When I tell friends about my life, even stories that are funny to me, I always try to preface it by saying that I grew up in a Southern Gothic novel. I think most of us who grew up with trauma or working class or, more commonly, both, often have this experience of trying to hammer out the unruly shape of our lives to present to others. There’s this feeling I get sometimes of trying to make my history legible, neat. When I find myself selecting out certain stories or presenting them in certain ways that won’t make my audience too uncomfortable. It’s strange to say this, but for the most part, the shame and discomfort I feel about my past and the things that happened to me in my family and home aren’t because of what happened to me. Instead, the shame and discomfort come from the response I’m anticipating in others. That they’ll think I’m being too much. That my life is too messy, too painful for them to listen to. Once, when my mother was dying, a lab mate asked me how she was. I turned to the lab mate and said, “Oh, it’s not good. She’s really struggling with the chemo, and I think she probably only has a few months to live.” And the person said, “That’s awful. Don’t tell me anything else about it. That’s too much. Don’t tell me anything else. No. I do not want to hear it.”
Perhaps we should learn a little about activists organizing to preserve starlight. The work of Cipriano Martin is described in The End Of Night: “He talks in a language that seems made for ‘declarations’ written ‘in defense.’” Martin helped organize an international conference with the declaration “In Defense of the Night and the Right to Starlight.”
“…a writer from my homeland, an islander from the middle of the ocean, synthesized the whole spirit of the declaration in a beautiful short poem:
My inheritance was a handful of earth But of sky All the universe.
One of the most meaningful things about the Starlight Reserve concept is how detailed its dimensions are…rather than simply assume all protected areas are protected for the same reasons, the different Starlight Reserves imagine several types of these areas: Starlight Natural Sites safeguard nocturnal habitats; Starlight Astronomy Sites protect our view of the stars; Starlight Heritage Sites preserve ‘archaeological and cultural sites or monuments created by man as an expression of its relationship with the firmament [or the heavens].’”3 As abolitionists, how detailed are our dimensions? Where are our different sites of abolition located? How can local autonomous zones cooperate with each other to create what we might call a constellation of abolition? That is, a network of abolitionist efforts that are activated only at night? Only under starlight.
GRANDMA HYDE VERSUS FOUCAULT. “The analysis of descent permits the dissociation of the self,” rather than its unification, writes Michel Foucault. The truth about who you are lies not at the root of the tree but rather out at the tips of the branches, the thousand tips.
To practice subversive genealogy means to forget the idealism of a singular forefather and remember these thousands. With that remembrance you must multiply the sense of who you are, multiply it until it disappears.