rebuilt without rational and sensible European leadership.

On an individual level, if you want to be a friend to an American, don’t immediately start pestering or laughing. We know you’re confused, but don’t start an interrogation. Instead, ask us if we could use a cup of tea or coffee. We really, really could, and if you made it for us while we sat forehead-in-palm at the table, we’d only love you. You can spike it with amaretto or brandy while you’re at it. We should have that drink together because, as we both know too well, there’s no place to escape from this planet. No matter what November brings, we’re all going to need each other.

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Photo: late summer light along US 45, East Central Illinois.


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New essay published

The good folks at ReImagining Magazine have published their summer issue. My essay, An American Imposter, finds itself there.

I spent a long time abroad this spring and summer, and got tired of having to “explain” my American identity. It got to the point that I no longer wanted to talk to strangers about where I was from. It became impossible to have conversations about anything besides our loathsome national politics.

The experience inspired this essay. Hope you’ll read and share.