Editor-in-Chief Savannah Bradley discusses our March theme, FUTURE NOSTALGIA.
March’s theme is FUTURE NOSTALGIA, in which we explore the idea of romanticizing the unknown, as well as the latter word’s Greek translation: nostos, “return home,” and algos, “pain.” Kind of like how the root of “emergency” is emerge. Kind of like how imagining the future can be an exercise in the pathetic as much as it is in wishful thinking. Nostalgia operates on a dime: sometimes the past seems wistful and perfect, but the act itself can leave you feeling splintered, quick to pull the tarp back over the objects of the past, lest you think too long about the things that could’ve been. There was a future you imagined as a child: hoverboards, maybe; The Jetsons-esque chrome ornamentations; those Nikes from Back to the Future II that self-laced. In some ways, we have all of those things, but they’re lesser than what we expected (I for one wanted that Pixel Perfect hologram technology). This isn’t to say that the future is always a disappointing conceit— but as the 2020 race drags on, the future feels very much like a millstone tied around our necks. But too much is at risk to view what comes next as a study in disillusion and despair. What is— if it can even be defined— a perfect future?
Toni Morrison wrote a bit in Tar Baby that I frequently revisit:
“It was a silly age, twenty-five; too old for teenaged dreaming, too young for settling down. Every corner was a possibility and a dead end. Work? At what? Marriage? Work and marriage? Where? Who? What can I do with this degree?”
Morrison wrote about that stasis all the way back in 1981, and the universality of that feeling— how can we dream of the future when it seems nearly impossible to imagine one?— still has a deep precision.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Trump election recently, or, rather, the reactionary elements of the Trump election. I and most of my friends shared a similar experience: being 16 and going to class the next day, the hallways quiet, nobody really talking to one another, save for the few MAGA acolytes doing donuts in the parking lot. I remember being filled with this odd, opaque unease; I’m white, cis— I feared for my trans* and POC friends' lives. I feared for my immigrant friends. I feared for my life, as a queer person, as a trauma survivor, and as a teenage girl who just had a pregnancy scare by that November. But I also remember being perturbed by the overwhelming white #Resistance response, which included labeling the Trump win as a type of trauma that needed to be healed from; essays from white, wealthy women on waking up that day and throwing up; identifying it as a type of grief we all had to heal together from in order to “win”— but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what any of it meant. I was angry, I was scared, I was a child, I wanted to fight back, but I didn’t think of the election as traumatic. I’d lived through trauma; I understood its skeletal structure. I remember feeling undermined by the use of “trauma,” “grief,” and “assault” in a Trumpian context, but I was 16, and adults were telling me that I should agree with them, and so I painfully obliged. The future became a blurry chasm: I didn’t know what was going to come next, and I was terrified that these were the adults leading the way.
Of course, now I’m 20, and the future is still just as blurry, but not nearly as terrifying as it felt back then. We finally have people leading the way— people our age!— who are not as morally dense as the loudest voices of 2016. Socialism is rising. We’re not speaking in platitudes about grief and healing anymore, and are instead organizing, mobilizing, and looking forward. That position towards the unknown, towards an unseen evolution, reminds me of this section from James Baldwin’s “Mass Culture and the Creative Artist: Some Personal Notes” in The Cross of Redemption:
“I feel very strongly, though, that this amorphous people are in desperate search for something which will help them to re-establish their connection with themselves, and with one another. This can only begin to happen as the truth begins to be told. We are in the middle of an immense metamorphosis here, a metamorphosis which will, it is devoutly to be hoped, rob us of our myths and give us our history, which will destroy our attitudes and give us back our personalities. The mass culture, in the meantime, can only reflect our chaos: and perhaps we had better remember that this chaos contains life—and a great transforming energy.”
A great transforming energy. We’ll spend the month trying to imagine the future in the midst of all this chaos— what it’ll look like, and who we’ll be, either five or 500 years from now. Not just on a personal level, but beyond: what, in Baldwin’s owns words, will rob us of our myths and give us our history— or vice-versa.
At our Submit page, you’ll find information on sending in your own thoughts on all of the above, whether in the form of writing, photography, illustration, or whatever is helping you process what is happening right now. I’m endlessly thankful for you, and for this community—an endless feedback loop of trust.
Savannah Bradley is a 20-year-old writer and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of media platform HALOSCOPE. Her work has appeared in Rookie Magazine, bedfellows, and Lithium, among other outlets. Pitch or send her pictures of Tori Amos online @SAVBRADS.