PATHOS Penpal Project
Deutsch-Amerikanischer Briefaustausch zwischen Antigone Akgün (DE) und John L. Peacock (USA)
Im Rahmen der Reihe «King Kong und die weissen Frauen»
What an insane, beautiful, wonderous trip I’ve just (in the past 24-hours) come home to Brooklyn, NY from. My partner and I travelled with a rented camper van, painted with a school of fish and other aquatic life all over its exterior, a youthful-looking geriatric Pekingese dog, and the thought that we’re going out to connect. Our initial connections were planned: we saw my seventy-seven year old mother in rural Idaho, along with other family members scattered across the western United States and friends of us both scattered across the whole of the states. This happened, and inspired us with the possibility of buying a van that has a bed, sink, fridge, and stove inside so we can find these connections at any time regardless of the opportunities for flight travel, and we also found connections that were unexpected, inspiring, and (ultimately) hopeful.
We traveled through twenty-seven states (two over half the recognized states of the USA) in just under twenty-one days. Over 9,000 miles (which Google tells me is over 14,500 km) of road travelled under our four wheels and eight respective feet. We each saw states, cultures, identities we’d never seen (up close and in person) before. Confederate flags waving in fields and white crosses the size of buildings on the sides of highways; old men coming up maskless in bars wondering about my purse and my long hair; “Democrats for Trump” signs blocking views of farmland in northern California; winery owners in South Dakota trying to escape “people”…but there was something we expected we’d see, feared we’d see, that never materialized: any hatred towards us and our obviously not-from-there outward appearances. My brother-in-law, living in Idaho, feared for my life from Antifa as we said one of our next stops would be Portland. My friends in Portland essentially said they were the ones being labelled Antifa, and their biggest acts of “violence” were each showing up to be beaten and pepper-sprayed by the military police brought in by the federal government. And people, family or stranger, had a sense of fear of “the other side” because of their trusty news outlets shoving that fear into place, but all sides came together in a unified voice of compassion, want of understanding, and general thought that, “Regardless of your politics, there are good people everywhere.” That last quote came from the old man in the bar, who saw me and needed to talk…he was reaching out as much as our road trip was reaching out to his side. He had to see if I was really the monster that FOX News told him my kind was. He had to find out if the fear was really necessary. He was quickly clapping me on my shoulders, smiling and laughing, saying that quote and intimating that my long curly hair was actually very nice looking, and he really liked it even if it was very strange for him to see. That man, from Alabama, told my partner as he was leaving that he really hoped he didn’t offend with his jokes about my appearance and my purse, and I was able to catch him in the parking lot before he drove away to solidify our LOVE of each other. With that love, fear was removed, from us both.
That was living in the present moment in a way I’d not been able to sustain for a long time. That was the Art of Living, in pure motion. That embodied what the trip’s takeaway for me ultimately is: We all want love, we all want understanding, and we all want to live without fear together. How politics, news, and “the system” have manipulated these desires into their own gain – at our loss – makes more sense as I see how isolated, how very different the cultures of America are. It’s never felt like home, to me, in the sense of the feeling you spoke of in your last letter. I never have felt so secure to do what I feel, to express and experience in my own way, with New York City as a rare exception (and feeling so international compared to the rest of the country). These cultures of generations dying in the town they were born confuses me, so I never felt a part of them (not fully). And, yes, as a gender-fluid (yet male-presenting) individual, with my purse and my beard and my female life partner, I know the confines of the gender binary system do not account for far too many of us, and as a tall, white individual, I understand the need to remove the white patriarchy from all forms of leadership, from one degree to another, in order to start correcting the atrocities of this white patriarchy and start to allow for truly equal-opportunity societies to occur.
The poles close in the eastern United States in a couple of hours. I’ve not even been home twenty-four hours, but have voted (in person) and have a sense of calm I’ve not known in four years (or maybe much much longer). I’m not afraid of that old man in Alabaster, Alabama, or my brother-in-law who loves conspiracy theories and thinks a civil war is eminent, and I’m not afraid of the news or my government, even as I see the possibility of the collapse of democracy as I’ve known it within my country…I believe the power is with the people, and that love will overcome fear in a way that allows us to come together and not tear us apart. Had I written those words to my one-month-ago self I might have called myself naïve and childish…but maybe a little child-like wonder is good for us all, every now and then.
Be well, and keep looking in those drawers to see what answers come back to you! This is something I’ve done for the first time in a long time, and it’s exhausting, but it’s exhilarating as well! Till the next one!
Jon L Peacock