(UPon reading “Fear of Freedom” by Carlo Levi)
It was necessary to get out of America because America had become a monster, an unrecognizable foe, a fascist seedling sprouting on the fringe of consciousness.
It was necessary to go someplace far away from America to sit and contemplate, to try to regain the self.
I’m going to read this piece here: (Tasso Hostel open mic, Florence, Italy, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 8:30pm!)
Italy was a renunciation, a place to flee to, a refuge. Though it was in reality a practical move, of course it seemed crazy and in our hearts we felt crazy and that craziness, that suddenness was itself a sign of our confusion and hurt, our fear, our fed-up-ness with America. It was a sudden, satisfying point of surrender, a throwing up of the hands, a turning over of the table on which the chess pieces defied us, a walking-off the field, a giving of the finger. Not that we thought it was the end-all solution; Italy was, rather, the next dry stone to jump to in the middle of a growing tumult of water, soon become a rapids.
We left America before we knew precisely where we were going. We knew we were going to Castiglion Fiorentino, that people there would welcome us, but beyond that we only knew we had to get out of America and that Italy was a place to land, a place to pause while we come to our senses amid the onslaught of America’s blind romance with fascism.
You’ve done it once already, Italy! You’ve gone fascist, seen its awful consequences, and with the latest government perhaps you are trying to return to that! Yet somehow Italy’s fascist turn is not so traumatic as America’s. Now it’s America’s turn and it will be historic and ugly and interesting also but we did not want to be there for the full pageant of death. We did not want to stay and resist because we felt we no longer had enough partners in resistance, having witnessed a melting away of our comrades!
We were like children awakening from a dream on a field of battle, finding ourselves abandoned and thus fleeing to the first available shelter. Did no one else see what was happening? Yes, they did, but they thought they could oppose it and by opposing it thus fix it but we saw it as too monstrous a wave, not a thing we could fix because we ourselves were creating this fascist wave, in our refusal to believe what we were creating, all of us, in our creation and our resistance, all of us together in our resistance not seeing that even our resistance was subsumed by this thing, this monster of democracy transforming itself and all of us with it, into fascism.
All we could do was flee, because we have had experience with such a thing, and so we fled, and because we wanted safety and quiet and thought we could not afford to live in Florence we landed in a tiny town with art and museums and coffee, where we had patrons and protection, a family who knew us and would watch out for us, watch over us. Yes, we fled America for the protection of an Italian family whose kindness touched us and made us feel safe, even as we realize that the fascist organization called Casa Pound, after the great and misguided poet Ezra, that the young fans of fascism have their secret club meetings and their powerful and cultured members, who seem to treat the fascist underground like Club 54, the Fab Mab, or CBGB, a private club of raw elegance and sophistication where the right sort of disaffected intellectuals torture themselves in artful and subversive ways.
It cannot be just a flirtation, it must mean something, this romance with fascism. It cannot be just puppy love. We cannot say that this flirtation is not a genuine cry of anguish, any more than we could deny that punk was a primal scream as much as a musical style, only later cleaned up and made expert entertainment by a little band from across the Bay called Green Day. Whom I adore, btw, just saying social upheavals are not just stylistic adjustments.
And now I seem to have fallen silent, reading Carlo Levi, being reminded of the necessity of resistance and seeing that I have left the playing field and my comrades. We resist the surface of fascism while our machines tirelessly breed it from within! Because fascism turned out to be from within, and inescapable.
I mean that we sought a certain comfortable respite in order to wait and see what happens and not wait until everyone was fleeing, until we had been reduced to rags and were marching out of the city with a million other refugees. We wanted to be among the first to leave so we could set up house and welcome the others who stayed longer, who had more faith, who thought that fascism could be resisted and defeated while we believed that it was something dormant now awakened in the American soul, finally, after such long devotion to democracy. We thought it was far scarier than others seemed to think; we sensed its beginnings early. We sensed that our comrades did not see it and could not be convinced of its inevitability.
We are friends with the fascists; it has not come to war yet; we eat together, we sit around a table with those who quote Mussolini and idolize a past of violence and repression, who root for fascism like it’s a rock band, a favorite show, a fashionable shoe, to put on for the streets and the dinner tables and then take off at night, casting off one’s murderousness, one’s erotic fascination with dark domination. Believing that it does not grow in the night, but it does. It grows in the night and awakens stronger until eventually it, the plaything fed by darkness, eventually it grows larger, becomes the monster and master and begins to whip us mercilessly until we become the servant, meekly polishing its guns and submitting to its violent violations of our bodies.
Those last few months in San Francisco we had a feeling things would not end well; we saw the fascism of the technocrats, their dreamy hypnotic envelopment in code, their repudiation of the family meal and preference for solitary pizzas in front of streaming glowing code running down their green laptop screens like rain, their superman fantasies, uber mensches taking Uber to the mansions of their uber bosses. We had a feeling that America was ripe for an earthquake; it was that feeling of acrid stillness and violent unease, and so we in an instant decided to crack open the magical egg of real estate, convert our house to money, take the money and run.
Now we are here, safe high on a hillside, watching and waiting–and going to the Tasso Hostel every month for the Open Mic!