Sibuyan Fauna

 

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Amor Vincit Omnia

From Lvatlon, WikiMedia Commons

Her voice screeched like metal against my ears, and I twisted up the volume on the radio to drown her. Reno was a barren enough drive as it was, and Jilly’s voice wasn’t going to make the desert slide by any quicker.

I gulped a jolt of the Royal Salute, and the fire burned its way up from my stomach to my brain. I passed the bottle back and the amber liquid and amber city lights almost erased my hate as quickly as it came. I threw my head back into the sky and the radio sang about drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll. It’s not the amount of years in your life m’boy, I thought to Bush, but the amount of life in your years.

I must have said it out loud because Jilly, who had been quiet for awhile, sat up and screwed on the bottle cap.
“What?” she repeated, leaning close so I could taste her breath. “What’d you say, hubby?”

Surprisingly I felt no nausea, but at this point I didn’t really care anymore. I pulled her toward me, until a jarring honk quickly jolted us apart.

I have a story for driving through the open desert, and it goes like this:
Once there was a man driving through the open desert. He was unaware of birds that flew above and monitored his progress. He drove and drove, and the horizon never moved. Until one day he suddenly glared up and saw the birds, dark croaking buzzards, flocking above him, and seeing him seeing them they spirilled down, spinning around dizzy, until the whole world spun and no one knew who was the bird and who was the man.

I swerved over to the side of the road. Cars zipped by us, blowing huffs of wind against the Chevy. I gulped another long pull from the open bottle, and then I blinked and we were in Reno. I smacked Jilly a hard shot to the head that caused her to roll her head up.

“What are we doing here?” she said. “What happened?”
I snickered. I didn’t know if she remembered me; I didn’t care. “We’re finding the music.” I said.

All my life I’ve wanted to find the exact same situation as Luke Skywalker’s famous encounter with Darth Vader in Star Wars. This, I thought, was finally it. It was perfect. I swallowed another drink and the buildings whizzed by. She curled up in my lap and began to nod off again. I realized I didn’t want her to sleep, and smacked her again. The sharp pain of her teeth digging into my thigh made me snarl.

We pulled into a dingy one-story chapel lit with cheap neon lights. Blackish-white paint hung limply off the walls, and the whole image reeked of shoddy desperation. What a dump, I thought. She’ll have to pull out … there’s no way she could handle the reality of this forlorn shack.

Birds circled outside my vision as I parked and turned off the engine. I took another hearty gulp of the Salute, and she grabbed onto my hand … the queasiness returned in full vengeance. It seemed to blossom, spreading outward until it encircled my entire body. With effort I managed to fight it off and ignore it.

I have always admired Nevada. If Nevada were a dessert … well, it would definitely be an admirable one. There exists an alien feel to its blatant sins that improvises an atmosphere of uncertainty. If gambling and prostitution are so out in the open here, why they must be okay … but these thoughts flew away as she got out of the car and stood up.

Katherine Hepburn was put to shame by her slinking, swooshing saunter toward the chapel. She probably began when she was five years old and imitating Betty Boop. The bright lights of the chapel erased her into a black outline, a movie scene on a poster. Black Sabbath cut the air from the radio, and the spinning night suddenly slowed to a halt. All the dimensions halted briefly in their tracks, looked at each other for a second, and then agreed to continue on their merry way. I fought against the encroaching darkness by focusing on the shadow in front of me. That woman, I panted, for all her heavy posturing is walking into the chapel right now … no, she’s racing inside, a swirl of prostitute ads and empty cigarette boxes floating up in her wake. Marilyn Monroe left the same wake when she pranced along the Great Wall of China.

The chapel’s mouth gaped wider and wider, grinning a fascinating toothless smirk. Inside, Beelzebub beamed and indicated me to stand next to Jilly. I took the last swig of the Salute and handed the empty bottle to the frocked Beelzebub. The lights were blinding inside, and I just wanted to be outside and let the birds pick at my ruminating corpse.

Her open hand flashing across my line of sight made me blink, and then I was contemplating the arched, unpainted ceiling and enjoying the throb of her palm against my cheek. For the first time I thought, this marriage just might work.

On the ride home I sprawled in the backseat, and the pressure of the bottle around the finger next to my pinky left a white ring around it. I pulled my finger out and watched the birds hovering ominously above. But they didn’t dare touch a married man. Not tonight. I watched the sky, and the desert flew by, and sometimes the stars flew by and the desert remained in the same place. Past Orion a dog chased its tail, and then lay down to sleep.

Note: This was written in 2005, shortly after Hunter Thompson’s death.

Newt Heaven

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California Newt (Source: WikiCommons)

To go somewhere without a plan is to open yourself to the unexpected, and to allow yourself to delight in it. Itineraries, schedules, appointments all have the rigidity of expectations; whereas stepping outside your door with a blank slate offers the freedom of limitless opportunity.

This was the thought in my mind as I stared into what my cousin Eli and I dubbed “Newt Heaven”, a water and weed choked depression in the midst of a World War II era bunker nestled in the hills of the Marin Headlands. A dozen newts idly paddled in the 10-foot diameter concrete hole, suspended peacefully in the brackish sun-warmed water where 80 years ago a massive 16-millimeter gun requiring two dozen soldiers to load and fire had pointed toward the Pacific.

But now the bunker was ruled by newts, whom in the midst of the hot sun baking the drought-dry chaparral adorning the hillsides could only – we concluded – have viewed the 5 foot deep pool of water as habitat perfection. Eli and I had left Muir Beach shrouded in fog a few hours ago, stopping only to marvel at the dew-soaked spiderwebs dotting the trailside bushes. The startlingly bone-white webs were everywhere, made visible this morning by the diamond drops of water highlighting them. Most contained a centerpiece that at first looked like packaged morsels waiting to be eaten, but upon closer inspection we realized were simply small leaves that had been incorporated into each spider’s web. The webs’ craftsmanship and symmetry were eye-arresting, and made more-so by the fact that neither Eli and I had seen them before – had they always been there and we just never noticed? Were we destroying these lustrous designs unknowingly when we trampled through on sunny afternoons?

These are the idle questions that time and no particular purpose can afford you. In the first half of our ambling trip to the Golden Gate bridge, the others we talked to seemed to share the same unhurried sense of idleness – a middle-aged woman stopped her run to inform us about her route and how nice the day was, while a tattooed young man wandered near Newt Heaven languorously searched for some rocks worth climbing. At a bone-dry bunker – Newt Hell, obviously – a man in a dark room played a haunting flute, taking advantage of the tunnel’s beautiful acoustics. And perhaps playing a tribute to the newts that had perished in the bunker during their own war against sun and drought.

But on the road down to the bridge, the serenity of our unhindered excursion faded as we neared our destination. Cars zoomed by, and tourists crowded the few parking spaces along the road, snapping pictures and selfies. Two dirty backpackers flashed us the peace sign but kept clomping up the road, eschewing the safer dirt trail. One car stopped for a single hurried photo, then motored on while another in the next lot honked long and hard at the car in front of them that was flummoxed by the lack of places to park. Even the boats entering San Francisco Bay were in a hurry – one insistently tugging a large barge about five times its size under the bridge and into the bay, another a sleek long tanker quickly disappeared into the fog coming in from the Pacific. On the way back we fought our way in the car through tourists packing the streets of Sausalito, and the unwieldy tangle of cars in Tam Junction. But none of those things registered – stuck in my head was the inescapable picture of all those peaceful newts floating in heaven, without a care in the world.

Asura-sutra

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Thus I have heard: at one time the Lord was staying at Rajagrha, and the great wheel-turning righteous emperor of the law, Ilamkili, who had all thirty-two special marks of a Great Man and was a great Dharmic king wielding the seven treasures and whose greatness and gracious acts established the security of his realm and extended his kingdom to where the horizon met the land and caused the rain to fall for the prosperity of everyone, came to see the Blessed One with a troubled spirit.

The great wheel-turning righteous monarch, followed by his 1,000 sons and attendants, approached the Blessed One with an immense plate of food offerings; containing both hard and soft choices from the finest food he could find. After circling the Blessed One three times with his right side facing the Lord, the great wheel-turning righteous monarch sat down.

“Lord Buddha,” Ilamkili said, “I have a troubled spirit. I have studied your teachings, and the Dharma, and the four Aryan truths, and the law of Karma. I have studied them to try and attain enlightenment. I was born with the thirty-two special marks on my body, and I have known since I was released from the womb I would either become a fully enlightened Buddha or a great wheel-turning emperor. I now rule an empire that stretches to where the horizon meets the land, and my greatness and gracious acts cause the rain to fall for the prosperity of everyone. And now I wonder; and I ask you Blessed One, there are questions I have that I cannot answer, and I hope you can.”

The Blessed One, who had attained spiritual perfection, he who was mighty with the ten Powers of the Tathagata, the Well-Farer, he whose senses were turned inwards, the Knower of the Worlds, the Teacher of gods and humans, he who had achieved nirodha, who had learned the karmic nature of every single being from their past lives, sat and looked at the great wheel-turning emperor and said nothing.

“Very well,” said the great wheel-turning emperor, “then tell me this: I have learned the path to enlightenment is through the cessation of desire; however isn’t the act of cessation of desire to attain enlightenment a desirous act in itself?”

After no response the great wheel-turning emperor said, “Very well, then tell me this: I have studied the four Noble Truths and according to samudaya; desire, or the thirst for further existence, is the cause of suffering. If this is true why have not all the ascetics achieved enlightenment? They have conquered sensation and perception, and live without desire yet they have not attained Nirvana.”

After no response the great wheel-turning emperor said, “Very well, then tell me this: I have learned of anatman; how there is no self, simply the five skandhas that lead to desire and the illusion of atman. If there is no stable, permanent self what is it in people that desires enlightenment?”

After this question from Ilamkili the Lord shifted in his position, but gave no response. “Very well,” said the great wheel-turning emperor, “then tell me this: I have observed different sanghas and sects, and have learned that there are differences in each. For instance why do the Vajrayana say spiritual attainment can be gained in one lifetime? Or what about the Sanvastivadin, who say everything exists? Why do the Theravada have 311 rules for nuns while the Mahasanghika have over 500 rules for nuns? Why do these all walk different paths toward the cessation of suffering? Which is the correct one?”

After no response the great wheel-turning emperor said, “Very well, I will ask then: you who has attained spiritual perfection, who has ceased desire, who is the Teacher of gods and humans, who has learned the karmic nature of every single being including me, can you tell me how to resolve these questions that hinder me so that I can gain spiritual attainment? Shall I give up my entire kingdom and take up the begger’s bowl and monk’s robes? If so, which sect shall I follow to achieve enlightenment?”

At these words his thousand sons and many attendants let out piteous moans of anguish; for Ilamkili had calmed the chaos of heaven with his Dharmic rule and had expanded his kingdom and power with his many generous acts, and none of his attendants wanted to see him leave. However, the Blessed One gave the same response to this question as all the previous; he sat and looked at Ilamkili and said nothing

“Very well,” said the great wheel-turning emperor with great reluctance, for he did not want to leave his prosperous kingdom; nor his people who loved him, and who he loved in return. “I will ask a second time: you who has attained spiritual perfection, who has ceased desire, who has learned the karmic nature of every single being including me. Shall I give up my kingdom? Will that begin the path to true enlightenment?”

After no response the great wheel-turning emperor, with even greater reluctance than before, said “Very well. I will clearly ask: you who has attained spiritual perfection, who has ceased desire, who has learned the karmic nature of every single being including me. How can I achieve enlightenment? Tell me what I must do to attain Nirvana.”

At these words the Lord spoke, for Ilamkili had finally revealed to himself the truth of his desire. The Blessed One looked at the righteous wheel-turning monarch and at a glance saw all of the emperor’s past lives and deeds, and saw that the emperor had more lives ahead of him to atone for his past actions. “Great cakravartin, powerful wheel-turning emperor listen to me,” said the Buddha. “You have more to learn; you ask why ascetics have not attained Nirvana since they have conquered desire, and I tell you this: it is true, ascetics have conquered their desire in the physical world, however they have not walked the Middle Way, which is distant from their own extreme. They have not realized the four Noble Truths fully. They have not realized they suffer because they desire; which is due to ignorance.

“It is true; the want to cease desire is desirous itself. However you have more to learn; there are different levels of desire and the desire of cessation is the highest there is. It is the raft, it is the path to eliminating Grasping, the way to halt Becoming.

“It is true, there is no such thing as self; only sunyata, emptiness. However you have more to learn; it is the karmic law of the universe that pushes individuals towards enlightenment. You have not truly seen pratitya-samutpada, that nothing has essential being, everything is only in existance in relation to everything else. Everything is conditioned by previous lives; it is the necessity of atoning for one’s past actions and attaining balance that brings one up from hell to heaven, and the understanding of the nature of Karma and the four Noble Truths that push them outside of the wheel of life to Nirvana.

“It is true; there are many different sects with their own understanding of the path to cessation. However you have much to learn; for each walks their own path, and has their own road from their past lives to their future lives. No matter the number of rules for nuns, nor the time of spiritual attainment; no matter how one views the world there is birth, there is ageing, and there is dying. There is no way such that if you ask a monk how to live according to the Dharma and atone for past lives every single one will say ‘This is the one and only way’ – there is no universal practice. But no matter who you ask the four Noble Truths are the same; no matter how many rules govern a life there is suffering, and there is its cessation. No monk will tell you of one path all can travel, however any monk will tell you the four Noble Truths are the beacon lighting all paths, no matter how different the direction of the paths are.

“Great cakravartin, powerful wheel-turning emperor listen to me,” said the Buddha. “It is true, you have more to learn. Your power exceeds the earth, you can stop the sun and bring forth rain, however you cannot attain enlightenment in this life. Your great and noble deeds from this life and your previous ones have given you your immense powers; however before this life, before your previous life of a generous merchant, before your previous previous life as an ascetic, stretching back innumerable lifetimes ago, a misdeed haunts you. Far back, centuries ago, before your great city was even built as a servant you maliciously slaughtered your master and ran away. It is this deed as a slave so long ago that shackles you today, great emperor. Ilamkili, in this life you are like a unmattavidyadhara, a mad scientist, wanting to concoct a powerful potion but you want to skip the steps in between of mixing lesser elements to create the final product. You desire enlightenment and Nirvana, but you cling hard to the five skandhas and the idea of self. You block yourself from achieving Bodhi; your body is solid in this life from your belief in its permanence. You do not remember your previous lives but your merit, your punya, has made you very powerful. However it is not for the purpose of making you a Buddha, it is for the purpose of atoning for your previous life. You have seen the four Noble Truths, but have not developed them through practice nor fully realized them in a manner so that you cannot learn more about them. You have yet to escape bhavacakra, the wheel of life; your great cycle, your mahakalpa, is close but has not yet completed a full revolution. You, great wheel-turning righteous monarch, have turned the Wheel of Dharma once, but not thrice. It is not your time for cessation, to ascend to Nirupadisesa-Nirvana – you are needed to be a Dharmic king and calm chaos in the heavens and do good for your people.”

Thus spoke the Lord, and Ilamkili rejoiced, and returned to his kingdom where he performed many great deeds until the time of his death.

Note – this was written in 2004.

Post-election Anger and Angst

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The day after the election about 60 million people woke up disappointed, and emotional. There were feelings of anger and betrayal by the losing candidate they had voted for. Incredulity, that so many fellow Americans had voted for the distasteful opposition. Fear at the direction of our country. Worry about the future. Marches, protests, and speeches of taking back “our government” erupted across the United States.

This of course was the general sentiment of half of American voters on November 5, 2008 – the day after Barack Obama won the general election.

Polarization is the current buzzword for describing our country, and as liberals and Democrats take to the streets running through the same gamut of emotions that conservatives did in 2008, the inevitable question is: how did we get to this bitterly divided place? How do we understand an invisible division that shows itself in media and voting results, but rarely seems to reveal itself in every day life? As one distraught Clinton supporter Tuesday night put it, how do we reconcile the confusion that comes from feeling as if we understand the campaign issues well, yet at the same time utterly failing to understand half of our country?

On election Tuesday, after work there was lightness in the air in downtown San Francisco. The late-day sun warmed the usual mix of government workers and groups of tourists walking past the homeless scattered around Civic Center. On the BART train people sported their “I voted” stickers on jackets and shirts, and several Clinton supporters wore pantsuits and “nasty woman” buttons. On the way to watch the election returns my friends and I checked in to see how each of us voted on California’s confusing array of propositions, and good-naturedly debated which of the two Democrat candidates for the Senate was better. The only questions in our minds regarding the general election was how long it would take for Clinton to reach 270 electoral votes, and whether Trump would actually concede or not.

As we left the train, a woman ran up to my friend’s wife and thanked her for wearing white, in order to honor women’s suffrage. The two women were strangers, and at least 20 years apart in age, yet they shared an optimism and sense of purpose. It would be the last hopeful moment of the day.

The train ride home that night was sullen, and quiet. The usual motley assemblage of late-night BART riders stared down at their phones, or out the murky windows. During the walk home the dark Oakland streets around me seemed tense, foreboding, as if the city itself – which has seen its share of hard times – was preparing itself. Around one in the morning a car drove around my neighborhood, loudly playing on repeat the YG & Nipsey Hussle rap song “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)”; whose full song title is repeated over and over again in the refrain. After one last pass I heard what sounded like gunshots and then silence. That night people in Oakland burned trashcans in the streets and temporarily blocked highway 24, managing to get a 20 year old girl seriously injured after she was hit by a car. “Welcome to Donald’s America”, I thought to myself, darkly.

The next day I woke up and, along with 60 million other Americans wondered with dread what the next four years would bring. It was a beautiful, sunny and clear day in the Bay Area with only a few wisps of clouds overhead – an irony, considering the bitter, ashy taste of defeat that liberals and Democrats alike felt. However big the disappointment of Clinton supporters, liberals had cause to feel even more cheated: having swallowed their pride to support Clinton, they now find themselves bereft of both their conscious and their country.

During the morning commute people on the BART train were quieter than usual, more retreated into their headphones and smartphones than ever before. In San Francisco, many people purposefully wore black as a statement of mourning for the direction of our country. At my state government office, a coworker brought in “disappointing Wednesday donuts”, as she called them, which we munched and pondered what went wrong. Another coworker dispensed with office decorum and rules and turned on her radio to listen to the latest political commentary and Clinton’s concession speech.

While we struggled to understand what had happened and what it meant, many others didn’t have the luxury. A friend who works at a school texted me that kids were asking worriedly if World War III was going to happen, amongst other crazy questions. Another friend who teaches predominantly Latino children had her kids ask if Trump’s victory meant their families would get deported, and if people were going to show up at their door and ask for immigration documents. All she could say, she told me, was “I don’t know”.

In the absence of knowing what will happen, it’s easy to fall back on imagining the worst. The danger of politicians – and especially Trump – is that in their seduction of as many voting blocs as possible they become in essence a blank slate. One onto which supporters can project whatever values they want, and one in which detractors can project their worst fears. Like many, I entered protracted text and phone conversations with friends scattered across the United States. “What happened?” we asked each other with dismay. “What do we do now?”

The sentiment of many was the desire to retreat back into our isolated bubbles of friends and social circles where everyone thinks the same and agrees with you. Ironically this strategy is not too far from what Trump proposes to do with America – build a wall, self-isolate, and above all pursue self-interest. I think there’s real danger in this approach – because it is precisely this insulation that blinded all of us to the undeniable truth: that a significant, close to majority (and majority politically) portion of our population thinks much differently than we do. Comforting ourselves by saying “thank god I live in liberal California (or New York, or wherever)” and reassuring ourselves to our friends that we’re not crazy, it’s everyone else that’s nuts – this is what caused us to be blindsided in the first place. And this is what will continue divisiveness and lead to another fractured America and charged election four years from now.

Instead the alternative is to not retreat into our homogeneous ideological sanctuaries. Indeed, our civic and political institutions need our active participation more than ever. It is now up to all of us to ensure that minorities are not persecuted, that racist and sexist behavior is not allowed to creep into our society, and make sure that our system of checks and balances will shield us after being wielded against Obama for the past eight years.

Lunch at the San Francisco Civic Center farmer’s market on Wednesday was the normal scene – shoppers clutching their reusable bags chatted while browsing stands bursting with fall produce like leafy greens, persimmons, and the last gasp of summer fruit. A shaggy, bearded man sat next to an amp and plucked a guitar near tables arrayed with people enjoying fare from food trucks such as Waffle Mania! and All-Star Tamale.

But as I stood in line for food, faint yelling and cheers intruded on the calm scene. At first it was barely distinguishable from the usual spectrum of odd noises associated with downtown San Francisco, however as the noise grew louder people stopped and turned to see what the commotion was about.

About fifty or so high school students burst onto the scene, chanting angrily in unison “Not our president! Not our president!” They waved a variety of signs – most denigrating Trump, some stating in true San Francisco tradition “Love not hate”, “Latinos against Trump”, and a potpourri of other messages. This was not your typical apathetic “instructive for youth” San Francisco protest for extra credit – these students yelled fiercely and passionately, eyes narrowed in anger. One student, flanked by one of the nearly dozen adult chaperones had written “Fuck Trump” in bold black marker on her upper chest above her white halter top. Bystanders stood aside to let them through, and applauded and cheered in between taking pictures and videos on their phones. I thought to myself of how the media characterized Trump’s rallies, and what his supporters would think of this scene. Rather than making America great again, Mr. Trump by fanning the flames of America’s divisions and fueling partisanship had instead succeeded in making America hate again.

Later that afternoon multiple notices circulated on social media regarding planned protests. Occupy Oakland announced a gathering at 5 pm at “Oscar Grant Plaza” – the unofficial name of Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, dubbed so by the movement after the local unarmed, restrained black man who was shot in the back by police. Another unattributed announcement, simple titled “Fuck Donald Trump: anticapitalist march” circulated via Twitter inviting people to protest at 7 pm a few blocks away from the other protest.

East Bay Area demonstrations in particular often target transportation – either major freeways, or BART – which is ones of the areas where the perpetually congested region is most vulnerable. Therefore we received instruction in my office to leave an hour early, in order to try and avoid the protests. Most of my co-workers didn’t hesitate; gratefully straggling out the door soon after the announcement was made. I had other plans, however.

Walking around downtown Oakland at 7:30 that night, it took me little while to find the protest as it was already on the move when I arrived. Following the pairs and small groups of people purposefully walking toward Broadway Street, my brother and I finally caught up to the tail end of the march. We took a shortcut, and then turned the corner to the sight of hundreds of marching protestors flanked by dozens of police with plastic handcuffs swinging from their belts. One officer surrounded by his brethren carried a video camera swathed in protective plastic.

“In case they get attacked by protesters,” said the man next to us, when I wondered aloud at the camera’s purpose. “They can get it all on film and then be justified for beating [the attackers’] asses.” He laughed. “Yet when the police kill an innocent black man that video never sees the light of day!”

Reports later estimated 6,000 protestors, and the ones we saw mostly peacefully marched down Broadway under the watchful eye of the police. It appeared a loose coalition of diverse interests, which supposedly had undermined the Occupy movement in 2011 – I saw signs against Trump, for love and peace, against rape culture, for freeing some person I had never heard of, in support of the black lives matter movement, and one puzzling 15 foot banner on the side proclaiming “Trump is not the problem – let’s talk”.

After the marched passed by, the group holding the banner promptly rolled it up neatly, and headed out past us. “What does it mean?” we asked them, puzzled – were they Trump supporters?

“Donald Trump is the not the problem,” shouted one of them without breaking stride. “The whole system is fucked up and broken, long before Trump arrived.” I looked at my brother and shrugged – it was hard to argue with that. A few hours later a couple hundred of protestors spilled onto the 580 freeway – one of the major transportation arteries of the Bay Area – and shut it down in both directions. It was the beginning of increased confrontation with police, who resorted to tear gas and flash grenades, while a small faction of protestors threw rocks and vandalized several businesses, including an Audi dealership.

Over the next few days, people tried their hardest to find silver linings, rays of optimism no matter how faint that could console us that it won’t be so bad. We consoled ourselves that perhaps we had all been woken up, and that Trump’s victory would spur a concerted backlash of civic participation. A nearly all-blue electoral map showing the vote of citizens ages 18-25 circulated on social media. We refused to believe that half of America voted for the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that Trump presented during the elections. What we could believe – possibly the one thing uniting all of America – is the belief that the system is broken.

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This map depicts how Americans ages 18 – 25 voted last Tuesday.

We tried to reassure ourselves there was no way Trump could actually achieve most of the things he claimed – that his outlandish statements were just election promises. Besides, we said, looking at each other hopefully – he’ll likely get impeached in the first year … right?

But we were really just grasping at straws, and our feeble attempts at optimism were tempered by the out-of-body experience watching Obama welcome Trump to the White House, and the sickening news like noted climate change denier Myron Ebell was tapped by Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition team. At a meeting of conservation managers two days after the election, participants made feeble jokes about the results, the Trump transition team, and the future. But then a federal agency manager reported in deadly earnest that funding for next year was uncertain for obvious reasons, and the room fell silent.

As the week dragged on, the mundane routine of everyday life began to numb the sting of Tuesday’s results. In Oakland and around the Bay Area protests continued. But during the day, people went to work, made dinner, and went about their daily rituals – life went on. On a bike ride through UC Berkeley’s campus, I saw a group of laughing students playing jugger with foam medieval weapons, and stopped to watch. As they romped on the open lawn next to Frisbee throwers and lounging readers, I hoped fervently that the Trump presidency would fail to harm this next generation.

On Sunday, just five days after the elections, the so-called “super moon” will rise over the United States; and due to the proximity of the two celestial bodies the moon will appear larger and brighter than it has in almost 70 years. Meanwhile, down on earth, the divisions in America have never appeared further apart.