Category: Episodes

S1E108 – This Month in the Apocalypse: Feb. 2024

Episode Summary

This time on This Month in the Apocalypse, Brooke and Inmn talk about volcanoes, fires in Chile, rivers in the sky, storms of new magnitudes, the war in Ukraine, the ICJ ruling on Israel’s genocide, how the immigration bill is confusing and bad, God’s Army descending on Eagle’s Pass, and how charitable bail funds are under attack. Live Like the World is Dying will be taking a break until sometime in March! Stay tuned!

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke. Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


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S1E107 – Ben on Communication After a Disaster

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Ben and Brooke talk about communication systems during a disaster. They cover basic communication infrastructure and equipment as well as what kind of information is vital to be able to communicate when cell phone towers go down. They also cover just how awesome amateur radio is.

Guest Info

Ben Kuo (he/him) is an amateur radio operator. Ben can be found on Mastodon

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Live Like the World is Dying: Ben on Communicating After a Disaster

**Brooke ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m Brooke Jackson, your host for this episode. Today I’ll be talking with Ben about communication and sharing information after disasters. But first, we’d like to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts by playing a little jingle from one of the other podcasts on the network. Jingle, Jingle jingle goes here.

**The Ex-Worker Podcast ** 00:45
The border is not just a wall. It’s not just a line on a map. It’s a power structure, a system of control. The border does not divide one world from another. There is only one world and the border is tearing it apart. The Ex-Worker Podcast presents "No Wall They Can Build: a guide to borders and migration across North America" A serialized audio book in 11 chapters released every Wednesday. tune in at

**Brooke ** 01:29
And we’re back. Ben, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about communication and information sharing after a disaster. We’d love to know a little bit more about you if you’re willing to share your pronouns and where you hail from and anything else that you want to say to introduce yourself? 

**Ben ** 01:49
Sure. My name is Ben Kuo, and I am in Ventura County, California. My pronouns are he and him. And my background in disasters is I have been very involved in responding to disasters, providing information on social media, and making sure that people, you know, get the information they need to stay safe and stay healthy and help other people.

**Brooke ** 02:17
Nice. Was this something that you got into because of a disaster that happened? Or was it something you were interested in before…before it became useful in this context? If that makes sense?

**Ben ** 02:28
It’s interesting. I really got involved in this in 20–I believe it’s 2018–when Hurricane Maria hit, and hurricane Maria was a category five hurricane, and I am…one of my hobbies–and I have many hobbies– but one of them is amateur radio. And for folks who have never heard of amateur radio, what it is, is a hobby where you learn how to use the radio and to communicate with people. And that is locally, you know, with people in your area, that is internationally. And you can talk to people all across the globe using just a radio, a power supply, a battery, and an antenna without any of the world being up. So that’s no internet, no telephone, no power supply, no power grid. And you can communicate with people all over the world. And it’s fun. And I started because it was a lot of fun. But it ends up being very, very, very useful nowadays with the increasing pace of disasters. And so I became an amateur radio operator partially because of the emergency aspect of it. There’s a big community around it. But also just because it’s a lot of fun for the technology and playing with the technology. So the big story of how I got into the disaster is Hurricane Maria was bearing down on the Caribbean. And it is…I don’t know if you’ve seen the trend in recent years but hurricanes have been spinning up much faster and much more intensely. And it’s called rapid intensification. And because of that you don’t have quite the warning that you used to with hurricanes. And so people go, "Oh, we can watch this. And we can react." or "Oh, it’s gonna be coming in a week." And that’s not happening as much anymore. So what happens is someone says, "Hey, it’s a tropical storm. We don’t have to worry too much." And all of a sudden, it goes from a tropical storm to category five hurricane. This actually happened only a few months ago in Mexico. A tropical storm, everyone says, "Oh, it’s just going to be a tropical storm." Even the expert of the National Weather Service said, "Oh, it’s just gonna be a tropical storm." And it went from a tropical storm to category five hurricane. And it totally decimated a resort area in Mexico. 

**Brooke ** 05:16
I had no idea. And it’s interesting because I feel like I seem to hear about them going the other direction so often. Like, oh, there’s a hurricane off the coast and it, you know–especially on our coast here on the West Coast–and then it dissipates into, you know, just a tropical storm or what have you. So I wasn’t aware that we’re seeing an increase of them going from tropical storm to hurricane. That’s really interesting.

**Ben ** 05:40
Yeah, I think the scientists say, you know, it’s an outgrowth of warmer oceans and with the climate crisis and all that, you have more energy. So it hits a warm spot in the ocean and all sudden, you know, it becomes quite crazy. So how I got involved is–I was not involved very much with emergencies and disasters, until hurricane Maria–and I was, you know, monitoring things here and there. And I learned that amateur radio was the only way to get to the…there’s a little island nation called Dominica, it’s not affiliated with any large country. It’s kind of its own country. And they were cut off from the world by hurricane Maria. So they had, I guess they lost 90% of the roofs. They lost…they had no power system. They lost their telephones. And interestingly enough, everyone thought they were okay, because they didn’t hear any messages from Dominica. They were like, "Oh, category five, it should be fine." And no one called for help. [Brooke exclaims incredulity] I got on–the amateur radio operators had already been active. There’s an active Amateur Radio Group on the island. And I stumbled upon them and discovered they were in big trouble. And they were just begging for help. And so I stumbled in here–I’m all the way in California–and using the magic of amateur radio was actually talking to these folks in the Caribbean. And actually also using the internet kind of to bridge some of the parts of it. It’s interesting, all the technology aspects. But the important thing ended up being that they were in a lot of trouble. There’s no one to help, and they just needed to get information about what was going on. And I started relaying information to the amateur radio operators there in the region on what was going on, what help was on the way or not on the way. In the meantime, they actually had…the amatory operators actually arranged a rescue of the Prime Minister of the country. And that’s like, you know, rescuing the President of the United States. Yeah, they rescued the president of Dominica, the Prime Minister. And they had…they were laying information back and forth like, "Oh, we need this. There’s a problem here. People here need dialysis. How can we get help from these people? These people are trapped." At one point, I relayed information from them about someone who had been…who was able to–I guess there’s limited cell phone coverage within the country–where they were able to tell somebody else that they were stuck underneath the house. And that got relayed by amateur radio operators out of the country, and I got it and it went back into the country elsewhere. And I rescued somebody. And in fact, I ended up relaying information from the US Embassy. And they actually were sending in…they actually sent in an entire warship, the USS Wasp. It’s an amphibious carrier. And they were airlifting US citizens out of the country. And they would actually go in and, you know, drop people off and pull them out of the, you know, whatever vacation villa they’re staying at and have them evacuate. It was a big operation. No one…no one really heard about it here. But that was kind of my introduction to the fact that amateur radio was very, very useful in really, you know, like a worst case scenario. And I learned a lot of lessons there, for sure, about how to deal with it. And eventually after Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, it actually hit Puerto Rico. 

**Brooke ** 09:37
What year was this by the way? 

**Ben ** 09:39
It was September of 2017. And it first hit Dominica, but then the hurricane curved up and it hit Puerto Rico. And I was involved in that. There’s a huge…Puerto Rico also had no communications. And the only communications was amateur radio for a good two days I believe. And I was really relaying information back and forth there. And how this ties into social media is I was collecting all this information, relaying it back and forth. And I said, "Hey, I’m listening to all this, I can see what’s going on and I might as well post it up on Twitter." And I did that. And I also put up a YouTube stream of all the radio communications that were happening….

**Brooke ** 10:25
Back when Twitter was good and useful and we loved it. 

**Ben ** 10:29
Yeah, back when it was a cause for good as opposed to what it is now.

**Brooke ** 10:33
Sorry, go on. Mourning the loss of Twitter.

**Ben ** 10:38
Yeah, exactly. It’s actually quite a thing. So interesting…that would have been it for me. I was going to delete my account. But shortly after that, there was a fire in my own county. And it’s actually between Ventura and Santa Barbara County, the Thomas fire. And I said, "Oh, I’ve got a social media account." And one of the things about amateur radio is you learn how to listen to what’s on the radio. And not…this is not broadcast radio. But this is police and fire channels, official agencies, people talking back and forth about what’s going on the ground on the scanners. And I was relaying what I heard there. And my followers went from, I think, you know, a few thousand to, you know, 50,000 people because information was so useful to know. So, you know, if you think about what you see on network TV, you’ll see the same, you know, Hillside burning the whole newscast, no context. Where is it? What’s going on? And when you listen to the Police and Fire Radio, you can say, "Hey, I know that that is in this neighborhood. The fire is moving in this direction. We need to get people out and to safety." And, "Oh, hey, we heard that there’s an evacuation here." And it takes…it takes, you know, a couple hours sometimes for the firefighters on the ground to say, "We need to evacuate this neighborhood," to actually, you know, you getting that on your phone or the press picking up on it. So that’s kind of how I got into the disasters. And, you know, it kind of has kept on going because, as I mentioned, you know, I think the pace of disasters has increased. I think they just saw…there’s just a report this week that said we had the largest amount of billion dollar disasters in the US in 2023 on record.

**Brooke ** 12:40
Wow. Like the largest total dollar value amount or like the largest number of disasters?

**Ben ** 12:48
Yes. Total dollar amount.Yeah, and so, you know, it’s just an ongoing, increasing need in the world.

**Brooke ** 12:55
Alright, interesting. So I want to talk about what we can do to prepare before a disaster but I think it would help if we talk about, really quickly, what you lose communication wise in the beginning of a disaster because I think that’s going to help make it clear why you need to prepare, if that makes sense.

**Ben ** 13:16
Yeah, you know, I mentioned, you know, we are so used to having a smartphone with us. We have a phone with us all the time. It is our way of getting information. It’s our way of communicating with people. We text people back and forth. We may use Snapchat or Instagram or whatever your social media is. And people don’t realize how much we rely on that today. And what happens during a disaster is the first thing that goes down is the cell phone network, right? Your cell phone network goes down. The cell towers only have so much battery before they fail. And then all of a sudden you don’t have a way to say "Hey, is my you know Aunt Marge, okay or not?" right? It’s, "What’s going on? Where should I go? What should I do? Where can I go?" This was brought home really…. A really terrible example of how we are depending on this and what goes wrong when it fails is Lahaina Hawaii.

**Brooke ** 14:22
And I don’t know if you listened to it, we released, just a couple weeks ago as we’re recording this, I did an episode about Lahaina and kind of reviewing what happened and where they are right now.

**Ben ** 14:39
Yeah, and so you’re familiar with the fact that, you know, the warnings went out too late. And then the cell towers went down. So no one knew what was going on. And so you were down to, I believe there’s a video of some guy without a shirt, you know, bicycling down the street yelling at people to get out. You know, that is your early warning system because your phones don’t work. And, you know, if the cell phone network goes down, you know, that cell phone that you’re holding is, you know, as good as a rock. You could throw it at something I guess, but it’s not going to do much good.

**Brooke ** 15:20
Yep. Yep. That’s right.

**Ben ** 15:22
Yeah. And, you know, I don’t think most people think about how much we depend on communications for all the things we do, especially in a safety situation, you know. Should I be evacuating? Where’s the disaster? Where’s help? Where should I not be going? That is all information that when you lose communications, you’ve lost, and it can be fatal. So that’s why, you know, as much as people often say, "Hey, well, you know why are you doing this amateur radio stuff? You know, we have cell phones now. We have the internet. Why do we need this, you know, old fashioned stuff?" It’s not really old fashioned. But, you know, that is the struggle that I often have with people thinking about disasters. And the other problem that we have is–and not obviously listeners of your podcast–but we live in a world where everyone thinks that it will never happen to them. And people don’t want to prepare. They say, "Hey, I, you know, this is never going to happen to me. I don’t want to think about bad things." And if you don’t do that, then you’re in a much worse spot when it does happen.

**Brooke ** 16:33
For sure, for sure. Okay, so when it happens, you know, we lose…we lose our phones. That’s one of the biggest things and basically all of the ways that we’re used to communicating. So what do we do before a disaster to get ready for that scenario? What kind of things do we need to have on hand or need to know how to do? Please teach me?

**Ben ** 16:57
Yeah, so. So some basic things you should do is have an alternate communication plan, or at very least someplace you can meet people. So say you don’t have, you know, a radio or anything like that, you say "Hey, if we have a disaster, here’s the plan," right? "This is where we go if there’s a fire or a flood or whatever it is. What are we going to do?" Okay, and that doesn’t require you to have communications. It just means you have to pre-plan what you’re doing. But, you know, the first level up–and this, you know, there’s kind of levels of how much you want to invest in communications–but, you know, you can buy off the shelf radios at sporting goods stores, which, you know, they’re called FRS radios or GMRS radios.

**Brooke ** 17:47
Is that a special radio then? Or is it like the old school radios we grew up with?

**Ben ** 17:50
Yeah, so it’s different. So, a lot of people are familiar with CB radio. And that’s an old technology. And people still use it. But it’s not really used a lot for this kind of thing, mainly because it doesn’t have very long range. You can’t go very far. But FRS and GMRS radios do have a little bit of range. And in radio, the key is something called line of sight, which is how far you can see. So if you are standing on top of a mountain, you can talk a very long distance. If you are in the bottom of the valley then you’re not going to get very far. And so most of those handheld radios that you can buy don’t require a license, you just have to pay your money and get them. You know, their range is probably–they say 20 miles–but really, practically, it’s about two–five miles. And those are great for your family group. Or if you’ve got a group of folks that are in your neighborhood and you want to communicate then that is kind of the first step and you have now…. Now, you can say instead of all of sudden everyone’s lost their phones, no one knows what’s going on, everyone can turn their radio on–as long as it keeps it charged and knows how to use it–they can go "Hey, Jill, you’re down the street. How are you? You know, are you okay?" "Oh, yeah, we’re okay. You know, there’s an earthquake. Oh, yeah. Everyone’s okay. We’re outside, right." So, you know, that’s something that’s very easy to do. It’s off the shelf there. They’re actually sold in blister packs at the sporting goods store. And it’s a level one. It’s like, oh, do you have a plan to at least communicate with your family and people in your neighborhood?

**Brooke ** 19:40
Okay, that sounds so much like walkie talkies that we had as a kid but like a higher end farther distance thing.

**Ben ** 19:48
Essentially, it is a walkie talkie. And that is what they are and, you know, they sell them as kids toys, but it’s a first level of basic communications that you may want to consider, especially for your family. It’s like, even if you look at some of the…if you see people fleeing from fires and from disasters, you know, see these videos of people, they can’t talk to someone else in another car when your cell phone network goes down. And you can with a little walkie talkie. So that’s, you know, you may have two people, one person in one car, another person in another car, and you can at least talk and say, "Hey, you know, this is what we’re doing. This is where we’re going."

**Brooke ** 20:26
Do those–I’m getting into the weeds here but I’m just so curious to those–like, if you buy a set from the store and somebody else buys a set from the store, I’m assuming those must like cross traffic with each other?

**Ben ** 20:41
Yeah, as long as you buy the ones that are licensed in the US. It’s called FRS and GMRS. radios. GMRS actually requires a license, which is I think it’s $25 for 10 years. But no one’s checking on those. It’s kind of the Wild West. I would advise getting a license, but they saw them everywhere. And a lot of people don’t. 

**Brooke ** 21:04
Okay, so if you get those planning to use them to communicate with loved ones and neighbors you may have other people using theirs that you’ll have cross cross talk.

**Ben ** 21:16
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And those are the same frequencies that, you know, the kids down the street. So you’ll turn it on and go, "Oh, there’s little kids playing cops and robbers." They are shared frequencies. Yeah, so your next level up is–and I advocate for this because I am an amateur radio operator–is to actually get a license. And in all the countries around the world, you can get an entry level, amateur radio license and you can use a lot more frequencies and much better gear even at a very basic level. And in the US, there’s, I think it’s a 25-30 question test. And all the answers are pre published. So you can actually go and, you know, cram for this thing and get it in a week if you’re…if you so desire.  And so that actually can get you much, much farther. And so in the US it’s called a technician license and you can actually…. With those, I’ve talked to someone 50 miles away direct. So that is, you know, nothing in between. And there’s also things that are called repeaters that sit on top of hills, and you can talk to people hundreds and hundreds of miles away because they’re all linked together. And there’s actually…and there’s an interesting tradition among the amateur radio community, which is they have groups that work on doing communications and they focus on, you know, those kind of bands on VHF, UHF, those things are all local. So you have a group of people…. In our area, they actually have people, you know, you’re on a list, and they say, "Hey, who’s on the list?" They’re all licensed. And this is licensing in the US by the FCC. And they actually check to say, "Who’s here? Who’s not?" And it’s a practice, right, to see whether or not. So it’s a good thing to do, at least in our area. And I’m in California. It is, you know, men and women and kids and that sort of…anyone who can get a license, and, um, it’s definitely something to think about.

**Brooke ** 23:46
Okay, so anything else kind of on that part of things you can do before the disaster to help get ready with communication and information sharing?

**Ben ** 23:58
Yeah, so the, you know, the other thing to do is I found that you need to know who is out there in the community that you are going to communicate with. And I think too many people do not think about it. You need to know who you’re talking to and whether you trust them or not, and have your resources lined up. And I saw this in hurricane Maria where people were asking for help, but no one had ever met the folks, didn’t know them, didn’t trust them. And so, it was a very different thing, right? You’re…. When you’re talking to someone, communicating with someone, you need to have a pre-existing relationship with them. And, you know, I think in this world, you know, you’re asking for some kind of mutual aid but you kind of want to have an idea of who it is or what group it is or do you trust them or not? And it’s good to have that stuff kind of thought of, to, you know, think of think of that stuff beforehand, right? Who are the resources In our area if we had a disaster? Hey, you know, the folks in the next city, we’ve got to…you know, we’re okay here. Do we need to bring some of them in? Do they have, you know, the resources? And would they help us if there’s a problem? There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be, you know, thought about, which is beyond the communication but more the organization.

**Brooke ** 25:20
Yeah. Is it devastating if you haven’t built out those networks yet prior to?

**Ben ** 25:26
It’s not. It’s just hard. I think it’s just harder.

**Brooke ** 25:29
Yeah. Makes sense. Alright. Other things to prepare before your disaster hits?

**Ben ** 25:38
Yeah, the other piece of it that I run across is because the communications folks tend to be very good at communications if they don’t cover the basics, right? So you need to think about all the basic disaster stuff first, before the communications, which is, "Hey, do I have the basic food and water kind of things? Have I got, you know, all the safety stuff for myself, my family. And, you know, for yourself first, before you even think about, "Oh, do I even have a way to communicate?" 

**Brooke ** 26:10
Yeah, okay. That makes sense. 

**Ben ** 26:13
You’re not useful in that role of communicating if you, yourself are no longer able to help. You know what I mean. 

**Brooke ** 26:25
Alright, okay. Alright, shall we move into talking about, you know, you’re in the aftermath of a disaster and you need to communicate and share information?

**Ben ** 26:36
Yeah, yeah. So, you know, the things that happen after a disaster is people are looking for ways to get information to family and friends. And the number one thing I find is people either have to ask for help, because there’s a medical issue or they need to be rescued or something like that, or the other big thing is people…I don’t think people understand how much people miss knowing what’s going on. Right? So if there’s a disaster, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people who go all sudden, "Hey, is my grandmother okay? Is my grandfather okay? Is my friend okay? What’s going on?" right? And it is…. A lot of times people say, "Hey, if I call somebody in such and such an area, maybe they can go find, you know, whoever is missing, or whatever, or something like that, right? So this…we saw this during the Lahaina, right? There’s people, you know, thousands of relatives going, "Oh no, I know somebody in Lahaina. Are they okay?" And the lessons I’ve learned from so many disasters is there’s no way to get information into a disaster zone. Not very efficiently.

**Brooke ** 27:55
That’s a really good point. 

**Ben ** 27:56
Yeah, so information can come out of a disaster zone, but it doesn’t go into a disaster. And so, if you…so for example, if you’re an amateur radio operator, generally, you could get a message out saying, you know, "Help me. I’ve got a problem." Or you can say, "Hey, I’m okay. Let someone know that I’m okay." If you are just someone with a smartphone, and no communications, you are just out of luck, unless you can find someone who can lay that information. And there’s a lot of these systems, and I hate to…I hate to criticize some of the nonprofits that exist in the world for these things, but they have "Oh, hey, check in safety." It’s like, they say, "Yo, check in on Facebook that you’re okay." It’s like, well, you have no way to get on Facebook. There’s no internet, there’s no power. How are you supposed to do that, right? Yeah, and even even the case, there’s a system by a big aid organization that has a red symbol and it says, "Oh, it’s a safe and well if you need to know someone’s okay." And two things. One is, if you try to ask for someone’s information, they say, ‘What was their phone number and their last address?" And you go, "Well, how am I supposed to know that? You know, I just know that they’re in this town," and whatever. There’s a lot of stuff like that that’s like, "Oh, do you have their social security numbers?" It’s like "No, I don’t have their social security." So there’s a lot of stuff in the way of that. And it’s a lot easier, and I found all these disasters, if someone’s able to get out themselves. So like I said, the amateur radio operators can relay information to other people. So if you’ve got a neighbor who’s an amateur radio operator, they can go "Oh, hey, I’m gonna call somebody up." This happened actually after–famously after Katrina–Katrina. Hurricane Katrina took down took down communications and there was a lot of communication out by people relaying information to other amateur radio operators they knew. So they said, "Hey, you know, this is where the Smith family is. We’re at this street. Can you let somebody know at our family that we’re okay." And they would pass on a phone number to call or someone to text or something like that. I did that a lot in Puerto Rico. So a lot of people who are in Puerto Rico, they have family somewhere else, they have no way to tell them that they’re okay and they really don’t need anything, but people are worried, right? Imagine your family is in the middle of a hurricane or something like that, or wildfire, and how do you let people know you’re okay.

**Brooke ** 30:45
Yeah, that makes sense. With the amateur radio networks and whatnot, you know, I know you just mentioned a few times about how you can relay information through those. And I’m curious if they’re sort of existing networks of communication at all. I mean, obviously, there are folks that know each other. But do you guys have any kind of, I don’t know, pre existing…. Like, do you already know where some of your people that you talk to live? Like if you had to get information to, I don’t know, Montana–random example. 

**Ben ** 31:27
Yeah, there’s an established network to do that. I have my own opinions on how effective it is or not, but they do have a…. It’s actually one of the reasons amateur radio exists in the US. It was very early in the 1900s when there were disasters, radio was the only way to get out information. And so they actually started doing that back in the days of Morse code, believe it or not, when they were relaying it. And that’s part of the reason why the hobby has such a strong tradition in the communications and emergency area. And so, you know, I mentioned I was doing a lot of stuff online about, you know, wildfires and hurricanes on Twitter and what’s going on. And a lot of what I do and have done is stuff that the hobby, as a whole, has been doing since its beginnings.

**Brooke ** 32:22
I didn’t think about how deep those roots are. But that’s kind of cool to think about going all the way back to, you know, using Morse code to relay the information.

**Ben ** 32:32
Yeah, well, in fact, you know, if you think about it, you know, everyone knows SOS in Morse code, right? Did, did, did. Dot, dot, dot [making noises like someone speaking in Morse code] All that came from–an amateur radio started around the same time as all that kind of communication was going on, you know, like the Titanic or whatever else like that. So, that is, you know, a long standing tradition. And before the internet, before we had phone networks, we had radio networks. So that’s kind of the long tradition there.

**Brooke ** 33:06
Yeah, that makes sense. So you said you have some opinions about the efficacy of the system of relay that they have now and it sounds like maybe you’re not entirely happy with the way that works. I’m curious to know what you think there are and why? So, you know, if there’s a limitation that we need to understand.

**Ben ** 33:29
Yeah. So they have a very regimented way of sending messages. And they try to pass messages…they try to do it the old fashioned way, which is you get a message, you know, here and then you pass it. Say I want to send something to Boston. Well, they may send it to somewhere in between. And then it goes through the neighborhood and then eventually, at some point, it gets there.  And nowadays, I think it’s more effective to just get out of your disaster zone and get the message there. And so, you know, for me, what happens is during the hurricane issues that I had, trying to use that network didn’t work because I said, "Hey, I just need…I have a real disaster here. This is not pretend. This is not a simulation. I have people who need to know that their family’s okay." I had a text on my phone from people–it was actually relayed from a boat after a hurricane–saying, you know, "We’re docked here. We are okay. We just want to let someone know. And so this is the boat name. This is our location. And here’s the neighborhood. Here’s our relative. We need to let them know that we’re okay. They don’t need to send the Coast Guard." and trying to send that through a network which is used to passing it by hand, it’s like can someone just call them? Like, we don’t need to do this. It’s great practice. But when it comes to a real disaster, why are we doing all this stuff when we can just call them up? The first person who’s on a cell phone network can call them up and say, "Your relatives are okay." 

**Brooke ** 35:04
That’s a good point. And, you know, the children’s game of telephone that you’re practically doing with passing it from one place to the next place to the next, you know, is not ideal, as we all know, for many reasons. 

**Ben ** 35:22
And I think that’s their legacy is they don’t use it as much as they ought to. And maybe they’re using it more now with the disasters we have. But there’s a lot of experts in the world who’ve never applied their knowledge. I find that also the case in just disaster preparedness in general. You have a lot of people who are disaster preparedness experts and they’ve never had to deal with a disaster. And the worst is that people sometimes they’ll say, "Hey, you’re a prepper. Blah, blah, blah," and I go, "No, the preppers don’t have any concept of actually reacting to a real problem." The pandemic was the big one that I saw. All these folks who said, "Hey, watch out for the zombie apocalypse, we need to, you know, stock our homes with guns and MREs." And then when there’s an actual, you know, pandemic, they go, "We’re not wearing masks. We aren’t gonna get vaccinated." You’re going, "Oh, my gosh," you know? So there’s, you know, there was a miss, a complete miss, because they’re just not…you know, they call themselves one thing, but they don’t have…they didn’t have the experience or the right mindset going into it.

**Brooke ** 36:40
So I’m curious about the types of information that we need to share. You know, we talked about after a disaster, you know, being able to relay that, you know, this person is okay, you know, finding so-called missing or unknown people and figuring out what’s going on with them. But what else…like what other kinds of things do people need to relay that this network could be useful for after a disaster?

**Ben ** 37:08
Yeah, help. Help is number one. So life threatening information. So if somebody is trapped or needs help, medical help. And, obviously, you have to know where to get it to. But in most cases, if you can get that information to the authorities, somebody is going to come and help you. And they just need to know it, right? So your local fire department, right? Or, maybe it’s a search and rescue team or something like that. You need to be able to get that information to them. And so that’s definitely a big one with communications. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that 911 systems go down in the US all too often. 

**Brooke ** 37:53
I have heard. 

**Ben ** 37:54
And if you don’t have 911, you have to be able to call for help, right? And so we haven’t seen that a ton where people have used radio to do that. But it is one thing. So if our 911 system here goes down, I know that I can call somebody else who can get to, you know, fire and rescue or whatever it is. So, help for sure. And the other part of it, the communications, is for your community, is helping out in the community, is knowing more situational–it’s something called situational awareness–what’s going on? Where are the issues? What’s happening? And, you know, that’s not just for you to communicate. It’s another thing to listen. So, you know, the nice thing about radio is you can both listen and also communicate. And being able to listen to know what’s going on is a huge piece of it. So you’ll find that even if you’re not somebody who’s on the air communicating after a disaster, you can at least listen and hear what’s going on and know what to watch out for. Like, hey the freeways shut down, so don’t go that way. Or, you know, the fire is in this area. Or, you know, in hurricanes, hey, you know, this is where the aid center is, or whatever it is, or this is where someone’s distributing food, you know? So there’s all that information. It is really helpful as a part of a disaster plan is how do you know what’s going on and where things are happening. In the amateur radio community, which is something that everyone should do, you know, they actually share information. So there’s people all around town and they go, "Hey, no one said this on the news. There’s no information about this. But you guys can’t go there. The bridge is down." 

**Brooke ** 39:42
That makes sense. So, escape route, maybe for lack of a better word, but just like, you know, communicating infrastructure issues. That’s really interesting. Other things that you can think of that are, you know, types of information that people need that can be useful in sharing, if any? If not, that’s okay.

**Ben ** 40:09
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think it’s the general awareness. And this is a tool, you know, the radio stuff I talk about is just a tool for what’s going on. And, what I’m sharing on social media, it’s not just the radio stuff, although it’s a big part of it, but it’s things like, you know, where do you get information about evacuation zones, right? Where is–during fires we can see maps of where the fires are. You can look up… You can look up evacuation centers. You can get maps of flooded areas. There’s a lot of information sources. And I think on the communication side, even if you’re not cut off, there’s a lot of things that just letting people know about–and that’s what I do–is what is this situation? Where are the issues? What’s going on? I mean, today, I’ve been sending out messages about flooding. And I don’t know if you know, but there’s huge waves off the coast of California right now. And they’re parts of Santa Cruz, there’s parts of the Pacific Coast Highway that are underwater because of these big waves. And just knowing about that stuff is useful in that general awareness. And this whole area of communications, you know, the situational awareness is something that in disasters, you know, it really does make a difference. And I’ve had people say, "Hey, you know, we knew, because you were paying attention to what’s going on with the fire, that we needed to get…we needed to take our horses and get them evacuated," And it takes a while to evacuate horses, right? And, "Oh, our house, we knew that our house was in a threat area. We needed to get…we needed to get our aunt, you know, to safety." And it’s just that time, that information, you know, you don’t want to be the last person to know that something’s happening in your neighborhood. And this whole part of the aspect of listening to the radio helps with that in just the general situational awareness.

**Brooke ** 42:11
There’s, you know, kind of a component after the radio, because not everyone’s going to have the radio, you know, if then, you know, if you are the one who gets the information via the radio, then how you go out and disseminate it. But that’s maybe kind of another topic, unless you want to get into it. But, you know, do you put up posters? Like, you know, letting other people know, "Oh, I found out that such and such bridge is down. How do I communicate that to folks that don’t have a radio? How do we spread that wider?

**Ben ** 42:41
Yeah. And that…I don’t think we’ve solved that problem in general, you know, just how do you get the information faster. I, you know, I talk about the rate just because that puts you on the knowing side of things versus the not-knowing side of things. And it’s just…it’s just one of those things in disasters, having that awareness–even if you can’t communicate out–knowing what’s going on gives you an advantage to you know, safety and health and all that. It is really helpful.

**Brooke ** 43:12
Yeah, okay, I’ve got one last question for you, I think. I think, unless something sparks in my brain here. But is this useful in all types of disasters, natural disasters, emergencies, whatnot? Or are there ones that this tool would not be useful or effective for?

**Ben ** 43:34
Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, I think it’s actually useful in most cases. It’s very used during hurricanes. It’s used a lot during wildfires. It is used a lot in earthquakes. Most of the folks that I know who are licensed here in my area, who are older than me, are, were licensed because of the Northridge earthquake. They all said, "Hey, we…" you know, the typical problem was, "Oh, I was at work. And my wife was one place and my kids were somewhere else and we could not communicate." And they said, "How do we fix that problem?" And so they said, "We’re gonna get licensed as an amateur radio operator." And so earthquakes are a huge driver in California. But I think in general, I found it useful in all sorts of situations, whether it’s an emergency. So yeah, and even interesting enough–and maybe it’s more of a social thing, because there’s a social group built in–but even with the pandemic, we we had a group who started out on the radio. And it’s…maybe you could have done this on Zoom or on the phone, but there’s a bunch of folks on radio who started talking every day. And you knew what’s going on and you were able to trade information. Even today, now I go, "Oh, hey, there’s a big outbreak of COVID," because, you know, three of the people on the net–we call them net like, it’s like a round table or networ and people check in–and someone goes, "Oh, you know what, our whole family just caught COVID." And you go, "Oh, you know, I haven’t heard that for a while. So maybe something’s going on." You know? It is interesting. It’s just another way of getting information about what’s going on. And it gives you a little bit of a network. And that network also operates…. You know, the nice thing about what we do is that operates when all the power goes. In California, they’ve been shutting down power during high-wind events. And that often takes down cell towers. They’re supposed to…. They’ve got some laws in now and they’re supposed to put them back up, but it’s not there yet. And so they shut things down. No one knows what’s going on. They hop on the radio, they go, "Hey, I got a blackout here. What’s going on?" Somebody who’s outside of the blackout looks it up and says, "Hey, they shut down your whole part of town because of the wind danger," or whatever it is. So, it is useful.

**Brooke ** 45:57
Yeah. And going back to our Lahaina example, that’s a thing that would have been helpful in preventing some of those fires, if they had shut down power lines with what was coming in. And that is, unfortunately, because of the age of our power system and the lack of maintenance we’ve done on a lot of our infrastructure. Shutting off the power is one of the things that power companies are doing more often as a safety measure.

**Ben ** 46:29
Yeah. And you know, some of that is…is liability, because of the number of fires that have happened and all that. And some of it, interestingly enough–and this is a climate issue–is some of that damage is just happening much more often than it used to. And, you know, some of the things I didn’t talk about, but, you know, part of what we do as amateur operators is you don’t just have the radio, but you also have to consider how am I going to charge it? How am I going to do that? Do I have a battery bank that works? Do I have a solar panel? There’s a lot that goes into that, you know? It’s kind of a general resiliency thing, which is…is very relevant in that case, right? Your power goes out and your cell phone tower is now down, how do you know what’s going on? Most likely, somebody who’s an amateur radio operator has a battery-backed up radio and knows what’s going on. Because you know, and it doesn’t matter. I can talk to Brazil when none of my neighborhood has power just for fun because it’s there and running.

**Brooke ** 47:42
Yeah. And before anybody asks me about it, I am not trying to say that the power company shutting down the power is a good thing or a bad thing, only observing that it is a thing that is happening and it has benefits and costs to it.

**Ben ** 47:59
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And it makes sense. I mean, most of the…many wildfires here have been caused by power lines. So, you know, the converse thing is when they shut down the power the, you know, like I said, the cell phone tower doesn’t work anymore. And that’s what happened in Lahaina, the power stopped working and you lost the cell phone towers and then all of a sudden you’re in trouble. 

**Brooke ** 48:21
Yep, yep. Alright, I think that brings us to a conclusion on this topic for today. So Ben, I want to thank you so much for reaching out and offering to have this conversation with us and making the time to sit with me and talk about it. I have learned some things today and I’m excited about that. Is there anything else that you would like to say? Anything that you would like to plug, social medias, charity groups, anything like that?

**Ben ** 48:51
Yep. So um, I am nowadays on Mastodon. So if you want to follow my disaster emergencies and random musings on life, I am So that’s my…that’s actually my callsign, my radio callsign, And, you know, as much as I talked about the disaster part of the hobby is there’s a lot of fun stuff too. We can talk to astronauts in space. We have our own satellites. There’s all sorts of science stuff you can do. And it is really quite a…it’s not just for disasters and emergencies. It just happens to be a useful part of it.

**Brooke ** 49:43
Well, thanks for putting that in. I appreciate it. You can also find me on Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke, that’s Brooke with an E. And Ben again, I just really want to thank you for coming on today and talking with us. Yeah,

**Ben ** 50:00
Hopefully someone learned something. So thanks a lot.

**Brooke ** 50:06
And to our listeners, thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy our podcast, please give it a like, drop a comment, or review. Subscribe to us if you haven’t already. These things make the algorithms that rule our world offer a show to more people. This podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can connect with us on Twitter @Tangled_Wild and also on Instagram. Or check out our website at where you can find our extensive list of projects and publications. This podcast and much of the work of Strangers is made possible by our Patreon supporters. If you want to become a supporter, check out There are cool benefits at various support tiers on Patreon. For instance, if you support the collective at just $10 a month, we will mail you a monthly zine. We’d like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive Patreon supporters. Thanks to Aly, anonymous BenBen, Boise Mutual Aid, Buck, Carson, Catgut, Chelsea, Chris, Dana, David, Eric, Funder, Hunter, Janice & O’dell, Jenipher, Julia, Kirk, Lord Harken, Marm, Mic Aiah, Milica, Nicole, Paige, paparouna, Patoli, Perceval, Princess Miranda, S.J., Staro, theo, Trixter, and Hoss the Dog.

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S1E106 – Zena on Parenting

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Zena and Brooke talk about parenting.

Guest Info

Zena Sharman (she/her), PhD is a writer and consultant whose body of work pivots around the questions “How do we create change?” and “How do we care for each other?” She’s the author of three books, including The Care We Dream Of: Liberatory and Transformative Approaches to LGBTQ+ Health (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2021) and the Lambda Literary award-winning anthology The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016). Her next book, a memoir, is forthcoming from Arsenal Pulp Press in 2025. She’s an engaging speaker who regularly gives virtual and in-person talks and workshops to audiences across North America. You can learn more about Zena and her work at

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Live Like the World is Dying: Zena on Parenting

**Brooke ** 00:14
Hello and welcome to Live like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Brooke Jackson, and today I have with me Zena Sharman, and we’re going to talk about collective parenting. But before we get that, we want to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts by giving a little shout out to one of the other wonderful podcasts on our network. Insert jingle here!

**Brooke ** 01:31
And we’re back. Zena, thanks for being on the podcast with me today to talk about collective parenting. I’m really excited to discuss this topic more with you. But first, let’s, I want—I want to get to know you a little more. Let the listeners get to know you a little bit more. So, would you introduce yourself? Tell me name, preferred pronouns, other things you want to share?

**Zena ** 01:54
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for the invitation to be here. I’m a really big fan of the podcast and hopefully will have some useful things to share with the community of listeners. So I’m Zena Sharman, I use she/her pronouns, and you can find me on unseeded Cowichan territories—so colonially known as Vancouver Island up in Canada. And I come into our conversation as a queer femme. I’m in my mid 40s, which feels salient to how I’m moving through the world as a parent, and I am a parent to three kids. And I’m raising them collectively with three other queer people. And outside of the work that I do—the care work that I do as a parent, I am also our writer, I have done a lot of queer and trans health advocacy and systems change work over the years, and then have a growing practice in my communities as a death doula and a hospice volunteer. So thinking about many facets of how do we care for one another? 

**Brooke ** 02:51
That’s really great. We recently did an episode with a death doula and talked about a little bit of that subject. But—

**Zena ** 03:00
You know I listened to that one. 

**Brooke ** 03:03
I’m glad. But we’re gonna talk about the other end of the life spectrum, and the the little ones, and how we care for them. So you mentioned that you collectively parent, and of course I’ve mentioned that that’s our subject for today. So I’m curious what that phrase means to you, how you define it, and what it looks like in practice.

**Zena ** 03:29
I think practice is the operative word, in the sense that I’m definitely not coming into this conversation as someone who claims any kind of expertise or definitive take on how to do this. And what I can say is I’m coming into the conversation sharing some of the things I’ve learned, and I’m still in a process of learning now, having been in this experience for more than five years, almost six years. So I wouldn’t say that I use collective parenting necessarily, kind of, consciously in my day to day life. And I do think it’s actually a really nice way to describe what it is that I do. And I mean, I think if I had to give the most distilled down definition, collective parenting would be parenting together, including with more than two parents are multiple kinds of caregivers and whatever that family or caregiving formation looks like. And I think it’s useful to think about how there are many ways in which different kinds of ways of taking care of children are collective. Though there’s definitely variation in maybe the shape or intensity of the collectivity kind of inherent in that. And I mentioned that because I think about the ways that family structures continue to change, right, like if we think about the dominant norm of the nuclear family, which is such a structuring shape in the context of settler colonialism, in the context of the ways in which the state seeks to legislate family. Yet many kinds of communities are creating family in different kinds of ways, you know, even down to kids with multiple parents because of having blended families, you know, maybe with divorce, for example. 

**Brooke ** 05:01

**Zena ** 05:01
So I think it’s useful to think about that bigger picture piece, but also think about like, what does it mean to make an intentional choice to parent together outside of the nuclear family form? And that’s the particular kind of collective parenting that I’m practicing.

**Brooke ** 05:18
Very interesting. Did you—I’m really curious, did you start doing that when your your first child joined the family? Or is that something you discovered, sort of after they, you know, after you became a parent? 

**Zena ** 05:34
Yeah, it started even before that, actually. 

**Brooke ** 05:36
Okay, cool. 

**Zena ** 05:38
I’ll give you that the micro genesis of our family. So many years ago—so our—I should maybe you kind of bring us into the present for a moment and say that there’s four adults in our family, there’s three kids. So we have a five year old and we have 20 month old twins. We’re busy. And among the adults, we have two romantic couples who are coparenting together, we all live together in one big house, and at the core of that, as well is a platonic coparenting dyad. So two of my coparents many years ago, as friends, said you know, we keep dating people who don’t want to have kids, but we really want to have kids. What if we committed to co parenting together as friends? You know, we’re queers. We do what we want. And so that I think was really cool origin story was them basically saying, look, we know we want to become parents, we don’t want to have to wait to find, you know, quote, unquote, like the one, you know, the romantic partner who is going to be your like perfect coparent. And then eventually, you know, my other coparent, like, dated her way into this family system. And then I kind of laugh because my agenesis was actually initially, like, what was very much supposed to be a casual hookup with my now-partner. So I hooked up my way into this family. And the process of becoming a parent, you know, it took longer than that. But actually, by the time my partner and I really very first got together, they were already in the process of trying to become pregnant, and were already committed to coparenting with these other two folks. And so, as our relationship became more serious, as they were still in that ongoing process of trying to become pregnant, you know, then I became essentially folded into this family through a lot of conversation between us. So it started on purpose before our first child was born. So that’s where we’ve been at this for nearly six years. So that’s where it is—an everyday practice in my life, and one that I’m still learning from.

**Brooke ** 07:42
That’s a really great origin story. I love that so much.

**Zena ** 07:47
Yeah, like it wasn’t—it wasn’t through any kind of, you know, there’s different kinds of apps I think now that some people are using to find coparents. This was definitely born thorugh the classic queer practice of hooking up.

**Brooke ** 07:59
[Laughing] Yeah, well, as a as a polyamorous person who is very—I purposely call myself slut positive, because that word to me is a compliment that I use about myself—I can identify, especially being part of a polyamorous community and watching the fluid dynamics of so many of those relationships, and that do sometimes lead to coparenting situations. Which is I think—not to say that you have to be, of course, polyamorous or even queer, to do collective parenting at all. It’s just interesting how that ends up intersecting a lot of the time, it seems like. 

**Zena ** 08:38
Yeah, I mean, I think certainly something that I think about in the context of our family system is, like, what are the lineages were part of. And for me there is that aspect of, by parenting in this way, we are connected to lineages of queerness, you know, thinking about historical movements for gay liberation, for children’s liberation, you know, and that there are these really interesting kind of entanglements and histories that I think, you know, feel important for me to be able to lean into, like, as a queer person doing it in this way. But I think also recognizing that these kinds of family formations exist in so many historical and cultural and geographic contexts, you know, and that, you know, they’re very deeply tied into particular kinds of communities. You know, thinking about many Indigenous communities, for example, or Black communities and all of these different ways of practicing forming family, and what does it look like to actually be in a conscious or intentional practice of pushing against the kind of narrow family forms that the state—and again, through processes of settler colonialism and white supremacy—tries to impose, often violently, you know, on particular communities and particularly in people and families.

**Brooke ** 09:50
Yeah, I was gonna say, as an Indigenous woman, you know, that was a rich part of our history, you know, before colonialism came along was the more collective parenting and, you know, grandparents, if they were still around, were always very involved in taking care of children—and not just their, you know, biological grandchildren, but the children in the tribe. So that collectivism was there for a long time and was—it worked very well. And it was a very healthy and functioned for the better of the community. So it’s unfortunate, for many reasons, that we don’t have that now. And really inspiring and uplifting that folks like yourself are putting that into deliberate practice and helping teach others about, you know, collective parenting and ways to do that, because I think it, it does strengthen our communities and, you know, helps us all as individuals, and parents, as well, you know. As a single mother now, it’s nice when I’ve had friends, or when family lived nearby that I could have more shoulders to lean on. Anyway, we can get into more of that. It’s just, uh, yeah, I’m just really touched by that.

**Zena ** 11:15
Well, and it feels like an important point of connection for me as someone who is the only child of a single mother, you know, and I think so much about how the image of parenting I had growing up, you know, was certainly of seeing a mother parenting in a lot of isolation because of the really important survival-driven choices my mother made around purposely moving us away from her family of origin as a way to break cycles of intergenerational trauma—which was really necessary for our survival, and also was something that did cause different kinds of severing from kinship, right? And so I think a lot about, like, what does it mean to be parenting the way that I am now? And how is that teaching me really important lessons, and simultaneously allowing me to do a lot of unlearning, I think, about maybe narratives of independence or isolation that I think I internalized really deeply as a young person. And that, I think for many years, gave me the idea that I couldn’t want—couldn’t becme and didn’t want to be a parent because it felt overwhelming to contemplate the idea of doing it on my own or doing with a single person, a partner. And it was really only through this family formation that I realized, oh wait, you can do this. And I know—I now know, of course, it’s so possible, but those possibilities hadn’t been modeled for me until my late 30s, was how I came into this. 

**Brooke ** 12:37

**Zena ** 12:38
Yeah. And I wonder too, I know that, given I think particularly the focus of this show, I wonder if it would be helpful for me to talk a little bit more about maybe some of the practicalities or structural aspects of our collective parenting, because I think it’s—I think it’s maybe sometimes useful to sort of turn it inside out a little bit. And the specific things I’m thinking about are, so domestically, you know, we are a family that, we live in a house together, we share our resources and financially share all of our resources on a sliding scale basis that shifts according to what any person’s income is at a given time. So there’s, I think that experience of, like, what does it mean to be dwelling together. But we also have different parenting roles. So we have to lead parents, you know, those platonic coparents at the center. 

**Brooke ** 13:30
Ah, okay.

**Zena ** 13:30
And then to vice parents, so me and my other coparents. So we kind of made up our own name. 

**Brooke ** 13:35
Yeah, I like it. 

**Zena ** 13:36
I think that that maybe is useful to talk about, too, because I like the idea that parenting—or parent—isn’t a monolith. Like, it also gets to be something where there’s that opportunity to really think about, okay well, what does this look like in practice. And I mean, in our family what that’s looked like is the lead parents are the people who, you know, individually, each were pregnant and carried our kids, they nursed them, you know, we’re really fortunate to be in Canada where more people have access to extended parental leave from work. So they were ones that took longer periods of leave to care for our children when they were really young. And they also, I would say, kind of carry a heavier, heavier mental load of parenting, you know, which is I think a big part of the work of parenting is just—

**Brooke ** 14:20

**Zena ** 14:21
—holding it all in your head. And for me, as an early morning person and recovering Insomniac, I’m also grateful that I don’t do nights in the same way that the lead parents do. So that’s a real win for me and I think can also be, you know, for some people, you know, thinking about parenting through the lens of accessibility, like, what possibilities might collective parenting create in terms of thinking about, like, how can we each show up as parents in ways where we can both meet the needs of the family system and have our needs met? And as vice parents, you know, we’re very, very actively involved in the everyday work of parenting, you know, getting the kids ready for school, making lunches, giving baths, taking them to school and daycare, putting them to bed at night, all of those kinds of things—particularly because of living together and having three small kids. But I think it’s useful maybe to think about some of those practicalities, and I’m happy to answer questions if there are specific things you’re curious about.

**Brooke ** 15:18
Yeah. When you when you say vice parents, you know, I just inherently hear a word that makes me think there’s a hierarchy to it. But then, of course, what you just said, there’s, you’re very actively involved in all these other aspects of their life. So I am quite curious about whether there is any sort of hierarchical structure in your collective parenting situation. And also noting—this is a very random question, I’m sorry—but, you know, sometimes when you fill out school forms for a kid, there has to be like the medical decision maker who they contact and, you know, gives permission if there’s an emergency. There’s some of that kind of stuff, which isn’t necessarily hierarchical, but it is like, you almost have to decide, okay, whose name is gonna go on, you know, this part of the form. So, that’s a two or three part question, if you want to try and tackle that.

**Zena ** 16:17
I like it. I feel like it’s an inherently polyamory-inflected question. Like, is there a relationship hierarchy? And I would say, you know, yes and no, in the sense of the hierarchical nature, like, one of the things I think is really interesting in the context of our family system is to see how attachment operates. And like—

**Brooke ** 16:35
Oh, yeah.

**Zena ** 16:36
Our kids are all attached to all of us. And it is true that the children in our family, at this time anyways—and they’re all pretty little still—have particularly strong attachments to the parent who birthed and nursed them, right, and was their primary caregiver through the first year of life. So I think that’s an aspect of it. And I think we run very democratically in terms of how we show up in our family and how we make decisions together. And there’s also the both explicit and implicit understanding that, by virtue of the roles that we have, we get to participate in different ways. I would say, for me, as a vice parent, the way that I would describe it is maybe I have a little more freedom and flexibility to tap in and out of parenting, which is helpful for me as someone who has a full time job, a writing practice, you know, thinking about the other ways that I’m spreading my time and attention across all of the things that I do. So I think that’s a—that’s a piece. And one of the things that I think is a really crucial, honestly, tool for our family is we have a weekly schedule, and every weekend we sit down and have a meeting called Week In Review. And we look at the schedule for the week and we say, okay, who’s doing bedtime for which kid? Who’s doing school drop off? Who’s doing daycare drop off? Who’s doing daycare pickup? Who’s doing school pickup? Who’s cooking dinner? What are you cooking dinner? Who has a massage appointment? Who has a volunteer shift? When is our friend coming to visit?

**Brooke ** 18:04
You do that every week, once a week? Wow.

**Zena ** 18:05
Yeah, and it takes like half an hour, you know, because we—we’re so practiced at it, right? It’s very straightforward, because we also have places where we try to have a regular cadence of, you know, this is the bedtime rhythm we work with, this is the school drop off and pickup rhythm, that kind of thing. And it creates predictability for the kids to which is helpful for them. But I also find it—it takes, I think, maybe the decision fatigue out of having to do it on an everyday basis—

**Brooke ** 18:32

**Zena ** 18:32
Because we just have it mapped out for the week. 

**Brooke ** 18:34
Oh, yeah sure.

**Zena ** 18:35
And then—and then we flow and flex, of course, as things come up. So—

**Brooke ** 18:39
Are there—

**Zena ** 18:40

**Brooke ** 18:41
Are there—are there defaults at all in the schedule? Like so-and-so usually is able to do Tuesdays and, you know, person Q is able to do Wednesdays, or anything like that, that you can kind of start from a place of predictability, or—because it almost sounds like every week you’re reinventing—not reinventing the wheel, but like, figuring out who goes into all the slots. But I’m hoping—I’m guessing that there’s a little more that’s maybe already built in normally that you can work from.

**Zena ** 19:10

**Zena ** 19:11
Yeah, there’s definitely some predictability, like we have a standard bedtime rotation, and we just go basically in alphabetical order. And so—and then it’s also really helpful because it means that the couples, we get two date nights a week.

**Brooke ** 19:11
Okay. [Laughing]

**Brooke ** 19:26

**Zena ** 19:27
Because we are not on a kid bedtime those nights. And so even just being able to have more time off, right, than would be afforded if we were doing this, you know, if there were just two of us, or if it was one of us doing it on our own. So I think that’s also something that’s been really helpful to build in. And I know you asked a question, too, about what I would think of maybe more around, like, how have we chosen—what are the decisions we’ve made around legally formalizing our roles. And I would say, we’re in a space of evolution around that. So we made a very intentional choice, including after talking with, you know, radical queer lawyers who’ve done a lot of work in this area, to think about, you know, what do and don’t we want to have legally or state-sanctioned around the family relationships that we have. And the choice we had made was to have the coparenting dyad be the two people on the birth certificate for all of our kids. There’s some greater degree of flexibility where we live in Canada because of the legal advocacy of people with different kinds of family structures. But we still would be limited. We couldn’t actually put all four of us on the birth certificate, it isn’t allowed, given the nature of the relationships that we have. 

**Brooke ** 20:37

**Zena ** 20:38
And that’s been fine up until this point. But now that our older kid is in public school, we’re actually now in a process of realizing that it is really necessary for the two parents who are not on the birth certificate to go through a process of formally—we’re choosing to do a legal guardianship of our kids rather than going through becoming kind of a full legal parent. And again, that’s through consultation with other radical queer lawyers. And I say that because I think this is one of the tricky things about, like, what would be most values are politically aligned around, I don’t want the state to sanction my relationships. Like that, that feels values misaligned for me. 

**Brooke ** 21:17
Right, oh yeah. 

**Zena ** 21:17
And simultaneously, like, what does it mean when, you know, we and our children become implicated with these institutions in different kinds of ways, and when does it become a barrier around things like getting to be recognized as a parent by the school, getting to be a healthcare decision maker in the event of an emergency, that kind of thing. 

**Brooke ** 21:34

**Zena ** 21:34
So we’re in a space of having to make some different choices now. And that’s complicated, because it involves the courts, it involves getting criminal record checks, like, things that are highly inaccessible to many people in many communities. And that we’re muddling our way through.

**Brooke ** 21:49
Yeah, that’s quite the—that’s quite the journey, for sure. And I’m sure very—a very interesting process to go through and figure out and—

**Zena ** 21:59
My learning is: don’t casually mention to the lady at the police station that you’re doing gender open parenting. She will immediately become icy cold to you. 

**Brooke ** 22:11

**Zena ** 22:11
Why did I not predict that? So many reasons. She asked me about the gender of our children and I chose to answer honestly. It was probably the wrong choice.

**Brooke ** 22:23
Yeah, I hear ya. In our—in our pre-taping conversation, you mentioned that phrase, the gender open parenting, and this is maybe kind of an aside and not exactly collective parenting. I’m intuiting what I think you mean just from the phrasing, but I haven’t actually heard anyone use that phrase before until you said it. So I’m wondering if you might be willing to go off on a little tangent here with me and teach me about that. 

**Zena ** 22:50
Yeah, I mean, the maybe the simplest way is that we didn’t assign a gender to the kids when they were born. And we just use they/them pronouns. Which, again, I recognize is still a choice. But in our family, we’ve opted to use they/them pronouns for our kids until they were big enough to say otherwise. And so with our older kid, it was very clear—just before she turned three she said, I’m she, I’m a girl. And we said, okay, and proceeded accordingly. And our other kids are still little enough that they haven’t articulated that to us. And, you know, the message we always want to give to our kids over and over again is, whatever that looks like in the future, if it changes, wonderful. You know, we will celebrate and accept you exactly as you are. And that also feels really important in our family with a couple of parents who are nonbinary, all of us who are queer, you know, and really trying to create a space for our children that’s really affirming of them in the fullness of who they are, and who they’re in a continual process of becoming.

**Brooke ** 23:47
With your—with your older child who has now identified her own gender— and I guess, as you’re doing—you’re raising the younger ones too, are there—I’m thinking about, like, when I go to the toy store, right, and there’s still, you know, the "girl" aisle and the "boy" aisle kind of a thing. And there’s probably other scenarios of that kind of, like, classic gender division, and I’m wondering how much you all had to work to, like, to avoid any of that, or if you did, or how you manage some of that while you were trying to keep this gender open parenting philosophy going on. Practice, practice. 

**Zena ** 24:27
Yeah, I mean, I think gender is always present, right? 

**Brooke ** 24:32

**Zena ** 24:33
In so many ways, and certainly becomes this like shaping and structuring thing in our society.

**Brooke ** 24:38
You go to a public bathroom. 

**Zena ** 24:39
Yeah, absolutely.

**Brooke ** 24:40
Yeah, okay. 

**Zena ** 24:41
I mean, you know, even thinking about it at the level of like children’s clothing you know as a micro example, it is so fascinating to me how different the cuts are—

**Brooke ** 24:50

**Zena ** 24:50
Which means a tshirt for a quote unquote girl and a tshirt for a quote unquote boy, identical sizing in terms of the kid clothing size, but actually, in our experience, like vastly different size, right?

**Brooke ** 25:05

**Zena ** 25:06
And so I use that as a micro example, I think, to think about the ways in which, you know, gender shows up in so many layered ways and obviously shows up for kids in a whole bunch of kinds of ways. And I think what we try to do was just create a space of possibility, giving the kids lots of choices around the type of garments that they wear, not attaching labels around, this is a boy thing, or this is a girl thing, you know, just really saying, oh, okay, this is what you want to wear, this is what you like, Great, how can we support you in that and give you lots lots to choose from, whether it’s around how they want to express themselves or what they want to do. I mean, I like it in the context of our multi parent family too, because I think about the different strengths we bring as parents, and I know that I will never be—nor do I want to be—the sports parent. As a queer femme, you know, who has been deeply immersed in femme community for 20 years, I am definitely the parent who will paint your nails. 

**Brooke ** 26:04

**Zena ** 26:05
You know, if you want your nails painted, like, my got you, you know? And so I think about that too in the different ways we can model, like, what are the gender expressions we have as adults in our family—we’re very lucky to have a community of people around us with a lot of really diverse gender expressions. And so I think that’s also something that’s really helpful for our kids to see that there’s a lot of kind of ways to be,

**Brooke ** 26:27
Yeah, that’s really neat. So I imagine that you, you know, probably don’t even sort of approach clothing from a gendered standpoint a lot of the time. Like, you know, I need to work on my own thinking—but like, if I were to pick up a two year old size bright pink shirt, my brain immediately would go, oh, you know, girl, or, you know, if I pick up a two year old shirt that’s got, you know, big old monster trucks on it, I think, boy. And so my original question to you was—was trying to imagine like that scenario, and then what you do or don’t put on the kids, but I suppose that if you’re coming at it with a really non-gendered perspective, and saying, this is not a girl thing, this is not a boy thing. it doesn’t matter who’s wearing what. You need—you don’t have to try to put them in quote, unquote, gender neutral things, either. Am I—am I right in thinking that? 

**Zena ** 27:20
Yeah. And I think especially because I think sometimes what gets coded as gender neutral, you know, often is something that might look more sort of, quote, unquote, kind of masculine. And I see this, I think, probably more reflected in my observations of some of the sort of ostensively gender neutral clothing lines that have come out, like, I think often in context of queer community and being marketed at queer community. But then, multiple times I’ve seen femems say, hey, but is that actually neutral? Or is it—is it really kind of like repackaging something that, you know, might be coded in other contexts as more kind of masculine, right? So, I mean, again, it’s sort of the malleability of all of this stuff, but also kind of the stickiness of these, these gender norms that show up in all kinds of places. And I think, you know, for our kids, like, hopefully, we can bring the same ethos we bring to our own clothing, which is like, what feels good on your bod— including from a sensory standpoint—like, what’s comfortable? And then also, like, what delights you and what can you move in, you know, and the clothing that a little kid needs is different, right, that perhaps what my wardrobe looks like. Though, I also think a lot about what can I move in. Because I sure do a lot of crouching and crawling around—more than I did before I was a parent. 

**Brooke ** 28:30
[Laughing] Yeah.

**Zena ** 28:31
And I think a lot more about how will this outfit hold up to all manner of bodily fluids and other weird liquids, you know, it’s really—it’s really a factor that I didn’t used to think about in my pre parenting life.

**Brooke ** 28:43
Yeah, and my—my child was far enough, kind of, from that age, that’s not really an issue. And so, you know, you say that I’m like, oh yes, I remember that phase of parenting, where that was one of the considerations. And it’s funny to be on the other side of some of these things and realize some of what I forgottenthat used to be of such great concern. I want to back up though with you like three steps, because we were talking about how, when you came into the relationship, you know, it was sort of already established that there was going to be this collective parenting where that quickly developed, whatever, whatever the timeframe was. But, you know, by the time children came along, you all already knew that’s how it was going to be. I’m wondering if, in that time or since that time, if you’ve done a lot of, I don’t know, reading or researching or talking to other collective parents, or if you’ve done mostly kind of figuring it out, you know, with the four of you of how it works, or perhaps a mix of both techniques. But how did you learn how to collective parents, is really what I’m getting at.

**Zena ** 29:49
Yesah! Well, and I—I’m definitely learning all the time, and that’s one of the things I love about it. Right? You know, I think parenting is such an ongoing learning process, whether you’re doing it collectively or not. 

**Zena ** 30:01
And I think, for us, there is a really—a really beautiful aspect that is about rootedness and community. And I feel grateful for that. Like, there are other people that we know who were already doing different forms of collective parenting—again, as has been done for generations. But in this case, these are maybe more immediate kind of peers of ours that are parenting kind of similar age kids in different cities, some in Canada, some in the US, that we are in relationship with. And so there absolutely are those kinds of conversations and connections that happen, which I think can feel like a real balm for us in terms of saying, oh yeah, you know, how do you navigate this particular thing? Or, oh, yes, I also have had these types of conversations. Like, it’s so great to be able to talk about this with another set of coparents and see how you guys are, you know, dealing with this particular challenge you might be grappling with. Or, oh cool, you have a neat kind of hack, like, tell us what it is we want to know. And then I think, again, because we also have been more open about our family story intentionally, because I think we’re mindful that—you know, certainly even thinking of my own experience, I didn’t have models for this kind of parenting when I was coming up as a younger person. So as a family, we’ve made an intentional choice to tell our story in certain contexts. As a way, we hope to be able to open the door for other folks to contemplate what kinds of possibilities they might want to co create and the communities and relationships they’re part of. 

**Brooke ** 30:01

**Brooke ** 31:25

**Zena ** 31:25
And so I think there also is that element where then people will come to us and say, we’re just starting out, or we want to do this, can we talk with you? Can we learn from you? And we always try to be in that space of generosity and reciprocity. And absolutely, there’s a research-based element, including for me as a writer whose work is historically-informed, like, I’m always really interested to learn about the lineages we come from. I’ll never forget, you know, the the story I often think about—which is mind boggling to me when I think about it in terms of era—I read about a lesbian woman, this would have been in the late 70s, who was coparenting a baby. And she was doing it with 10 of her friends. 

**Zena ** 32:05
And like in the era before cell phones, and group texts, and email and Google Calendar. Like to coparent a baby with 10 people. What an accomplishment. Right? 

**Brooke ** 32:05

**Brooke ** 32:15

**Zena ** 32:16
Just logistically alone, it’s astonishing. 

**Brooke ** 32:18
Right? Yeah, for sure. Do you find that—let me say it this way, how common is that people become parents after they’ve decided to collectively parent, as opposed to becoming collective parents after they’ve become… regular’s is not the right word. But, you know, after they’ve become a parent, starting to do collective parenting versus pre planning for that?

**Zena ** 32:50
That’s a good question. And I can’t say I have an easy answer to it, because I would say it probably depends. Like I get the sense that more people are going into these kinds of parenting arrangements, like, intentionally, before there are kids on the scene. And I also think that these kinds of collective parenting relationships and arrangements emerge organically over time as well, right, as relationships change, as people situations change in the context of their family systems. So I would wager it’s probably a mix. And I would guess that there might be a bit of an upward trend in terms of seeing folks maybe coming into these types of family formations with intentionality before they have kids. 

**Brooke ** 33:33
Yeah, interesting. 

**Zena ** 33:34
But that’s, you know, that’s based on literally no data whatsoever—

**Brooke ** 33:37
Oh I know.

**Zena ** 33:38
Except—except vibes and what I know about, you know, how family formations are changing in a lot of different ways.

**Brooke ** 33:45
Yeah. Well, you certainly talked to a lot more collective parents than I have. So, you know, not that’s a representative sample as an economist. But certainly, there’s there’s some information to be gleaned from your connections there.

**Zena ** 34:01
Yeah. And I think you can maybe also think about it in relation to, you know, places where we do see like legal advocacy happening, like, often driven by folks in different kinds of poly family arrangements or, or what might be a different or kind of non normative family arrangement, like, fighting to have those family arrangements and relationships recognized by the courts. So, you know, I think that that is also a place where I have seen shifts, both in the US and Canadian context. And, you know, what that’s going to look like over time. Obviously, given the regressive politics we’re seeing right now, given rising fascism, and obviously the targeting of trans and queer folks and people across a lot of lines of identity. I don’t have a sense of any of those advances are going to be rolled back, but I do look at the work of organizations like the Chosen Family Law Center in the US would be a great example of a place, I think, where they’re doing some really interesting advocacy about, you know, how might different kinds of family formations have greater legal recognition, greater state recognition—which does have many forms of utility, right, and all it’s complexity.

**Brooke ** 35:01
Right. Yeah, yeah, unfortunate, as you had said before, that you know, the state—that we sort of have to get the state involved in some of this because, you know, we don’t want them in our relationships. At least I don’t want them in mine, much as you said you don’t want them in yours. But then, yeah, there’s certain rights and privileges that are granted or denied, you know, based on—purely on biology a lot of the time. So there’s the work that has to be done to, you know, move that forward. So you were just talking about, you know, our current political climate and the rise of fascism. Do you feel like collective parenting has become more important or more useful because of our current political and social climate that we’re in?

**Zena ** 35:47
Yeah, as I was thinking about this conversation, I went back to the book "Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice" by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. And in that book Leah quotes their friend, Dory Midnight who says, "More care more of the time." And I love the simple potency of that phrase. And the reason I’m drawing a direct connection to the current social, political, economic climate is that I believe very strongly in the need to grow and deepen our capacity for interdependence, and to build the relationships that are necessary to enable more of us to survive. Like that, that is something I try to organize my life around in a lot of different ways. And certainly, I think, collective parenting is is one of those. And I think that, you know, certainly parenting—and I think caregiving more broadly, whether you’re caring for kids or other adults in your life—can be immensely joyful, pleasurable, rewarding and fulfilling. And it also can be exhausting, depleting, and unrelenting, right? Like you’re a single parent. I’m sure you have your own intense experiences of the joys and challenges of what it means to be a parent and a caregiver. And so I think a lot about, like, how might we actually grow our capacity to care for one another, you know. And I don’t think it’s unconnected that one of the tenets of disaster preparedness is to get to know your neighbors. Like I think about that in the sense of, like, what does it mean to build relationship, to be an interdependence? And like, what does it mean to push back against isolation, including the isolation that can come from the ways in which parenting is often organized in our societies? 

**Brooke ** 37:30

**Zena ** 37:31
But I think also how to broaden the framing so that we’re not solely thinking about the experiences of parents, but also, again, thinking more broadly about caregivers, right, and that many people are giving care to folks of different ages. And, more broadly, how do we all care for one another? You know, and thinking about what we can learn from disability justice around that, in the sense of really thinking about an active and ongoing practice of interdependence and collective care in all of its difficulties and messiness, and the transformative potential of that. And that—I don’t, I don’t mean that in a romanticized way, either. Like I know that, before we started recording, I was talking about, like, how many butts I wipe in my everyday life, you know. It’s a butt wiping intensive phase of life, and I’m sure I will enter into other ones as I—as I and the people around me age, right, or become disabled in different ways. And so I think so much about, like, the practical, tangible hands-on aspects of this, and how that connects to the politics and values we might be bringing to this, you know. And for me, this is a form of praxis, it’s a form of prefigurative world building, you know, really thinking about like what is the world I am working to build? And how am I living those values in my intimate domestic relationships? And like, it matters to me that I am doing this in my home space with the people with whom I am in the most intimate of relationships. 

**Brooke ** 39:01

**Zena ** 39:02
But I also don’t want that intimacy to stop, like, at the walls of our house either. And so how can we then continue to expand that web of interdependence out and—you know, it’s interesting, I say this like as a gay divorcee, right, like I have been gay married, I got gay divorced many years ago, I came full circle there. My partner and I—my current partner and I had a DIY backyard magic ritual this summer, you know, no state sanctioning involved. And it was really important to us in that, where we intentionally spoke our commitments to one another, and we spoke our commitments to our coparents and our kids. And then we spoke our commitments to the community and family that were gathered there. And that it was really intentionally about, like, how do we create a space where we can honor the interdependence that we are part of and that holds us and holds our family and holds our relationship, and like, what does it mean to make an active commitment to that, including in the context of actually ritualizing it. And as a—as a way to demonstrate the importance of that to the people that were there bearing witness and sharing that experience with us.

**Brooke ** 40:11
Wow, that is—that is so beautiful. It really is. Thank you for sharing that. All right, so we’ve talked about some of the great parts of collective parenting, and the good that it brings to the children, the good that it brings to the other parents. You talked about some of the tools that you have that have made that practice more successful, like your weekly sit down on you, you know, discuss calendar things together. Are there pitfalls in collective parenting, you know, things that—lessons you’ve learned along the way, things that you’ve seen and heard in talking to others. You know, anything that sort of collective parents always try, but it never works out. So, you know, something somebody could avoid trying and inevitably failing at, because it always goes that way—or anything like that, that you might want to share. 

**Zena ** 41:02
One of the things that I really appreciate about—and find consistently challenging—about this experience of collective parenting, and this particular form of, like, deeply intimate and sustained interdependence, is what it asks, I think—certainly, it asks of me in terms of building my capacity for conflict intimacy outside of romantic partnerships or professional relationships. Because I actually think that there are entire cultures and industries around how to have a better fight with your partner, and how to have a better fight with your coworker. And I think it is really interesting, and in some ways, unsurprising that there’s not similar modeling in a maybe more mainstream way around how to actually move well through conflict in our friendships, our intimate relationships. And like, of course, this is a place where I think there’s much to be learned from transformative justice. And—and! It is a whole thing to think about, like how to bring that into practice in your everyday life, you know, how to have a difficult conversation with someone you love and are intimate with to say, oh hey, like, that interaction we had in the kitchen, you know, was frustrating for me, here’s why. While still giving us, like—one another, a lot of grace for, you know, what it means to be living in the fullness of who we are and all of our messiness and grouchiness, you know, in the way that nobody needs to be perfect or perfectly happy all the time. But I would say that that’s something I’ve talked with my coparents about at different kinds of points is like, how do we get more practice—practiced at having those kinds of challenging conversations, including in the context of just also the fullness of our everyday lives. Like, you know, we do have a weekly kind of evening, just the adults, you know, checking in talking about parenting stuff, you know, bringing up anything that we might want to surface. And certainly we’ll have one-on-one conversations when we need to work through something maybe that’s kind of challenging or sticky that’s come up between a couple of us. But I also am just tired a lot of the time, you know, and it’s the end of the day, and I’m ready to go to bed. I don’t want to be like, and now let’s talk about our feelings for one hour. 

**Brooke ** 43:14

**Zena ** 43:15
And sometimes you need to, right? 

**Brooke ** 43:16

**Zena ** 43:17
And I think also, for me, that’s a place where, you know, speaking personally, I’ve found it really useful to have a therapist, you know, and to be able to reach outside my family system—of course, like, through friendships and other kinds of relationships. But I mention my therapist specifically because I think so much about how so much of parenting for me is also about that process of reparenting myself. And like, looking back on my own childhood experiences, and like, appreciating the gifts that I received through those experiences, but also the ways in which there are things I need to unlearn from how I was raised, you know, and thinking about how those show up in my parenting. So big fan of Internal Family Systems, you know, and I think that that’s also a really interesting therapeutic modality in relation to collective parenting, because it’s like, how are we holding the fullness of all the parts that make us up as individuals? And then how are we showing up in these more expansive intimate and familial relations? So that’s another pro tip: if you’re into therapy, get a therapy. Just a really good advice, you know, generally. As long as you can find one and afford one. And that’s also often impossible, which I recognize. But I think, you know, the other thing I would say, too is, I think it can be sometimes—it can be easy to get caught up in perfectionism, or the notion that there is any sort of getting it right, you know? 

**Brooke ** 44:36
Ah, yeah. 

**Zena ** 44:37
And I don’t think that there is. You know, I think something I feel really grateful for in our family is that we come in with a shared set of values around parenting, and a shared set of political commitments. And that makes a difference, I think—

**Brooke ** 44:50

**Zena ** 44:51
—in terms of, we’re able to move from that shared foundation in ways that makes the harder stuff easier to navigate and also the places where we do things differently—like, sometimes difference is perfectly okay. Right? It doesn’t have to be perfect unity on every single thing, right? But it is really understanding, where do you need to be aligned on the stuff that really matters? Right? And how can—how can those shared values be helpful in that regard?

**Brooke ** 45:16
Yeah. And I—and then I also imagine that having and practicing some amount of, you know, compassion and empathy and understanding for other people in different viewpoints—you know I, again, I’m not collected parenting, I’m a single parent. But my child’s father and I are sort of opposite ends of the political spectrum almost at this point. And I try very hard to be in practice of, you know, never putting down her father, you know, that’s part of who she is. And being clear that, yeah, you know, I don’t agree with this thing that he said, I don’t agree with his stance on this and whatnot. But never making that about who he is as a person, that never making it that he’s wrong, even if I feel that way. But, you know, being able to, you know, articulate that we have this difference of opinion, in a way that holds compassion and kindness for that other parent in the situation, you know, even if I don’t agree with them, even if, you know, I do think that some of their beliefs and practices are genuinely harmful to other human beings on this planet. But not putting that into my child so much, because they’re going to, you know, learn that part on their own. And really, what I need to do is just be clear on what I believe, and not damage their other parenting relationship in the process. At least that’s how I feel about it. And you know, I’m open to being wrong or having—learning that there’s a better way to do that even than I am.

**Zena ** 47:03
Yeah, and I mean, I think about it in this sense of, like, I sometimes think about how parenting feels like the most sustained and complex form of activism that I’ve ever done, in the sense that it asks me to live my values in a really intimate and ongoing and everyday way. And one of the places I continue to do learning is around children’s liberation, confronting adult supremacy. You know, when I think about, like, Carla Joy Bergman the anthology "Trust Kids" that came home with AK Press, that’s all about confronting adult supremacy and supporting youth autonomy. You know, I know Carla uses the phrase, "solidarity begins at home," you know, and I think so much about that, too, of like, what are the ways in which many of us have both been taught and internalize the relations of domination over children? And like, what does it look like to actually try and disentangle ourselves from those, I think really often insidious tendencies, like, even in those of us who are trying to, to the best of our ability, come at this from a more liberatory kind of way. So that for me, I think, feels like a really rich site of inquiry and practice in all of this too. And definitely a place where I’m really still learning. 

**Brooke ** 48:12
Yeah. So I got the chance to interview Carla—almost a year ago now, it was February of last year—on, you know, we talked about—we talked about our book, and we talked a lot about adult supremacy. So that was February 24th 2023 episode, episode #59, should any of our listeners be curious to go back and talk about that. And it’s funny, because, you know, when I—when I sat down to talk with her I actually wanted to talk with her about collective parenting. And then our conversation really took us into this realm more of talking about adult supremacy. And so that really ended up being the focus of that episode—it was great and really interesting, and I think an important component of parenting in general, but also collective parenting, as well. So yeah, there’s a lot that I certainly have learned about that as well. In our last couple minutes here, I’m wondering if there were any other things that you might like to talk about with collective parenting, the ways it ties to other social movements or issues going on, or, or just generally, anything else that you want to say or share about collective parenting?

**Zena ** 49:29
Yeah, I mean, I think I would want to speak to some of those bigger connections. And then, I think, end on a really practical tangible note, because it’s something I really appreciate about this podcast is I feel like I always walk away with things I can do. And so, you know, something I do think is—

**Zena ** 49:45
Something I think about is, like, you know, how can these forms of parenting, you know, in this practice of deepening our capacity for interdependence—and for intergenerational solidarity, right? Like, I don’t assume that every person out there wants to be a parent, you know, or wants to necessarily be someone who’s in an everyday caregiving relation. And I do believe very deeply that all of us should be committed to a practice of intergenerational solidarity. That includes giving a shit about the children in our community, and seeing them as self determined people whose liberation is bound up with ours. And I have absolutely no patience for adults who think it’s cool to hate kids. It’s not radical to hate kids. It’s not cool. It’s bullshit, and it’s ageism. And I just feel so strongly about that, you know, similar to the ways in which I think so much about like what might it look like to build communities where we honor and ritually welcome in older adults, you know, disabled people, like, all of the people who capitalism and white supremacy and settler colonialism and ableism and ageism and childism tell us are less valuable, you know. When in fact, they are vital members of our communities and our movements. Right? 

**Brooke ** 49:45
Take it away!

**Zena ** 51:01
So I think about that. And I think about how we can also connect these practices to movements for abolition, you know, in thinking about the violence that the family policing system does to so many families, particularly Indigenous, Black, other racialized families, disabled families, you know, poor folks. And so what might be the ways in which these forms of collective parenting—and again, just deepening our capacity for interdependence and solidarity with kids in our communities and parents and families can also be a way to intervene against the violence of that kind of state surveillance, child apprehension, family separation, and just reproductive injustice, right, that is happening in so many communities today—including and not limited to the experiences of trans kids. So I want to pull in those threads. And I also want to take a moment to just to speak, maybe, to the folks that are asking themselves, like, do I want to parent in this way? And what might that look like? And so some of the things I would share would be: I think this is a place to begin by reflecting on your own wants and needs, you know. How do you imagine parenting? What would you want your role to look like? You know, if there aren’t already kids in the picture, how do you imagine those kids coming on the scene? You know, would that be through a process of somebody becoming pregnant? Would it be through adoption or fostering? You know—and again, all of these things are part of this process. I think it’s also really important with the folks that you might be doing this with, to really think about, like, having upfront conversations about your needs, your desires, your dreams, your visions, but also your fears and boundaries, and your desired family or coparenting structures, and how you want to distribute the care and parenting labor. Not that you’re going to have all of that figured out upfront, but I think—I think it’s useful to begin the conversation. And I think, also, to really understand that, like, none of this is fixed. It’s going to change over time. And I would say, you know, maybe just a couple of other thoughts that I think are really pragmatic and useful are, I think, to also think about how "out" you want to be and can be about your collective or co parenting relationships. Like, are you in a position to be able to be out about this to your families of origin, to your neighbors, you know, to your kids, daycare providers, or school teachers, or health care providers, to your kids’ friends and their parents? You know, like, we’re really fortunate to be able to be out and well supported by our family of origin and the various caregivers and teachers and community members we have. But that is absolutely not the case for everyone, and I think is also entangled with, with the whiteness and other forms of privilege of our family that insulates us. 

**Brooke ** 51:01
Yeah, mhm.

**Brooke ** 51:01

**Zena ** 51:02
And I think also, as we’ve talked about, like to think about where and how you want and need the state to sanction your family structure, you know, and that that can create a lot of barriers for folks, right, you know, including the ways in which that can disrupt people’s access to disability or welfare benefits, for example, or bring the surveillance of the state onto you and your family system in ways that can be really harmful. 

**Brooke ** 54:16

**Zena ** 54:17
But it also can be an enabling tool in the system that exists. So I think, I think to ask those kinds of questions as well. So yeah, sort of kind of toggling between the like relational and values based and care work based piece, and then also the, like, what happens when your family system is turning outward to the world that exists now, and what are the ways in which you want to be navigating that world as purposefully as possible?

**Brooke ** 54:42
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And I really appreciate the—that advice for folks considering the situation. It’s obviously really important starting point, if you get to do that before you know children come in the family, or are something that you definitely have to think about if you’re—if you’re going into, like you said before, an organically forming collective parenting situation. So I appreciate that a lot. Before we say goodbye, I wanted to, again, thank you for being here with me today, talking to me, teaching me, I learned a lot today. And I—I’m really grateful for that and hope our listeners did as well. And then give you space if you have anything that you want to share, plug, endorse, etc.

**Zena ** 55:41
Yeah, really appreciate the opportunity to be in conversation with you. And hopefully, there are some useful gems, and I can also share some resources with you to put in the show notes if there are just going to be some other books or things that that I think are useful for folks maybe to check out as kind of part of their contemplations here. And I would say, for plugging, I know you and I were chatting a little bit earlier. So I’m a writer, and my most recent book came out in 2021. I have a new one coming out in 2025, but it doesn’t have a title yet. But my 2021 book is called "The Care We Dream Of: Liberatory and Transformative Approaches to LGBTQ+ Health." And the simplest way I can describe it is: the queer and trans health book that loves sex workers and hates cops. So if you want to learn about that, or learn more about me and my work—and I do actually write a little bit about our family in that book as well—you can find that and more information on my website, which is just

**Brooke ** 56:35
Great. Thanks so much. 

**Zena ** 56:38
Thank you.

**Brooke ** 56:43
And to our listeners, thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy our podcast, please give it a like, drop a comment, or a review. Subscribe to us if you haven’t already. These things make the algorithms that rule our world offer our show to more people. This podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can connect with us on Twitter @tangledwild, and also on Instagram. Or check out our website at where you can find our extensive list of projects and publications. If you want to connect with me directly, you can find me on Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke, that’s Brooke with an e. This podcast and much of the work of Strangers is made possible by our Patreon supporters. If you want to become a supporter, check out There are cool benefits at various support tiers on Patreon. For instance, if you support the collective at just $5 a month, we mail you a monthly zine. We would like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive Patreon supporters. Thanks to Aly, Paige, Jenipher, Eric, David, Staro, Patoli, Chris, theo, Kirk, Princess Miranda, Milica, Marm, Catgut, Janice & O’Dell, Dana, Carson, Buck, Lord Harken, Nicole, paparouna, Funder, Perceval, BenBen, Mic Aiah, anonymous, S.J., Trixter, Hunter, Chelsea, Julia, Boise Mutual Aid and Hoss the Dog. 

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S1E105 – Eric King on Surviving Prison

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Eric King talks to Margaret about navigating and surviving prison after spending nine and half years in a federal prison after firebombing a congress person’s office during the Ferguson Uprising.

Guest Info

Eric King (he/him) is an anarchist, a father, a poet, a brutal scrabble player, an adoring Swiftie and an undying anti-fascist.  You can support Eric on IG @supportericking and @rattlingcagesbook as well as at Eric also co-edited the book Rattling Cages, which can be found at

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Live Like the World is Dying: Eric King on Surviving Prison

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast where it feels like the end times. And this week—I’m really excited about this week—I get to talk to someone that I wanted to talk to you for a very long time, but I wasn’t able to because he was in prison. And that’s not a good place to talk to people if you don’t know them. But what we’re going to talk about this week is how to survive prison with Eric King, the recently released anarchist prisoner who spent way too fucking long in a cage. And so we’re gonna talk about how to survive being in a cage because it’s a thing that we should all be aware of, even if we try to avoid it. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero etwork of Anarchists Podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. 

**Margaret ** 01:41
Okay, we’re back. So, Eric, if you could introduce yourself with your name, which I already said, and your pronouns, and then why you know something about surviving prison. 

**Eric King ** 01:51
Hello, happy to be here. My name is Eric King. I go by he and him. And I spent just about nine—nine and a half years in federal prison after firebombing a congress person’s office in Missouri during the Ferguson uprising.

**Margaret ** 02:10
Okay, so, which is I mean, I don’t want to… It is good when people act in solidarity, I will just say that. So I think a lot of people are nervous around—I mean, I’ll say I’m nervous around incarceration, right. I’ve only spent two nights total in lockup, and I’ve never been in general population. And I think it’s a kind of a black box. It’s sort of a mystery. And I was wondering if you had any advice for people who, whether they’re, like currently facing incarceration, or whether they’re making decisions based on their ethics that put them at risk of incarceration. I’m wondering if you have, like, and it was a big topic, but like, how do you get ready to go to jail?

**Margaret ** 03:01

**Eric King ** 03:02
So I wasn’t ready. I’m going to tell you that right now. Um, I got picked up on the streets, just the cops rolled up on me with their machine guns and everything like that. And so I wasn’t ready one bit. I didn’t have a support team ready, I didn’t have funds ready. And honestly, even though I had read books and I watched documentaries, I didn’t know how to behave in prison at all. Um, so when I showed up, I was—I got myself in a lot of trouble with both other prisoners and guards, because I was doing a lot of reckless shit. Um, and so if I were to tell people to get ready, my first advice would be, like, to understand where you’re at. Like, you’re in a county jail, most likely. 

**Eric King ** 03:48
And depending on what state you’re in, like, that’s gonna depend on like the politics of that jail. And there’s ways to survive in county jails and there’s ways to survive and low security prison, medium security prison, maximum security. And you can get yourself ready for that stuff. You can be ready. 

**Margaret ** 04:06
Yeah. Okay, so what kind of prisons were you in?

**Eric King ** 04:11
So I was at a—I started off in a federal pre trial place. It was a it was one ran by CCA, which was just a nightmare because that’s one of the private companies. And then, I’m one of the few people ever in the feds have gone to a low, a medium, a USP, and the supermax—the ADX. So I worked my way up, yeah, I did all four custody levels. And so I’ve seen like how the survival, like, how you have to move and behave. It’s 100% different in each one of those. So it takes time to learn to like it’s weird.

**Margaret ** 04:49
So what are some of those ways—like, what are some examples of like how you behaved incorrectly when you first found yourself in lockup.

**Eric King ** 04:58
Sure. So when I first got to CCA, I’m on full insurrectionist anarchist time. And I’m refusing to play by the politics of that jail. And that meant that I sat and ate with the black bros. I let ,the gay and trans people, I always worked out with them, you can come work out with me. I watched the Mexican TV—when the Sureños and the Paisas are watching the Spanish channels, I sat with them. And those are things that I got away with because I can fight. If I wasn’t ready to throw hands I got destroyed. And so I had a bunch of fights. I’ve fought all the time. 

**Margaret ** 05:41

**Eric King ** 05:41
And then eventually the other races talk to me. They’re like, bro, look, you’re causing problems for all of us. Like, your behavior—it’s cool, we appreciate the solidarity, we saw you on the news, respect. But you’re gonna get us in a race war because we’re letting you do things that like other people aren’t allowed. So you got to cut that shit out. 

**Margaret ** 06:02

**Eric King ** 06:03
Um, so I was still able to gamble with other races. And I was still able to run my boxing class. And so, like, the LGBT people could always we’re still involved in the boxing class, because that’s from every race. But like, once that was over, I wasn’t—I couldn’t sit with the black dudes anymore. I couldn’t watch the Spanish channel anymore. Just simple shit like that, that people in prison would say, like, duh, duh you idiot. But like, I didn’t get that early on.

**Margaret ** 06:33
That makes sense to me. One of the first friends of mine that I talked to about dealing with jail—a white anarchist who spent a bunch of time in jail, about a year or something, I guess prison more than jail. And one—and yeah, he tells me these stories about how, you know, he did the exact same thing. He went and he sat with—he was like, very consciously, he’s like, I’m not hanging out with the white supremacists. You know, right? And he was like, alright, I’m gonna go sit with black folks. And, you know, and he grew up on a primarily black neighborhood, and—

**Margaret ** 07:06
And eventually he—eventually he threw this, like birthday party that had everyone come together. But then immediately afterwards, someone tried to kill him. 

**Eric King ** 07:06

**Eric King ** 07:18

**Margaret ** 07:21
And it was because—they were like, they were like, well, we think you’re trying to unite everyone, like, under you. You know, we think you’re trying to, like, form this, like, you know—

**Eric King ** 07:33
What gang are you trying to form?

**Margaret ** 07:35
Yeah, exactly. And he ended up being put in solitary, like, ostensibly for his own protection. And, you know, and I think he’s spent the rest of his time in prison in solitary as a result of that. And that was like a—okay, so—but that brings up a question that I think that a lot of listeners would have, especially any white listeners, is then, how do you navigate that while still not joining the Nazi gang? And while indicating solidarity with people of other races without—even if you’re, like, not trying to disrupt the structure of what’s happening inside the jail? 

**Eric King ** 08:18
Sure. So the people listening online can’t see me. But I have the word "Antifa" tattooed on my face. I made it clear—I made it clear early on, I’m not fucking with these Nazis. I don’t care about you dudes. I’m not going to be your friend, I’m not gonna play like I’m your friend. If you come talking around me with that n-word stuff, that race lover stuff, miss me. You can do whatever you want to do, but like, I’m not doing it. And so, to navigate that, you have to be—you have to be willing to fight. Once again, like, you have to show them—and this is important for people, it’s important for anyone coming to prison. If you’re willing to stand on your beliefs, you can have those beliefs. What they don’t respect in any jail, any prison, any custody level, is talk. 

**Margaret ** 09:09

**Eric King ** 09:09
So if you if you show up in jail, and you’re like, trans people are equal, don’t be mean to them. But then you watch them bully a trans person. You’re a bitch now, like, your word means nothing. 

**Margaret ** 09:23
Oh, interesting.

**Eric King ** 09:24
So you don’t get to have an opinion anymore. 

**Margaret ** 09:26

**Eric King ** 09:26
But if instead, like a Florence Medium for example, we had a person in their name Crazy Pete. That’s what—that was what she chose to go by. And some of the wannabe tough guys tried to bulldog her and saying like, oh, you can’t—

**Margaret ** 09:43
What’s bulldoging?

**Eric King ** 09:44
Oh, I’m sorry. They tried to—

**Margaret ** 09:47
No it’s okay. You can use that slang, but you’re gonna have to explain it to me. 

**Eric King ** 09:50
Okay. Yeah. So they uh—their agenda was to force her out of the unit or to rob her, one of the two. And I said no. Absolutely not. You’re not doing this. Ah, my wife and I had already raised money to essentially buy a gay guy out of debt so they wouldn’t be sold by the—by some of the other races. And so people already knew like, this is what EK is standing on.

**Margaret ** 10:17

**Eric King ** 10:18
Um, and so when it came time for the Crazy Pete shit, like, you just show up, and you show up with your weapons, and you show up with your hands, and you stand on it and you say this is not happening. 

**Margaret ** 10:29

**Eric King ** 10:30
We can do whatever you guys want to do. And when you take that stand and they know you’re serious, it can defuse the entire situation. Um, but if I just spoke from my little chair, no, don’t do it be nice… 

**Margaret ** 10:45

**Eric King ** 10:46
Pete would have got fucked up, and I would have got fucked up. 

**Margaret ** 10:49

**Eric King ** 10:50
So that’s, that’s the first like, I don’t want to make prisons seem like it’s only violence, but the first way to get people to understand, like, what you’re about is to show them what you’re about. 

**Margaret ** 11:04

**Eric King ** 11:04
And sometimes that means, like, just telling like some racist dude next to you, like, man cut that shit out. Cut it out. I’m not trying to hear that shit. 

**Margaret ** 11:12

**Eric King ** 11:13
Or like, I would not let people say the f-word around me—like the homosexual slur. 

**Margaret ** 11:19

**Eric King ** 11:20
You couldn’t say it around. If you said around me, I’m calling you out or we’re fighting. 

**Margaret ** 11:23

**Eric King ** 11:24
And that was, like, these are stances I took. And sometimes you put me in harm’s way and sometimes I had to pay the price for that for real. 

**Margaret ** 11:32

**Eric King ** 11:32
But a lot of times it just let me live as me as, oh that’s Eric, he’s fucking weird. But, you know, he’s not a punk. That sort of stuff. If that makes sense.

**Margaret ** 11:44
No, that—that does make sense. The whole kind of, like, so you need to basically not be weak. You need to be—like you need to like—So. Okay, so—

**Eric King ** 11:59
This isn’t about winning the fights either just so you know. It’s not about, like, being tough. It’s about being brave more than anything. 

**Margaret ** 12:06
Okay. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 12:07
You have to show up on your—on what you believe in. Not other people’s, but what you believe in.

**Margaret ** 12:14
How much does, for example, being antifascist alienate you from the rest of the white population? Like are you, lik,e eating alone as a result? Like or like—

**Eric King ** 12:24
No, you can’t eat alone. There is no—so like, in the feds when—if people go to federal prison, like, people very likely to catch RICO charges in the next couple of years. Like it happens. 

**Margaret ** 12:33

**Eric King ** 12:34
Um, like that dude whoe just bomdb the abortion clinic in Wisconsin. He’s going to the feds.

**Margaret ** 12:38

**Eric King ** 12:39
Or not the abortion clinic, the anti-abortion clinic.

**Margaret ** 12:42
Oh, yeah, that makes okay. Yeah, uh huh.

**Eric King ** 12:44
I was like, oh my god. 

**Margaret ** 12:45
Yeah, all right. Yeah,

**Eric King ** 12:49
But that dude stood on pro-women’s rights stuff. 

**Margaret ** 12:53

**Eric King ** 12:54
Um, and so, I’m going to pretend like he’s white. So he’s gonna go to the feds and he has to eat with the white guys. You either sitting with white guys, or you’re gonna get fucked off the yard. 

**Margaret ** 13:05

**Eric King ** 13:06
And that means—that means beat up, put in PC, and shipped to somewhere else. 

**Margaret ** 13:09
Okay, what’s PC? 

**Eric King ** 13:10
Oh, PC means protective custody. And you can go in there if you’re—if you ask to, or they understand that you’re going to get hurt.

**Margaret ** 13:19
Okay, so this is what my friend was put in. 

**Eric King ** 13:22
Yeah, like your friend. Like they most likely understood this dude’s about to get hurt. 

**Margaret ** 13:25

**Eric King ** 13:26
Let’s get him out of there. 

**Margaret ** 13:27

**Eric King ** 13:28
And so, you’re gonna sit with the white guys. And most likely, like the gang dudes will have like their own little—because whites will have their own separate tables, they’ll have like five or six tables. 

**Margaret ** 13:38

**Eric King ** 13:39
And that’s where you eat. And in the federal system, you eat and sit with your state. Like where—what you represent. So I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. I sat at the Missouri table. It was us, Kansas, Oklahoma, and sometimes Chicago—it’s like a Midwest table, basically. 

**Margaret ** 13:55

**Eric King ** 13:56
And the gang guys—[laughing] might as well. So the gang bros, they would say,, like they have they’re like, that’s the SAC section, or that’s the ABT section. SAC is Soldiers of Aryan Culture. ABT is Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. 

**Margaret ** 14:13

**Eric King ** 14:13
Um, and so I don’t have to fuck with those guys at all. I don’t have to associate with you. But like, if they see me doing something they don’t like, like for—I taught the yoga class that Florence and I allowed all racists and sexualities, you’re coming to this yoga class. 

**Margaret ** 14:31

**Eric King ** 14:31
So sometimes some of the—some of the dudes would come to me and be like, hey, man why do you got this n-word in your class? Or why do you got this gay dude in your class? And then you just have to tell them, like, you’re not my fucking boss. Get out my face. 

**Margaret ** 14:45

**Eric King ** 14:45
I don’t answer to you. I’m not in your gang. 

**Margaret ** 14:47

**Eric King ** 14:48
Um, and so sometimes they go to your rep. Each car has a rep. 

**Margaret ** 14:55
What’s a car?

**Eric King ** 14:56
Okay, yeah, my bad.

**Margaret ** 14:58
No, it’s okay. Yeah, I’m just gonna say it for the audience.

**Eric King ** 15:02
I’m from Missouri, so that’s called the Missouri car. It’s like our group. 

**Margaret ** 15:06

**Eric King ** 15:06
You’re in that car.

**Margaret ** 15:07
Okay, which is separate from a gang. 

**Eric King ** 15:10
Yeah. Because we’re not trying to make money. 

**Margaret ** 15:14
Ah, okay. 

**Eric King ** 15:15
Like, if someone attacked a member of my car unprovoked, like, without us knowing about it, I could then be called to have to go and retaliate against that person. 

**Margaret ** 15:25

**Eric King ** 15:25
Even though it’s not a gang. 

**Margaret ** 15:27

**Eric King ** 15:27
You still assaulted our group, and so—it’s a group with our money making scheme. 

**Margaret ** 15:33
Right, okay. 

**Eric King ** 15:34
And so, I—if that gang had a problem with me, they would then have to go to the head of my car, someone who had a lot of respect, been down for a minute, and tell them like, we want EK, to shape up or we want EK off the yard. My car would then decide to either talk to me, fuck me up, or tell the gang did kick rocks. Like leave us alone. 

**Margaret ** 15:56

**Eric King ** 15:57
And so, depending on how that went, depends on how far it goes. But I never got fucked off yard, so.

**Margaret ** 16:06
So it worked, but it was a it was a tricky situation to do. 

**Eric King ** 16:09
It’s so tricky, because  one wrong move—and this is what I hope anyone going to prison in the future always understands—you have to always be respectful, even if you hate someone. 

**Margaret ** 16:19

**Eric King ** 16:20
So if somebody with a swastika on his face comes up and tells me to do something, I can’t say like, fuck you Nazi bitch—Nazi jerk.

**Margaret ** 16:28
That’s fine. Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 16:29
Okay, but I can’t say that to them. I will get stabbed. 

**Margaret ** 16:32

**Eric King ** 16:33
And not hypothetically, like literally. 

**Margaret ** 16:35

**Eric King ** 16:36
So I have to say to them, like, hey, man, I understand, you have your beliefs. I get that. But I’m doing me right now, and I’d appreciate you just let me do my time. Stuff like that. That’s how you have to talk, until it’s done talking.

**Margaret ** 16:49
Okay, and is that kind of how you would like—okay, another anecdote that’s not mine. Another one of my friends who spent about half a year in prison for a while and is—he told me that his cellmate was the tattooist for the Nazi gang in the jail. 

**Eric King ** 17:06
That sucks.

**Margaret ** 17:07
Yeah. And so the Nazi kept being like, hey, you got to join us. And my friend kept being like—the way that my friend handled this, and I’m curious, your take on this. Basically, he was like, he was like, no, I can’t. I’m already in a gang. I’m an anarchist. 

**Eric King ** 17:23

**Margaret ** 17:24
And it—and then the the cellmate didn’t really buy it until there was a noise demo outside for my friend. And so then there’s all these people with circle A’s and fireworks outside. And it was just like—yeah, so now th cellmate’s like, oh, I get it. You’re already in a gang. They just, it’s fine. And then they like stop trying to recruit him at that point and they were able to live in peace, which is an awkward—it seems like the things that we assume about how to interact with people and how to carry ourselves on the outside don’t relate to how we have to do it on the inside. Is that kind of—

**Eric King ** 18:00
Hell no they don’t. 

**Margaret ** 18:02

**Eric King ** 18:03
But so your friends situation worked because it was a jail. 

**Margaret ** 18:07
Yeah, uh huh.

**Eric King ** 18:09
Like in a jail—jails are so different than prison. 

**Margaret ** 18:12

**Eric King ** 18:13
Because it’s short term. All custody levels are mixed in there. 

**Margaret ** 18:18

**Eric King ** 18:18
There’s not going to be as much racial like—the dynamics aren’t as aggressive because you’re all from the same place. You’re all from Kansas City or New York or whatever. 

**Margaret ** 18:29
Uh huh.

**Eric King ** 18:30
Um, so the—it’s not split up like that. So if I was in a jail and some dude told me to join his gang, I’d probably laugh in his face. 

**Margaret ** 18:38

**Eric King ** 18:39
Like unless he was seriously dangerous, like your friend did the right thing. Just got the attention to, look how I had this over here. 

**Margaret ** 18:46

**Eric King ** 18:47
Because apparently that dude, that gang dude thought like, that’s what you respected. He respected someone that was—that stood on something. Basically, you already stand for something.

**Margaret ** 18:55

**Eric King ** 18:56
Um, but also if you—if you go to a lower custody federal prison, like let’s say you go to a low—I started out low. 

**Margaret ** 19:03

**Eric King ** 19:03
There’s no gang members there. No gang is going to recruit you there. 

**Margaret ** 19:07

**Eric King ** 19:07
Those dudes, they can’t do anything there. So like, that—you don’t have to worry about that in a lower custody level. Some dude tried to press you at a federal low, you could laugh right in their face. 

**Margaret ** 19:22

**Eric King ** 19:23
You soft mother fucker. Get away from me.

**Margaret ** 19:25
Because it’s not—the lows are not run by gangs as much. Is that the—or at all? 

**Eric King ** 19:31
No. Yeah, they’re run by sex offenders. 

**Margaret ** 19:34
Oh, interesting. 

**Eric King ** 19:35
Those security federal prisons, that’s where they put the vast—the nonviolent sex offenders, the first time—first time nonviolent offenders, like I started low. I’m a first time offender with a college education. I’m not a threat to them. So even though I have this charge, they don’t care. I go to low. Um, and so that’s where, like, white collar people, they go to lows.

**Margaret ** 19:59

**Eric King ** 19:59
Um, big time rats in informants go to lows. 

**Margaret ** 20:04

**Eric King ** 20:05
So if you see a gang member there trying to push that line, or some racial dude trying to push that line with you—and push that line means trying to force his agenda on you—you can basically tell him, like, if you want to do that shit, go pop yourself up to a higher custody level. 

**Margaret ** 20:19

**Eric King ** 20:20
If that’s where you want to be, go be there, but I like walking outside and playing tennis. So leave me alone. 

**Margaret ** 20:26
Right. Okay but then—

**Eric King ** 20:27
Lower custody levels are sweet. 

**Margaret ** 20:29
Okay, so then this brings up the question, because it seems like one of the other things that one would hope to not do is have what happened to you happen, where you got escalated up.

**Eric King ** 20:38
Oh shit. It was crazy! I’ve never seen nothing like it since I’ve been in.

**Margaret ** 20:41
Was it your behavior? Or was it some decisions that they made around your politics or like what—what caused you to end up escalated?

**Eric King ** 20:47
So, and this is something that all activists and radicals, especially white ones, need to worry about. Because like, honestly, like the white guards don’t really bother the other races about their politics. They just assume you have bad politics in their eyes. 

**Margaret ** 21:00

**Eric King ** 21:00
But so for white guys, they see you as a race traitor. 

**Eric King ** 21:04
So when I got to Englewoo I was doing fine, but the cops there would harass me relentlessly. So I’d get called to SIS almost on a daily basis. SIS is like the FBI inside the prison system. Special Investigative Services. 

**Margaret ** 21:04

**Margaret ** 21:21

**Eric King ** 21:22
And so they had—if you’re an activist, or you have one of our charges, they have to read it approve your mail, they have to live listen to your phone calls, like, they make it a burden. 

**Margaret ** 21:31

**Eric King ** 21:31
And so these pigs would call me to their office every other day, like, what do you mean in this email, what do you mean in this email? And then I would have my books confiscated on a seemingly weekly basis, they would just coming to my cell, take all my literature, all my writing materials, keep them for a week until—until I filed to region, and then they’d give them back. Um, and so I got bumped up in custody level because one day I was in the—I had a beef with these guards at visiting because they kept harassing my kids. They kept trying to get my kids by the sex offenders. 

**Margaret ** 22:06
Oh, god. 

**Eric King ** 22:06
I was like, just stop it. Like, leave us alone. I don’t bother you. 

**Margaret ** 22:10

**Eric King ** 22:12
And so, well I got an argument was one of them in the bathroom, and you’re not gonna believe me when I tell you this, but this officer had the gall to tell me he was gonna have his little boys beat up my daughter’s in their school.

**Margaret ** 22:23

**Eric King ** 22:24
I reported it right then. I had one of the other guards go call the lieutenant. The lieutenant remove that guard from visiting. Well, the next day, I had gone to psych because I was so angry with being in prison and they told me, like, write down your anger in a poem. Write it down in writing form. 

**Margaret ** 22:26

**Eric King ** 22:26
So I did. And I mailed to my wife. Well, SIS takes that letter and accuses me of threatening staff. 

**Margaret ** 22:50
All right. Yep. 

**Eric King ** 22:52
So they chained me up and that day drive me to Florence medium and put me right in the SHU. That day.

**Margaret ** 22:57
Yeah. And SHU is solitary. That’s one I do know. 

**Eric King ** 23:00
Yeah. Yeah. Special Housing Unit is what they try to—try to call it in Orwellian speak. 

**Margaret ** 23:06

**Eric King ** 23:06
Nothing special about it.

**Margaret ** 23:08
Yeah, well, it’s—it’s certainly not normal to spend all your time alone. 

**Eric King ** 23:12
[Laughing] Fair enough. 

**Margaret ** 23:13
And not like in a fun hermit way where, like, you’re Thoreau and your mom brings you your lunch.

**Eric King ** 23:22
[Laughing] Then then I just kept progressively, like—I don’t know if you know what happened me at Florence medium to where my politics pissed off food because I—Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

**Margaret ** 23:31
No, no, I’m—you should tell the story. I’ve—I’ve read a version of it, but you should tell me and the audience what is safe for you to tell?

**Margaret ** 23:40

**Eric King ** 23:40
Yeah, I was—I was politically active as hell on Florence medium. Um, like I told you I ride with Crazy Pete, do my yoga class. 

**Eric King ** 23:42
Um, and I made—I had good friends there. There’s people that accepted me there for me. I had tons of fights with uh, with the bigots, but that is just what happens. But so the staff there hated me. I would write articles calling them out. I would, I would put it in calling campaigns about their, how they treated vegan meals, how they treated the Muslims, how they treated the gay—the gay folks. So I beefed them all the time. And then one day I—a lieutenant got beat up. And I sent my wife an email laughing about it. Yeah, cuz I know they have to read my email. So it’s not—

**Margaret ** 24:24
Yeah, it’s a bad idea. But I understand—

**Eric King ** 24:26
Yeah, yeah. If you go to prison, don’t do this. Don’t instigate them. They will give you what you want. 

**Eric King ** 24:31
They’ll show you how real they are. So they call me lieutenant’s office, dude throws his big hissy fit, starts calling me a terrorist and all sorts of crazy shit. I laugh in his face because it’s so uncomfortable. He pushes me—punches me, and I dog walk him. A dog walking means, it means you beat someone’s ass. 

**Margaret ** 24:31

**Eric King ** 24:52
Um, so after I got punched twice by this cat, I dog walk him. And then the guards proceed to, you know, beat me half to death, strangle me, choke me, and then put me in four point restraints for seven hours. And those are when you are handcuffed on a steel bed, stretched as far as your body can go, left arm at this corner, right arm at that corner, your legs spread doing the same thing. And they leave you there. I was mostly naked, sometimes in my underwear. Um, and sometimes, like, the captain would come in and bring in a plastic shield—like a riot shield—and strangle—he put it over my face and pushed on it. So they’d choke me. 

**Margaret ** 24:52
Oh my god. Uh huh. 

**Margaret ** 24:52

**Eric King ** 24:56
And other times he’d come in and just put his hand over my mouth. He’d tell me, like, we’re gonna get you fucked up. We’re gonna rape you. We’re gonna get you raped.

**Margaret ** 25:14

**Eric King ** 25:15
You wanna be a tough guy. 

**Margaret ** 25:26

**Eric King ** 25:28
So that’s what got me moved up to the USP system from Florence. That’s how I went from medium to high. And then when I—they prosecuted me for that. They said, I assaulted him. 

**Margaret ** 25:52

**Eric King ** 25:53
So I had—I took him to trial, I refused to take a plea deal. I took it to trial. And when I won, that’s when they moved me up to the supermax, the ADX were El Chapo is and the Unibomber, all those guys.

**Margaret ** 26:04
Punish—that—I mean, all of them were just punishment, but that one was like extra punishment. You got found innocent of assaulting a guard so they put you in supermax. Is that pretty much—?

**Eric King ** 26:13
So, I don’t want to minimize but, like, you know,you—we just talked about noise demos.

**Margaret ** 26:18

**Eric King ** 26:19
A second ago—your friend, like, you know what they are? 

**Margaret ** 26:21

**Eric King ** 26:22
Um, when I was pre trial, they held me in the Englewood SHU for two and a half years. And I was there—and this will happen other activists if you use your voice—they took away my mail, my phone, my email, my visits. I had no communication. I could only write my wife. And people I don’t know, I don’t know these people, but they didn’t always demo New Year’s for me one year, and they record it—like it was on live stream. So they had banners and bull horns and fireworks. 

**Margaret ** 26:49

**Eric King ** 26:50
And one of them I think busted up a cop car. 

**Margaret ** 26:53
All right. 

**Eric King ** 26:53
And so they accused me of organizing and Antifa riot. And so I gotta rioting shot. That’s one of the most serious shots you can get.

**Margaret ** 27:02
Yeah, even though what happened outside the jail and you had no—

**Eric King ** 27:04
I had nothing to do with it.

**Margaret ** 27:06

**Eric King ** 27:06
Um, so that noise demo was listed on my ADX referral—you have to have a referral and it has to—you have to have an interview. And under the thing it said, like, Mr. King planned and organized an Antifa protest and Antifa threats against staff. So that’s what happened, like, when Trump became president. [Laughing] Things got real ugly for antifascists. 

**Margaret ** 27:27
Yeah. Okay. Well—god, that brings up so many questions. So one of them is, like—

**Eric King ** 27:32
What about noise demo. 

**Margaret ** 27:35
Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of my question is, like, should people—there’s probably not a right answer, but it’s like, when do we have noise demos? Like, when is it useful to a prisoner and when does it interfere with the prisoner’s ability to get by in jail?

**Eric King ** 27:53
So before this happened, if you would have asked me, EK, do you want a noise demo and people to show up at a prison and go crazy for you? My answer would have been enthusiastically yes. Because, especially a jail too, like, jails are different. Always. They do not have the same—it’s not the same. 

**Margaret ** 28:09

**Eric King ** 28:10
So visibility can keep people alive. That’s something that supporters and you know. Like, you letting the jail know that, like, I see what you’re doing to my loved one, my friend, my comrade. Ee’re watching you. We’re recording you…

**Margaret ** 28:22

**Eric King ** 28:23
That helps. I’m not kidding. That can save someone’s life. 

**Eric King ** 28:26
In a federal prison, um, I wouldn’t recommend doing noise demos at federal prisons anymore, honestly. I don’t know—I don’t know the—I just think there’s better ways to support federal prisoners going—this is gonna sound, you know, stupid and anti-anarchist. But like, we can pressure them using administrators, using politicians, using these people at higher institutions, higher levels of government, because like Cory—Cory Bush, like they were calling the bureau for me. The congressperson from Ferguson? 

**Margaret ** 28:26

**Margaret ** 29:04

**Eric King ** 29:05
Different congresspeople from Denver, were calling from me saying, like, why are you guys doing this to this dude, what is going on?

**Margaret ** 29:13
So—go ahead, go ahead.

**Eric King ** 29:14
I was just gonna say, like, we can put pressure without putting boots on our own necks.

**Margaret ** 29:20
No, that makes sense to me. And I think that—I think that we do well when we stay tied into the larger movements that we’re part of, and when w,e like, when we show—when we ask for solidarity from groups that we’ve been showing solidarity with, you know, like, like, because like, you were in jail for solidarity action. And so then folks calling and being like, well what the hell are you doing to him? Make sense to me, you know?

**Eric King ** 29:47
Yeah. And it worked. Like, that’s the only thing that’s worked for me.

**Margaret ** 29:52
Yeah. Well did you spend the rest of your time in maximum at that point? 

**Eric King ** 29:55
So after doing the two and a half years in the SHU for pre trial, they, they sent me to some other prisons to do my ADX referral. Because it’s a big like legal referral process. And then when I finally got accepted and approved, they flew me right back to Colorado. So I went from Virginia, all the way back to Colorado, and then I spent the last year and five months at the supermax and ADX, yeah.

**Margaret ** 30:23

**Eric King ** 30:24
They did not like me there. 

**Margaret ** 30:26

**Eric King ** 30:27
And those—Nazis. They are Nazis. If you look on their Facebook pages, they are full throttle white power, you know, patriot—we’re patriots, they’re their cry baby, like, Nazis. 

**Margaret ** 30:42

**Eric King ** 30:43
It is stunning what they’re about. 

**Margaret ** 30:46
That doesn’t surprise me. 

**Eric King ** 30:47

**Margaret ** 30:50
All right. How do you—you spent two and a half years in solitary. 

**Eric King ** 30:55
I spent seven and a half years in solitary. 

**Margaret ** 30:58
Oh, Jesus. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 30:59
Two and a half just on this pretrial.

**Margaret ** 31:01

**Eric King ** 31:01
It was a part of a five and a half year stretch.

**Margaret ** 31:04
So obviously that is a very different thing to survive than general population. 

**Eric King ** 31:08
Yes. It’s hard. 

**Margaret ** 31:10
How do you do it? I obviously since, I spent one night alone in jail, I obviously understand it completely, because I did one night, but you did seven and a half years. 

**Eric King ** 31:20
You are the expert.

**Margaret ** 31:20
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But how’d you do it?

**Eric King ** 31:28
I can break it down. So I didn’t realize—when I first came to jail, like when I was in the county, like pretrial the first time, I didn’t nine and a half months straight because I fucked up a lieutenant. Because I thought it was, like, serving the revolution. I thought I was like being a good anarchist. And so, once again, SHU in county jail is different. Anyone can survive that. You get visits, you get phone calls, you get food you get sometimes even TV and tablet. But when you get to the feds, or probably the state too, it’s different. And when you do long stretches, um, for me, it came in waves were like, I’d be doing really good for like three months, I’d be working out every day, I have a routine. You have to have a routine, do your burpees, do your push ups, do your abs and calisthenics and yoga. Make it—set a time where I’m going to write letters from this time to this time. Like make it, like, if you make a routine, it becomes an important part of your day. And then when you finish doing it, you feel like you accomplished something. Now your day wasn’t worthless. 

**Margaret ** 32:15

**Eric King ** 32:24
Now you have purpose to your day. But also, like for me, like, I’m not gonna lie, I went through a lot of depression—like depressive periods. 

**Margaret ** 32:34

**Eric King ** 32:35
And when that happens, you really have to check in with yourself and you have to be vulnerable with the people that love you. If, like, my wife would write me sometimes I write or some bullshit letter and she’d have to call me out being like, dude, like, you’re hurting and you’re not talking about it and it’s not helping. 

**Margaret ** 32:52

**Eric King ** 32:52
Let us be there for you. 

**Margaret ** 32:54

**Eric King ** 32:55
And when I was finally able to do that, like Josh Davidson, the guy that I wrote Rattling the Cages with, I met him in the SHU right after this happened. And because I was able to keep myself vulnerable and open s a human, I was then able to develop a real relationship with him and then work on a project. We develop that whole book from the SHU because I—I was able to do it, and he cared enough to work with me. 

**Margaret ** 33:23
Okay, but wait, how are you communicating in the SHU? Is it like, like, are you like writing a little notes and sending them down the… yeah, how do you do it? 

**Eric King ** 33:32
Kinda. So when I—when I got my—if you’re just normally, like, let’s say you stab someone and your in the SHU, or you fuck someone up and you’re in the SHU, you still can write letters. You get a pad of paper, you get pens, you get stamps. You have to buy them, but you get it. When I was on my mail ban, I would have to pay the guys in the other cells. So I would shoot a kite to some bro three cells down—

**Margaret ** 33:53
Which is where you send a, like a paper football with a note on it basically, or like what’s a…? Okay.

**Eric King ** 33:58
Yeah, we would make—we would make a rope, like, tearing up sheets or the elastic band in your underwear and tying—tying a rope. And then I would shoot it, I would flick it or throw it against the wall so it tried to bounce in front of the cell. And then he would shoot out his, like throw it under his door cell, and pull it—like try to connect with mine and pull it in. And when he would do it—would be like, I’d be asked him, like, hey, I got this letter. I’ll give you five bucks if you write it and send it. So then that guy would have to rewrite the letter in his own handwriting and then send it out to Josh.

**Margaret ** 34:33
Oh Josh wasn’t in the SHU with you. I see. 

**Eric King ** 34:36
No Josh is—Josh is a free world supporter. 

**Margaret ** 34:39
I see. I thought—you were saying you met him in the SHU and I thought you meant—okay.

**Eric King ** 34:42
No, my bad. Josh is a member of the Certain Days Collective and he wrote me. 

**Margaret ** 34:46
Yeah, yeah. Cool. Okay.

**Eric King ** 34:47
Yeah, it’s my bad. I misunderstood the whole question. 

**Margaret ** 34:50
No, no, but I mean, this is still very useful. This is very useful. 

**Eric King ** 34:54
So for the most part of our friendship, like, we were able to write normally, but for like two and a half years I was paying creeps to mail letters for me. 

**Margaret ** 35:03
Yeah, no. Okay. All right, so many more questions. How—you know, you said that you spent a lot of time, like, standing up for LGBT folks in prison, right? 

**Eric King ** 35:15
It was the main priority in my life. 

**Margaret ** 35:17
And, so what did you—from being friends with folks, how did they get by? Or what was like for them? I assume it was different at different levels and things like that. But like, is it_

**Eric King ** 35:29
It’s sort of just really tricky.

**Margaret ** 35:30
Yeah. Did they get outed ahead of time? Like, you know.

**Eric King ** 35:34
Ah, you’re out, You’re out. When you’re low security for—for LGBT people—um, you are, you’re not a victim at low securities from other prisoners. 

**Margaret ** 35:48

**Eric King ** 35:48
You might be from your own car, because, like, they have their own little section. 

**Margaret ** 35:53

**Eric King ** 35:53
Um, and so—

**Margaret ** 35:54
Oh so there would be an LGBT car.

**Eric King ** 35:58
Basically, yeah, it might not be organized like that. But they have, they have a structure. And so they—I don’t wanna say they run those prisons, but like, they control the kitchen, and rec, and like, the different jobs. And so their problem is staff. Especially for trans prisoners. 

**Margaret ** 36:17

**Eric King ** 36:17
Because staff and medical treat these people so bad. 

**Margaret ** 36:21

**Eric King ** 36:21
Even at low securities where, like, there’s no need. There’s no threat, like, but so I feel like all of them—are the ones I met were getting black and pink and stuff like that, I still don’t feel as if they were supported properly. But maybe they were. Maybe I just interpreted that way. Um, but their main problem is staff. They’re not going to get beat up by other prisoners that are low security unless it’s a personal thing. It’s not going to be because of, because of who you are. 

**Margaret ** 36:48

**Eric King ** 36:49
Um, but like, I’ve seen people get denied medication, denied their shots, denied access to the doctor. Um, Marius is a rare example of someone who was able to, like, put enough pressure to force the change. 

**Margaret ** 37:02

**Eric King ** 37:03
But most people do not have like that sort of visibility, or that sort of courage to constantly fight. Like it wears on you, you know, I mean—

**Eric King ** 37:12
You know. So at a medium—at most mediums, that’s where you can have problems. Especially if it’s an active yard, like a gang, an active gang yard. Because like, let’s say you’re at a medium on the east Coast. Let’s say you’re in New York and you fuck up and you go to Otisville or some medium out there. You’re gonna have like a safe place just for queer folks, people that are gay or trans. And they’re gonna be—you’re gonna be isolated, basically, but you can still live in exist, you just have to exist within your own friends. The further West Coast you get, and the further south you get, the more bigoted it becomes. 

**Margaret ** 37:12

**Margaret ** 37:51
,Oh, interesting. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 37:52
And so like, in the yard at let’s say Florence medium, there was one table where gay people were allowed to sit and eat. That’s it. If that table is full, you don’t eat. You’re not going to sit with anyone else, because you will get hurt. If you—if you were able to get a cell—if someone else needed it, they were gonna fight you or just kick you out. That’s why I fought so hard for—yeah, like, let’s say you’re in my unit. I was in OA. And there’s a gay person in cell 305. It’s a two man cell. But then the bus—like a new transport bus comes in. And there’s a—there’s a decently respected duse from California, and he gets put in the unit. Well, he’s taken that cell. You’re not going to keep a good cell from this guy.

**Margaret ** 38:36
Okay, I see. And so then the gay folks will be the first kicked out of this given cell.

**Eric King ** 38:41
Yeah, and your options will be, check in—which is go to PC, go say you need help—fight me—which, which is a death sentence. Or go tell staff that you no longer have a house and you need to get moved to a different unit. 

**Margaret ** 38:55

**Eric King ** 38:57
Because prisoners still have a lot of power in prison. And at the bottom of that totem pole is, is gay people and trans people. 

**Margaret ** 39:03

**Eric King ** 39:04
And then at a USP, you’re not gay. You’re not trans. You will be murdered. 

**Margaret ** 39:08
Yeah, oka. 

**Eric King ** 39:09
If they say, if they—if you’re listening to this and you’re gay or trans and they send you to a penitentiary you’re checking in right away. You tell SIS that you cannot be—I don’t care if it’s considered snitching, I don’t care if it’s considered ratting, because if you go to that yard, you will get killed or sold.

**Margaret ** 39:28
Why would it be snitching or ratting to tell yourself as—are you saying go and be like, they’re gonna murder me or whatever?

**Eric King ** 39:35
No no, you don’t even—so in prison culture in the feds, it’s so goddamn stupid. Um, checking in—checking in is where you go tell staff you’re in danger and you need to help. If you do that, you are now considered a snitch. Even if you don’t say who’s gonna hurt you. And so even if staff says to you—because like let’s say you get off the bus and you have to interview before you go to the yard and stuff will ask you, do you identify as gay or trans, and if you say yes, even if they offer to put you in PC—which they won’t because they want to see you hurt—u,m, but even if they do and you accept, you are then now considered a snitch or a check in—

**Margaret ** 40:13
Just literally for being in PC even I haven’t even met anyone yet. 

**Eric King ** 40:16
Yeah. Exactly, yeah. 

**Margaret ** 40:17
Okay, so you like—so then you have to stay in PC forever while you’re there because you’re now known as a snitch?

**Eric King ** 40:24
Well, in the feds, they have PC yards. They’re called drop out yards. And so those, like—let’s say you’re a sex offender but you raped eight kids, you are a violent sex offender, you will go to a drop out yard for violent sex offenders. Like Tucson USP, Terre Haute USP, and Coleman 2 where Whitey Bulger was at. And so, if you’re a gay or trans person who has been at a USP yard and you couldn’t walk there obviously, they will either drop your custody after a certain period of time, usually a year of sitting in the SHU, they’ll drop your custody and send you to a safe medium, or they’ll send you to a drop out penitentiary. But you will sit in the SHU for a long time. And they will put people in there to try to scare you, they’ll put rats in there to snitch on you, they will put straight prisoners in there—because that’s straight prisoner, if he is put in a cell with a gay person, if he doesn’t attack that gay person, he’s now considered gay. 

**Margaret ** 41:29
All right.

**Eric King ** 41:29
And the other white guys will attack them.

**Margaret ** 41:31
All right. Yeah.

**Eric King ** 41:33
It is so disgusting and stupid. And staff sets that up. Like that’s intentional.

**Margaret ** 41:38
Yeah, I mean, that’s like one of the things that—you ever hear about the whole, like, how the whole alpha wolf thing is a lie. You’ve heard this?

**Eric King ** 41:48
I never heard that it was a lie but I’m very interested and I trust your experience on this.

**Margaret ** 41:51
I don’t have the—I don’t have the guy’s name in front of me. The guy who developed the concept of the alpha wolf, right? The alpha male of the wolf pack that dominates everyone else or whatever, right? He quickly learnedhe wrote a whole book about it, and then he was like, oh I was wrong. That’s only true of wolves in captivity. Wolves in the wild—

**Eric King ** 42:10

**Margaret ** 42:12
Yeah! So he has spent the—wolves in the wild don’t have—they have dominance games, but it’s almost entirely the oldest male in the family, right, and they have family units instead. But then, if you put them in captivity, you start getting aggressive dominance and all this violence. And wolf packs do fight each other over territory and stuff like that. It’s not like a utopian thing. But he spent the rest of his career running around being like, hey, I was wrong! Alpha wolf thing, not a thing. But instead, everyone’s taken it and run with this and you have all of these like fucking alpha male idiots: who are running around being like, I’m an alpha male. And it’s funny to me, because every time someone says I’m an alpha male, what I hear is: you’re in captivity. Right? 

**Eric King ** 42:57

**Margaret ** 42:58
Because—and I would argue—you can like make arguments, like, civilization being a form of captivity and—

**Eric King ** 43:02
Here we go, here we go. 

**Margaret ** 43:04
But, so prison to me, from the outside, seems like a clear encapsulation, where it doesn’t reveal human nature, it reveals what humans in captivity do. Which is entirely separate from what humans outside of captivity do, in the same way that it’s true with wolves. That’s my, like, general takeaway, and it—the thing that you’re describing about prison, really, all of these like wild dominance games and things like that seem like—

**Eric King ** 43:36
The whole thing is a wild dominance game. 

**Margaret ** 43:38
Yeah. How do you—okay, so it seems like in low you would have an easier time just kind of keeping your head down and staying and out—just fucking do what—there’s like the doing your own time or whatever—

**Eric King ** 43:54
In low custody you can fly under the radar and do whatever you want. 

**Margaret ** 43:57

**Eric King ** 43:58
I’m not—it’s still prison. You can still get in trouble, there’s still fights, there’s still restrictions. But if you’re going to be in prison, and you’re an activist, you won’t be in a camp, you can’t go to a camp. So if you’re going to be in prison as an activist, you want to be in a low. 

**Margaret ** 44:13
Camp is a step lower than like—

**Eric King ** 44:15
Camps don’t have like fences on them, like you can go out into the world and stuff like that. It’s basically like an aggressive halfway house.

**Margaret ** 44:21
I once—the first political prisoner I ever wrote was a Catholic Worker woman named Helen Woodson who had like—

**Eric King ** 44:28
I love Helen. 

**Margaret ** 44:29
Yeah, cool. 

**Eric King ** 44:30

**Margaret ** 44:31
Yeah. And she told me about how she was, like, in a—in a low. And she didn’t feel like it was right for her because she, nothing was keeping her from walking out. So she kept us like walking out of jail, you know, so that she could go like do—commit more crimes in the name of, like, Christ or whatever. 

**Eric King ** 44:48
[Laughing] Yeah.

**Margaret ** 44:49
I think she’s great. I’m not trying to talk shit.

**Eric King ** 44:51
Those Catholic Workers are hilareous. 

**Margaret ** 44:53
Yeah, no, and it’s really interesting. 

**Eric King ** 44:55
In a good way.

**Margaret ** 44:56
Okay, so actually, that ties into, like, how does—like how does being a political prisoner impact how you are treated by other prisoners? And then also, how would someone like a prisoner of conscience—like, like someone who was like super Catholic Worker, someone who is like, I’m a pacifist and I’m 60 or whatever. Like, like, how would—I assume everyone’s going to have a slightly different experience based on—okay, and to tie into it, I wonder whether older prisoners are given less shit. Okay, and then I wonder whether—I’ve heard from a lot of people that like their experience of going in and already being, like, a tattooed person who’s like lived on the street some or whatever, like, is like wildly impactful. But like, how different is it if someone comes in and is like—like, how does someone who’s just like, I’m a 23 year old activist who’s out of college, I’m from the middle class, I’m white, I’m not tattooed, etc, etc. Like, how do they handle it? And then also how do like prisoners of conscience handle it? Sorry, it’s a big question. 

**Eric King ** 46:00
So I’m going to talk about the, first like, let’s say you’re just some college kid and you—you get picked—let’s say, a Palestine protest. And you get picked up and you catch a year—you broke a cop’s window, you catch a year. You need to adapt. Like, most likely, people aren’t going to press—you’re not going to have like a violent experience with such a year—like with such a short amount of time. But you need to… How do I say this? I want to say this in a way that—

**Margaret ** 46:28
Toughen up?

**Eric King ** 46:30
Yeah, like kind of. You, you need to understand that—and this where I failed—you are no longer on the streets. Like, what you felt about how you should hold yourself out there doesn’t apply. Like, you need to, without jeopardizing your ethics as much as possible, adapt to the world around you. Like if I lived with apes in the wild and I was still trying to talk on my phone, like, it’s not how it works. Like you have to adapt to them. 

**Margaret ** 46:56

**Eric King ** 46:56
Um, and I’m not—oh, my god, I’m not calling prisoners apes. But like, you understand what I’m saying? 

**Margaret ** 47:02
No, we were using—we’re using wolves and shit like that. 

**Eric King ** 47:04
Right, right. 

**Margaret ** 47:05
No, we’re not—

**Eric King ** 47:05
Yeah. So like, that person needs to understand that, this is where you’re at. And you’re around people that are not going to share your socio economic background, most likely. There’s going to be lots of different races, lots of different perspectives. Most likely, people are not going to agree with you. And they don’t have to. Like, I don’t view the role of the political prisoner, especially a short timer, as a recruitment specialist. Like, if anything, use your time there and whatever perspective you have to learn. Like, get their stories. Figure out how you get other people. 

**Margaret ** 47:40

**Eric King ** 47:40
Um, and so for prisoners of conscience, like most—those, those people almost always go to lower custodies. Unless you’re like Dan Berrigan or whatever his name was in the 70s, or 80s. And those dudes got into USP Lee and one of his friends, I think, violently assaulted. Because that consciousness shit at the higher custody levels is dead. 

**Margaret ** 48:05
Yeah, okay. 

**Eric King ** 48:07
If you need to go put in violent work, if they tell you do it, you do it or you get destroyed. So there’s no—there’s no consciousness at that point. But if you’re at a low o medium and you’re there for throwing paint on a nuclear submarine or something, there’s going to be a Christian car, there’s going to be a Muslim car, there’s going to be people that will let you be who you are as long as you’re not this pedantic annoying piece of shit. 

**Margaret ** 48:35
Yeah yeah. 

**Eric King ** 48:36
Like, if you treat people with respect and like are kind and—kind and understanding of them while also sticking up yourself and not letting yourself be seen as weak, you can be fine. Like, you will do—you will do fine. And the cops will most likely leave you under the radar unless you’re trying to organize. Um, or unless you’re getting crazy support. So it’s all about, you know, don’t let yourself be a victim, and don’t let yourself be an asshole. And I failed—there was times I failed at both those things.

**Margaret ** 49:09
[Laughing] Yeah, I mean, there’s no perfect, you know.

**Eric King ** 49:13
I had a tough learning curve for a while. 

**Margaret ** 49:16

**Eric King ** 49:17
Because I was both an asshole, and then also like, we’re prisoners, we didn’t want to fight each other! 

**Margaret ** 49:22

**Eric King ** 49:22
Well, yes, we do. We hate you. You’re annoying.

**Margaret ** 49:25
I talked to one guy once who—and I—I had this conversation 10–15 years ago. I don’t remember where he was in jail or how long he did or what level it was—where there was, he managed to stop a race riot by—

**Eric King ** 49:43
[Laughing] Wow.

**Margaret ** 49:45
There was like a race riot that was like being planned. And he will be like stole enough—yeah, there was like, the gangs were like planning to fight each other. Right? And they were planning to have this big conflict. 

**Eric King ** 49:57
Okay okay okay.

**Margaret ** 49:57
And so he like stole—he and another guy stole enough stationery to, like, make a publication about how in here the only colors that matter are —and as the colors the uniforms, I don’t remember, it’s like orange and blue or something like that. And then he spent the rest of his time in solitary because—

**Eric King ** 50:13

**Margaret ** 50:17
But he considered it completely worth it, where he was like, well, I—I stopped a race, you know, I stopped a race riot and then went to solitary. 

**Eric King ** 50:26

**Margaret ** 50:26
But I have a feeling this is a random, exceptional, you know, like—or also just a lie. I don’t know. I, you know, I don’t—I didn’t know this guy incredibly well, you know.

**Eric King ** 50:36
Where’s this at?

**Margaret ** 50:39
My money is on Colorado, but I couldn’t promise.

**Eric King ** 50:44
Ah, if he’s trying to say he stopped the race riot in a prison, I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him.

**Margaret ** 50:50
Okay. Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 50:51
I really don’t because like, that’s—that can get you killed. And also, who’s gonna listen to you? No one gives a shit about you. 

**Margaret ** 50:58

**Eric King ** 51:00
I’m not disrespecting this person. 

**Eric King ** 51:02
No, and I’m not trying to advocate people do this. And it’s literally a conversation I had, like, drunk late at night once, you know. 

**Margaret ** 51:09
Don’t do it!

**Eric King ** 51:09
I’m telling people right now that if you’re ever in prison, and you see gangs organizing in a race riot, you mind your own fucking business. 

**Margaret ** 51:15

**Eric King ** 51:16
You don’t get involved. Their business is not your business. If they want to fight each other, go ahead. If they want to sell drugs to whoever, that’s their business. But we don’t—we don’t tell people—you don’t tell other prisoners how to live, good or bad. 

**Margaret ** 51:33
Yeah, yeah that makes sense. 

**Eric King ** 51:34
I saw—if I saw some people organizing race riot, I’m buying coffee, I’m buying stamps, I’m going to the store, man, and I’m getting ready for the lockdown. 

**Margaret ** 51:43

**Eric King ** 51:43
That’s what’s happening. I’m staying out of the way. 

**Margaret ** 51:45
Yeah. No, that’s that’s—

**Eric King ** 51:48
Put your life on the line for some other people? You’ve lost your mind. 

**Margaret ** 51:51
Yeah. Okay, so my last question—for now—

**Eric King ** 51:57

**Margaret ** 51:58
Is—it’s at least the last one I’ve written down. How did these dynamics, all the stuff we’re talking about and all the stuff you witnessed You know, you talk about how like you came in kind of, um, let’s say a starry eyed anarchist, right? And like—and it’s like, even on the outside, I’m like, man, I don’t do everything that my conscience tells me to do or I would be in prison, you know? [Laughing] And that’s actually almost a problem is that I think a lot of people don’t act on their conscience because we don’t want to go to prison. But how has this experience, this whole fucking long, crazy shit—and also just specifically the experience of watching all these power dynamics within prison—how has it influenced your anarchism, or your philosophical outlook, or your spiritual outlook, or like, how has it influenced you personally about how you perceive the world? 

**Eric King ** 52:51
Um, yes. It’s came—and it’s not a one—like, at one point in time in my life, like, in my prison bid, I would have had a different answer for you then like ight now. But so I, nine years and however many months later, and seven of those was in, you know, 24 hour lockdown. Um, my anarchism is tougher than ever. 

**Margaret ** 53:14
Yeah, believe it. 

**Eric King ** 53:15
Like, I feel like I’ve grown. I feel like I became more empathetic. I became more accountable to the people I love. I saw what, like—I saw a mutual aid really is. Um, when I needed help, people would help me. When I wanted to help others. I could put it, like that dude at Florence, the gay dude. We needed to buy him, basically. My wife got that money in about 22 minutes. 

**Margaret ** 53:41
Fuck yeah.

**Eric King ** 53:41
She put out a request, we need to help somebody. And so, like, my job right now—my job is Bread and Roses right now—this came out of mutual aid. They wanted to help me as a person first, and then it developed into something else. So prison gave me the—I gave myself the opportunity to grow while in prison. Because you can do the opposite. You can choose to do drugs, fight, rape, stab, get involved in politics, become racist, become homophobic, fall in line with this bullshit. So prison, I chose to use it as a chance to sharpen these knives of my mind and my heart,, to be a kinder person. So when I came out, I was ready to love, man—or, friend. I was ready to dive into sympathy and dive into help. 

**Margaret ** 54:31

**Margaret ** 54:32
Cuz I watched for the last ten years, people do the opposite and try to crush and hurt and take. And so I never want to take from someone again. I never want to hurt somebody again. But if I can help you, if I can do something to make your life just a little bit easier, that’s what I want because I just spent nine years watching people go out of their way to help me. Yeah.

**Eric King ** 54:53
I didn’t have shit and I’m not sure I deserve shit. But people said I did, and because of that my life got to be easier. My wife’s life got to be a little easier, all due to other people loving me. So that’s what—my anarchism right now is built around: how can I make someone’s life easier without—without jeopardizing my ethics? How can I not be someone else’s warden? 

**Margaret ** 55:19

**Eric King ** 55:20
I never want to be someone else’s guard or warden where I say: you can’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, you’re bad, you live wrong. That’s not my job. Unless you’re a fascist, then it is my job and fuck you. I that makes sense. 

**Margaret ** 55:35
Yeah, no, that makes total sense. Like, I—okay, wait, then the the actual last question then, eh?

**Eric King ** 55:43
I hope there’s 50 more questions.

**Margaret ** 55:45
Tell me about this book, Rattling the Cages. Just for anyone who’s listening, Eric has a book that he is co-editor of called Rattling the Cages that came out in December 2023 from AK Press and it’s—I haven’t read yet. It’s sitting on my shelf.  

**Eric King ** 55:50
You better read it! 

**Margaret ** 55:56
It’s stories from political prisoners. Is that?—I mean, like, tell—sell us on this book. 

**Eric King ** 56:05

**Margaret ** 56:06
I mean, I’m gonna read it anyway, but. You could tell me it’s the worst book ever written and I’m still gonna end up reading it.

**Margaret ** 56:09

**Eric King ** 56:09
Um, because I, tthat’s when I was going into my empathy stage. And so I brought this idea to Josh of like, what if we just interviewed ten elders. Like just a handful of our elders. That way we get their story, their history, before they die.

**Eric King ** 56:09
Um, so this book came about, it was me and Josh Davidson, Josh and I—Josh is a long term—I told you he started writing me when I was at Leavenworth about six years ago. I was being—I was there in holdover status in the SHU when this assault first happened. And so Josh started writing me. And we, we hit it off based off of, like, our love of political prisoner history, like Sundiata, and Kuwasi and those, like, the elders, basically. And when I was—a couple of years later, I’m going through just like a really hard time. And like, me and Josh were reading different books together about political prisoners in other countries. And like it—people—like Thomas Manning also died. And like, I thought, like, all his stories, the history this man led, died with him. We don’t get to know what his life was like inside prison. We know what his writings were like, and what his paintings were like, but what did he feel? What did he experience? What did he think? Like, what were his hopes? 

**Margaret ** 57:31

**Eric King ** 57:31
Because like, Thomas Manning—Tommy dying really affected me. It made me sad. It hurt me even though I never knew him. And so then Josh, being Josh, turn into, like, well, what about instead of ten we did kike fifty? What if we did every political prisoner still alive? I was like, well, that’s fuckin awesome. And then we—my wife decided, like, she helped us think it out, like, what if instead of it being a zine, it was a book. 

**Margaret ** 57:58
Yeah yeah yeah. 

**Eric King ** 57:59
And so then from there, like, it came down to, I wrote a bunch of questions out. Like, what would I want to know from Susan, or Linda, or Laura? What would I want to know if I got to talk to Maroon, you know what I mean? 

**Margaret ** 58:13

**Eric King ** 58:15
Or Marius, or whoever. And so I wrote these questions out, and then Josh, god bless him, like this dude cares. And so he got to work getting a hold of essentially everybody on earth that’s ever been, like, even stepped foot into a jail or prison. And he put in the time and work to interview them. And then he would mail me back edits, and we were talk about it, we’d write questions back and forth to each other. And then Josh hounded AK Press relentlessly until they finally agreed to work with us. And even then, like, I’m not taking any work away from Josh. He edited it, he did the bibliography, he did everything. And then I asked Sarah Falconer to write and ,intro, we got, ah—we got Angela Davis to write an intro—,I almost forgot her name, Jesus. But like, people, people cared because the questions were all about not—what’s the revolutionary spirit inside prison. It’s, how did your heart feel inside prison? What was your actual life like? Because that’s what I was saying, like, these Cop City dudes are gonna go into jail, um, and like this might—they might want to know, like, that it hurts. That it makes you sad. That it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not want to hurt somebody. You don’t have to do this, this tough, like, posturing basically. You can if that’s who you are. But like, you can be hurt too, and you can be vulnerable, and you can be—you can also be happy. You can make friends. You can get hobbies. You can fall in love with somebody. You can get a partner. 

**Margaret ** 59:57

**Eric King ** 59:58
As long as you’re not hurting someone, ah, and that includes spiritually and emotionally, there’s no wrong way to do prison. Just don’t become a racist bigot rat. So if you want to just sit in your cell and cry and write books, like, that’s fine. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:17
That’s mroe or less my plan, I gotta admit,

**Eric King ** 1:00:18
[Laughing] What you do right now in your daily life is just sit and write several books a day.

**Margaret ** 1:00:24
Yeah, I’ll just keep doing that. That’s my plan,

**Eric King ** 1:00:27
You would do just fine. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:29

**Eric King ** 1:00:30
But like, it’s okay just to be a normal human with feelings. And it’s also okay to organize your ass off, you can do both. And like, we wanted to show that, that like, the heart doesn’t die in prison. Neither does the revolutionary spirit. And there’s not just one—it’s not a cookie cutter sheet of how to be a prisoner. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:46

**Eric King ** 1:00:47
And if I had known that, I would have started very differently.

**Margaret ** 1:00:51
Okay, I know I keep promising last question. What would you have done differently? 

**Eric King ** 1:00:55
To start with or to end with?

**Margaret ** 1:00:57
To prepare? Like, let’s say you knew you were going to jail. 

**Eric King ** 1:01:00
Oh okay. Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 1:01:00
And you—and you’re not you now where you’ve been to jail for ten years. You’re like, you’re someone who is out on bail and thinks is very likely that you’re gonna go to federal prison, since that’s what you’ve experience with what. What would you do? 

**Eric King ** 1:01:15
First things first, rob a bank so you have money for commissary. [Laughing] Put that money away. But no, like, I would make sure I have funds going in. Find a way, fundraise for yourself, ask other people to fundraise for you because prison is expensive. This might not be the answer you expected, like the first thing to do. But the more you have going in, the less you have to be a burden to your community while you’re there. 

**Margaret ** 1:01:38

**Eric King ** 1:01:38
Um, and I—I regret that. People had to do like crazy fundraisers for me because I didn’t have shit. I’m a dirt ball kid from the streets of Kansas City, you know what I mean? Yeah, so that’s what I would do. I would also—and this might sound stupid, too. I would start building relationships. I will let the people that I love around me know, this is what I need. But also, what do you need? Like, what can I do to ensure that we maintain this friendship or this love and this connection? Because people throw throw away relationships, they get in prison and think that the world stops, that their loved ones lives stop. But like, just because we’re inside doesn’t mean that, like, we’re not selling an asset to the people we love. We still need to be there for them.

**Margaret ** 1:02:21
Yeah. Okay. Uh huh. 

**Eric King ** 1:02:22
That’s important to me. And I wish I’d known that because I went through some selfish periods where, like, my world was the only world that mattered. Meanwhile, people have bills and depression and domestic abuse and shit like that. It’s not all about these knives I’m carving in my cell all day. 

**Margaret ** 1:02:38

**Eric King ** 1:02:40
I would also, I mean, real talk, I would probably learnt how to make some weapons.

**Margaret ** 1:02:44
Yeah, no, I mean—

**Eric King ** 1:02:45
I’m not joking.

**Margaret ** 1:02:46
Yeah, like, I mean, I remember having this conversation with someone years ago, where some people were considering whether or not jail was in their future or whatever. And I remember being like, I think if I was about to go jail, I would just like really focus on learning how to fight. And my friend was like, no, I would only focus on meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. For anyone who’s not, who can’t see: Eric King has presented a middle finger to the ladder suggestion.

**Eric King ** 1:03:17
Take that sits somewhere else, man. You’re not going to retreat. 

**Margaret ** 1:03:21

**Eric King ** 1:03:22
And that’s—like, I’m joking, of course. But—

**Margaret ** 1:03:24
I mean, it’s to not lose your mind. I think it’s the purpose there.

**Eric King ** 1:03:26
Yeah. So real talk, I’d learn how to make like plexiglass knives, or learn how to carve steel using fingernail clippers or something. Because you may be in that opportunity where you need that and you don’t want to be without it. You don’t want to have to ask someone for that resource. 

**Margaret ** 1:03:42

**Eric King ** 1:03:43
Ah, and so that sucks. We’re not above that, though. This is something where I failed. I thought I was above that. I’m aboveI don’t need to participate in that stuff. And now I’m getting my face kicked off. I’m like, well, maybe I wish I’d known how to do that. So learn how to fight, for real. That’s not stupid. Take MMA classes—not karate. But like, learn how to kick, punch, run. Ah, because like the whole—the whole point in prison, the only way you win in prison is if you leave prison. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:12

**Eric King ** 1:04:12
If you die in prison, if these motherfuckers kill you, you lose. Like, they got you and I hate that. And so do not let yourself be a victim. That’s something I would tell myself, I would tell you, I would tell anyone: never let yourself be a victim. Don’t be above, don’t pull this whole I’m a pacifist shit when someone’s coming at you with a lock in a sock. Because that lock doesn’t care that you—that you study Dan Berrigan or whoever. They don’t care that you’re—that you love animals. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:42
Berrigan? Dan Berrigan? 

**Eric King ** 1:04:43
,Yeah, thank you. Yeah, great guy, RIP. But so, we have to be real. Like if you try to meditate with a lion, it’s going to eat you. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:54

**Eric King ** 1:04:54
So fight the lion, and then use your skills that you were practicing at home of calming yourself, centering yourself, meditating, you can do that as long as you’re safe. 

**Margaret ** 1:05:04

**Eric King ** 1:05:05
You’re safe? Do that. And I will teach myself that—like, yoga and meditation are great. And please use them when you’re safe in your cell, or when you’re a rec and you don’t have enemies. But know how to protect yourself. The old timers will tell you that too. That’s the first thing they tell you. You know how to fight? You know how to make a knife? You have to.

**Margaret ** 1:05:26
That make sense. 

**Eric King ** 1:05:27
Be safe. Be safe always. 

**Margaret ** 1:05:29

**Eric King ** 1:05:31
If I were a gay prisoner—real quick. If I was a gay person or a trans prisoner, I’m  fucking somebody up. I’m going in there. Learn how to fight. I don’t care—I don’t care how opposed to it or how—if you think you’re weak, if you—like physically weak, not mentally. But you’ve never worked out before? Work out. Get yourself in shape. And the second someone calls you a name, fuck them. Get them. Hit them. Hit them hard. The cops will break it up in 20 seconds, I guarantee it. Even if you lose, set that tone right away: I will not be disrespected for who I am. 

**Margaret ** 1:06:05

**Eric King ** 1:06:06
It’s dang—if you’re going too low, it doesn’t matter. But anywhere else, you have to set that tone, and I wish I had done that earlier too. Because people started thinking I was this soft anarchist kid and bullying problems where I had to fight more to defend myself later. PNrotect now to be safe later. Sorry for rambling.

**Margaret ** 1:06:21
No no, it makes sense. And we’re just kind of out of time, but I’m gonna probably have you on more to talk more about this stuff because I think that—I don’t know, there’s so much more to talk about.

**Eric King ** 1:06:33
I could’ve talked for another like seven hours. 

**Margaret ** 1:06:35

**Eric King ** 1:06:36
[Laughing] For real.

**Margaret ** 1:06:38
Well, okay, so if folks want to check out your work, they can check out Rattling the Cages from AK Press. Is there anyone else—any other, like, group or anything you want to direct people towards? 

**Eric King ** 1:06:48
So I—we were posting a lot of good stuff on Instagram as well and Twitter from @supportericking. Um, I always tagged my bosses Z and Erica, these people gave me a life your Bread and Roses. They gave me a career and that started with mutual aid and started with friendship. Um, Sandra Freeman, she’s my civil lawyer, that started from mutual aid and friendship. And now we’re fighting the system together. And then always represent Fire Ant, anarchist prisoners and anarchist journal out of Maine and Bloomington. That’s by anarchist for anarchist. Just really great people involved in that. And thank you so much. This is a real blessing, real treat. 

**Margaret ** 1:07:25
Yeah, thank you.

**Eric King ** 1:07:26
And I love my wife. I love my wife Rochelle.

**Margaret ** 1:07:28
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’ll be another thing. We’ll just do a whole thing on maintaining relationships in jail at some point.

**Eric King ** 1:07:33
It is so hard, but so worth it.

**Margaret ** 1:07:35
I—I believe it. Thank you so all much for listening. If you enjoyed this content, avoid going to jail, but help—but don’t do it at the expense of your ethics. Don’t avoid it so hard that you never do anything. And help people who are in jail, and, I don’t know, do stuff. You can also support this podcast by supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness which is the publisher of this podcast. We’re on Patreon at Don’t feel that financial support is the only way to support us. But we do pay our audio engineer and our transcriber, because that’s the most thankless work involved in podcasting. And at some point, we might pay the podcasters and our guests and that’ll be cool thing too. We send out ziens every single month to our backers. And in particular, I want to thank Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’Dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Mic Aiah, And, of course, we would never forget Hoss the dog, our longest standing Patron backer. I think. And I hope everyone is as well as you can with everything that’s happening. And we will talk to you soon.

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S1E104 – This Year in the Apocalypse 2023

Episode Summary

This month on Live Like the World is Dying, we have This Year in the Apocalypse where Margaret and Inmn go over some broad strokes of 2023, from the genocide in Palestine, to anti-trans legislation, to the state of the environment.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery. Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Live Like the World is Dying: This Year in the Apocalypse: 2023

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for it feels like the end times. I’m one of your hosts, Margaret Killjoy, and the other host is

**Inmn ** 00:22
Inmn Neruin. And we’re here to talk to you about the dumpster fire that was 2023.

**Margaret ** 00:29
Oh, come on, it is generalized far beyond dumpster fire at this point. Dumpster fire is like a nice contained thing. And you can push it in front of a line of cops. And so this is our annual year in review, as compared to our usual month in review, this one is for an entire year. It is for the year 2023. And it is coming to you in 2024, which we think makes sense. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. And the reason that you haven’t heard jingles for us on other shows on the network isn’t because they don’t like us, but because we haven’t recorded a jingle in a really long time. And that’s on us. And we’re terribly sorry. But here’s a jingle for a different show.

**Margaret ** 01:37
And we’re back. Okay, so we have a lot to cover today, because we’re covering an entire year. We’re not going to get into every single story. If we missed your favorite story, it’s because we don’t care about it. And you should yell at us on Instagram. [said jokingly like she doesn’t mean it] However, a lot of really fucking crazy shit happened in the past year. And I think that 2023 will stand as a…see change for society at large accepting that things are not going back to the way they were. In a lot of ways I think 2023 will stand as important of a year in history as 2020. 2020 obviously brought us COVID. But 2023 brought us: one, an ongoing genocide–I mean, unfortunately those happen quite often–but there’s one happening in Palestine right now as we record this that has been…its effects are being felt all throughout the world as people try to reckon with their own governments’ complicity in the ongoing genocide. Also, 2023 just destroyed every climate record. And really marked a time when we can no longer pretend like climate change not just isn’t coming but isn’t here, because climate change is here. And when I first started the show, it was like "Haha, what if everything went as bad as I would say." And actually things are going–well, not worse than I expected–they’re going about as I expected but way worse than scientists expected. We’ll talk about that later. First, we want to start with some impromptu–we didn’t plan enough–in memoriam. In 2023, we lost a lot of really amazing people and we lost more people, of course, then we’ll be able to give time for today but we’re going to talk about four anarchists who died this year whose memories will live on. And that’s one of the beautiful things about being involved in a movement is that the work that you do is felt and reverberates throughout history. I don’t have a great summation of how important all of this is because it’s heavy. First, on January, 18th 2023 Tortuguita was killed by the Atlanta Police Department. Tortuguita was a Venezuelan eco-anarchist who was part of the Stop Cop City movement in Atlanta, which I am kind of guessing everyone who’s listening to this is at least somewhat aware of–we’ll talk a little bit more about it later, but not really focus too much on it–and, if so, you probably remember when Tortuguita died, but we just want to remember them again. Next, August died.

**Inmn ** 05:07
Yeah. August Golden was a musician, activist, and just fucking rad person who was living in Minneapolis and on August 14th was shot at a punk show in Minneapolis. And, you know, to the best of stories that I’ve heard, at least, was possibly specifically targeted for having told some creepy fucking dudes to leave the show. And….

**Margaret ** 05:46
That’s what I’ve heard too.

**Inmn ** 05:51
And, yeah. I knew August a little bit and–not very well and not in years–but every…. There’s just been this really overwhelming outpour of like, like, love and celebration of that person’s life since August. And yeah, we’ll miss you. And then in December, we lost a pretty prolific anarchist writer.

**Margaret ** 06:24
That’s right. On December 6th, 2023, Alfredo Bananno died. He was 86 years old. It’s still sad when people die in their 80s but it’s…. Alfredo Bananno got to do his fucking life. And he’s primarily remembered as the [emphasis on "the"] insurrectionary anarchist writer. There are many, many other insurrectionary anarchist writers but in particular, his work "Armed Joy"–and a lot of other works, honestly–have been incredibly influential on anarchism in general. And I really recommend that people, even if you don’t identify with insurrectionary anarchism–I don’t personally identify as an insurrectionary anarchist, but I love the insurrectionary anarchists tendency as I love all of our tendencies. All of the ones that are actual tendencies, unlike those fake ass ones. I…I really highly recommend reading Bananno’s work, even if it’s just to challenge your own conceptions, if you’re coming from a much more organizationalist perspective. And yeah, he was a Italian anarchist who just fucking did it all and just kept going for a long time. He’s been arrested a bunch of times. He spent a year and a half in jail just for publishing "Armed Joy" and if you haven’t read it, you should read an anarchist piece–it’s short–that got someone to spend a year and a half in jail literally just for writing it. So that is him. Yeah. And then finally, we lost Klee.

**Inmn ** 08:06
Yeah, on December 31, or 30th–I’ve heard different things–Klee Benally joined his ancestors. Klee was a writer and land defender, musician, podcast host, and just overall incredible and amazing person. Klee was about to be doing some book talks for his book, "No Spiritual Surrender," which is out from Detritus [pronounced with a short I sound] Books, I think.

**Margaret ** 08:45
[Marget corrects with a long I sound]. Detritus.

**Inmn ** 08:47
And this is like how I can’t say the word foilage [realizes they said it wrong, corrects] foliage. I can’t say foliage.

**Margaret ** 08:56
I’ve never tried. It’s never come up in my life

**Inmn ** 09:03
Sorry, Gourd. Klee was just like…I met Klee a few times. Especially when I was younger, in Arizona and like I have probably never felt like so challenged by someone and someone’s writings in really good and important ways. And like I don’t know. Yeah, that’s what I have to say. This one hit me particularly hard because this is someone who’s part of communities in Arizona that I’m peripheral to and like….

**Margaret ** 09:45
Yeah. I was really caught off guard when he died. He was 48. He was Diné and he did more visible work than anyone I can immediately point to about, not just indigenous anarchism but challenging European anarchism and anarchists who come from the European anarchist background and/or European backgrounds. And I will shout out that Klee, in one sentence, changed my perspective on everything by him challenging me. I was traveling and I was giving a talk, about 10 years ago, about my book "A Country of Ghosts" at Taala Hooghan, the indigenous anarchist infoshop in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Klee listened to my talk and then during the question and answer was like, "You know that this whole continent was destroyed by people who look like you who had utopian ideas, right?" And I don’t remember the exact way that he phrased it, but it wasn’t polite. No, it was polite, but it wasn’t…. It wasn’t afraid to be challenging. And it wasn’t like handhold-ey it right? It was direct. But it wasn’t to like "Fuck you," either. It was, by my read–and maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong–by my read, it was an invitation to be better. And I really appreciated it. And I’ve read some of Klee’s writing and I actually don’t know what of Klee’s writing was and wasn’t anonymous, so I don’t know which pieces to talk about as being particularly influential. But we…. I don’t know.

**Inmn ** 11:39
We hope that everyone just takes a moment to remember, as the year passes, these four wonderful people and the uncountable others, that we’ve lost this past year.

**Margaret ** 11:55
And I will say, I mean, and it’s…. There are new people, you know, and we stand on the shoulders–I don’t have anything inspirational to say. It just…it influences me a lot. It affects me a lot. But I think that there’s…. This is the way the world works. Okay, so Stop Cop City, which Tortuguita died for, continues. And we’re not going to talk too much about that. There’s plenty of…. They actually do really good PR, and you can find out a lot more about Stop Cop City. But I will just say that if you’re only paying attention really peripherally, it’s worth noting that the protesters are getting Rico charges and domestic terrorism charges for fucking nothing. And no matter your political allegiance, it is worth paying attention to the criminalization of this kind of dissent. Basically, as everything gets crazier, the authoritarian state is trying to double down on cops and authoritarianism and we shouldn’t let them. And I think that in terms of a diversity of tactics, I think Stop Cop City has a lot to teach us, but we also need to stand with them and protect them. Yeah. And then we’re gonna talk about the elections.

**Inmn ** 13:21
Oh God, the…. Wait, I have a funny thing about the elections. Do you want it now or later?

**Margaret ** 13:27
Let’s hear it. What do you got?

**Inmn ** 13:29
Okay, so in some…there have been these news articles popping up in my algorithm about Ron DeSantis, you know, who’s running for president probably, or is?

**Margaret ** 13:43
Yeah, he’s got nothing.

**Inmn ** 13:45
Yeah, who’s actively trying to lie about his height? [Margaret laughs] Did you hear about this? [Marget negates] Yes, he claims to….

**Margaret ** 14:00
Is he short?

**Inmn ** 14:00
I don’t know. Well, I’m short. Whatever. He’s not as tall as he says he is. Yeah, he claims to be 5’11". And there’s all these people, like shoe makers and stuff, who have been looking at his shoes and being like, "His shoes are weird. I think he’s wearing four inch heels." And that it’s like built into this weird boot that looks like a normal shoe.

**Margaret ** 14:24
That rules.

**Inmn ** 14:27
Which would make him 5′ 7"or something, which would make him one of the shortest presidents, if he were elected president.

**Margaret ** 14:36
There’s this awful thing that just studies…when in doubt, the taller man wins an election in this country and has since…. There’s like, there’s been occasional exceptions to this. I fell down a rabbit hole about this a long time ago. So we’re not going to be like, "Ah, I think it’s going to be this guy with this sub president." Vice President. That’s…you can get that news anywhere. I wanted to talk about the elections, because I want to talk about the fact that we’re in an election year and how it relates to crisis. And if you recall, 2020 was a year of crisis around the election, especially very early in 2021. But, you know, it is entirely possible that we will see a repeat of 2020, in which nothing in the end really happens, right? It’s entirely possible that nothing in particular will happen. And it is entirely possible–I give it a very low percent chance, I give it a 5% chance–that this will cause a civil war in the United States. However, I would like to say that a 5% chance is a really high chance when you’re talking about something like civil war, right? If I were to get in my car right now and drive to the store and I had a 5% chance of dying, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t get in my car. I’d be like, "You know what, I don’t need vegetables today. I can wait till the weather’s better," right? There’s a lot of snow and ice where I’m at right now. And also, if you play Dungeons and Dragons, you know what a 5% chance is like. That a 1 or a 20 on the 20-sided die. So I would just say, in the year of our Lord, 2024, be aware, be careful. I used to think this election was, I was like, "Oh, Trump versus Biden again, we know how that goes. We’ve seen it before, right?" But Biden has completely torpedoed all of his base, his support from the base by supporting genocide in Palestine. And Trump probably will go to prison if he doesn’t win the election. So he’s got a lot to lose. And so it could get complicated. And I would just say, take it into account in your planning, take it into account in your decisions about where you want to be this Fall geographically. I’m not going to tell you whether or not to fucking vote. That’s between you and your maker. And I don’t know. That’s what I gotta say about the election. It could be sketchy.

**Inmn ** 17:13
Yeah. And yeah, in thinking about how you prepare for such an event, like, I don’t know…. I remember during the last election, when–and you know, there was so much other shit going on in the world–but like, more so than the horrors that Trump introduced into the government or into legislation or any of that, remember that this person has a really fanatical base, that killed a lot of people in the last eight years, or like, whatever, you know?

**Margaret ** 17:49
And we shouldn’t be afraid of that. Right? Or, I mean, we shouldn’t make our decisions based on that fear. And like, it is worth remembering that all of the culture war shit is actually a losing proposition for the far-right. And it has not won them a wide electoral base. And more importantly than that, it hasn’t won them a wide…. So, a random, average person–I keep saying this and eventually people get mad at me at some point, I’m sure–the average random center-right person you’re going to meet in a rural area isn’t like, waiting to kill all the gay people. You know? And we shouldn’t…we shouldn’t assume…well we should…I don’t know, whatever. What are all the dumb cliches everyone uses? Every time someone says, "Keep your head on a swivel." I like hate it. It’s like the word "Huzzah.” I hate the word huzzah. I shouldn’t. There’s no reason to. I’m part of cultures that say, "Huzzah," because I’m a nerd. And I am part of leftist gun culture, whether I like really want to admit that or not. And so I’m around people who say "Stay frosty," and, "Keep your head on a swivel," unironically. But I’d rather you just said "Huzzah. " I hate all of it.

**Inmn ** 19:12
Well, you know, is trying to fuck with trans people, Margaret?

**Margaret ** 19:18
Who is this a good segue?

**Inmn ** 19:20
This is a good segue out. I mean, it’s not a "good" segue. It’s just…

**Margaret ** 19:25
It’s good as a segue, not a segue of goodness.

**Inmn ** 19:30
So, 2023 was a pretty horrifying year for anti-trans and anti-queer legislation. We saw things like the country of Russia can just completely outline like gender-affirming care of any kind to adults or children or youth, except in the case of like "genetic anomalies," which is code for like fucking with intersex people. And then, you know, in other places we saw like England had a lot of anti-trans legislation around, specifically around the youth and gender affirming care for the youth. In the United States, there were 75 anti-queer/trans laws across 23 states stemming from 500 bills that were proposed in the year of 2023.

**Margaret ** 20:36
That does mean more than four out of five got shot down.

**Inmn ** 20:41
Yeah, it’s something like 15%. And I can’t do math. Yeah, but yeah, so you know, in the face of, it’s a slim amount of them were passed, like, and by slim, I mean…. But yeah, there’s so much energy and attention going into this that it’s horrifying that there were 500 bills proposed. 21 of those are on transition-related care for minors. Some of those are outright bans. And some of them have a lot of caveats and addendums. And there’s also a lot of effort going into…. I think the Right has realized that outright bans are difficult to get support for in some places. And so there have been a lot of like, instead of having outright bans, making it structurally impossible or improbable that care could be provided, even if it was technically legal.

**Margaret ** 21:48
Okay, like what they did to abortion before they overturned Roe v. Wade?

**Inmn ** 21:52
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so there’s like….

**Margaret ** 21:55
Your gender-affirming care facility can only have hallways that are 26 inches wide, whereas every other hallway for every non-gender-affirming care place can only have 27 inch wide hallways. That kind of shit. That’s what they fucking did with abortion clinics anyway, sorry.

**Inmn ** 22:09
Oh, no, yeah, no, that’s exactly. It’s stuff like that. Like in Missouri, for example, there was a…there was this new ban on gender-affirming care for minors. But people who were already receiving transitional care, like hormones and stuff, were kind of grandfathered in to continue to receive care. But they also passed a legislation that made it so that current or former patients who are minors were allowed to sue their providers for 36 years or something. Which means that a lot of parents are going to be suing their providers either because their parents are like horrifying bigots or because they’re trying to get money out of their providers. And so, like, pretty universally, hospitals and stuff that we’re providing gender-affirming care for minors who have been grandfathered into continue to receive care, we’re like, "We can’t continue to provide care because of the liability." And so it’s like there’s not an outright ban, but they’ve made it just impossible for people to actually receive care.

**Margaret ** 23:31
That’s cool. [Said very sarcastically]

**Inmn ** 23:33
Yeah, and you know, there were a bunch of similar bills like that in Texas for abortion access and abortion care. 10 of the laws limit classroom instruction, eight of the laws restrict restroom usage. And the rest are related to drag performances, which we all remember was a huge topic, continues to be a huge topic and was like a huge hot-button issue for the far-right over this past year. This is a…this is a newer one. I saw this in the headlines the past couple of days, but Ted Cruz has introduced a new bill to limit funding to workplaces for the purpose of using money to somehow enforce using pronouns or preferred names. Which is ironic because Ted Cruz’s legal name, it’s not Ted Cruz, it’s Raphael so like he has crafted legislation that could be used to affect him, but obviously won’t be used to affect him. Yeah, that’s a lot of really bad things for queer and trans people like us this past year.

**Margaret ** 24:57
Okay, here’s a weird one–everyone’s gonna get mad at me for this one too–you know, a large institution that is traditionally not on the side of LGBT folks that is standing up about both Palestine and LGBTQ folks this year?

**Inmn ** 25:13
Who? [said sheepishly]

**Margaret ** 25:15
The Vatican.

**Inmn ** 25:18
Wait, really? That is news to me, actually.

**Margaret ** 25:20
Yeah, no. on both counts. So the Palestine thing is a little bit more obvious and direct. And you’ll see, you know, and we’ll talk about this a little bit when we talk about Palestine, but it shouldn’t be the main issue. But, you know, I don’t know, I was talking to someone the other day where they were someone who doesn’t like the Catholic Church, but who was like, it is the largest institution in the world that is speaking up about Palestine because no fucking government is besides like…. Well, some governments are right, and some governments are doing a lot.

**Inmn ** 25:53
Sorry, I just want to counter that. There are some governments that are doing a lot and it’s really fucking cool.

**Margaret ** 25:58
Yeah. No, that’s what we’re gonna talk about in a bit. But, yeah, the Pope is outspoken about the Palestine issue and not being in favor of what’s happening there. But also, there’s this thing–this is a complete minor thing that I just find really interesting–all of these right-wing folks who come from evangelical backgrounds, who are like Christian nationalists, were like, "Well, we like authority, fascisty things, right? What kind of looks like that and is super Christian? The Catholic Church. So we’re all going to join. We’re all going to become trad Catholic. We’re all going to stop being evangelical Protestants and start becoming Catholics," right? And then they realize that the Catholic Church is not–the Catholic Church has fucking problems–it’s not a racist organization on the level that they want it to be, right? Like it is a fundamentally racially diverse group. And so they’re all freaking out. And then also, specifically, the Pope dismissed a conservative U.S. Bishop named Strickland because basically, he was like–I’m not fucking getting into the politics of that shit too much right now–but basically, the church is trying to be like, "Hey, we don’t actually hate gay people, even though we kind of aren’t like really cool with gay sex. But that’s only because we’re kind of not cool with any sex because like, we’re weird Catholics." And then all of these right-wingers are like, "What? What do you mean? I thought this was about killing everyone," and so then they’re all getting kicked out of the Catholic Church. And then they’re all freaking out about it. It is the funniest thing for me and for probably no one who’s listening is like watching…. You can like go on to Twitter and see all these Trad Caths be like, "I’m starting to think that this is a bad organization for us to have joined." Anyway, there’s been all this shit where a lot of religious communities are stepping up their defense of LGBT folks. And I just want to…. Like, the culture war, even in the like terms of large, weird institutions, is a complicated one. That’s what I got. It’s just fun to read about.

**Inmn ** 28:10
Yeah. And it’s like…as much as bad, you know, horrifying legislation that’s being passed, there’s also…there’s a ton of resistance. And there’s a ton of people who are not trying to see the United States specifically turn into a more polarized bigoted hell-world for queer and trans people, despite the fact that the UN declared a state of emergency in the United States for queer and trans people this past year.

**Margaret ** 28:12
Make sense. Christian nationalism as a fucking evil thing that is trying to take over the United States, which is funny, because the United States is already an evil country. Like, we are the–this is my attempt to transition to Palestine–we are the, the Israel to Palestine, like it’s just…it just already happened. And continues to happen. But you know, it’s like, we got like, 400 years on Israel in terms of being a settler-colonial state doing a bunch of genocide.

**Inmn ** 29:25
Yeah, and I don’t know. I’ll–actually I’m gonna segue into this a little bit later. But yeah, so Israel has been carrying out a genocide in Palestine since October 7th. I mean, they’ve been carrying out a genocide in Palestine for like over 75 years, but the most recent incarnation of that has been since October 7. I’m not going to go over the broad strokes of it because if you have not heard about this and have not seen a ton of news about it since October then you live in a very different world than the rest of us. Over 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th. Two thirds of those are women and children. The current statistic is that a child dies every 10 minutes in Gaza, which is an utterly horrifying statistic. About 4% of the population of the Gaza Strip, which is more than 90,000 people, are now dead, wounded, or missing. This is being considered an extreme mass destabilizing, or sorry, mass disabling and mass destabilizing event. And, you know, I’m not critiquing people who put out infographics at all, like the infographics on Instagram and social media are incredibly informative and there is a lot of focus on the the death tolls and less focus on the amount of people who are…who are now becoming or have become disabled since the start of this most recent wave of genocide. About 70% of civilian infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed. This includes 318 schools, 1,612, industrial facilities, 169 health facilities, including 23 hospitals, 57 clinics, 89 ambulances, 201 mosques, 3 churches, and 169 press offices. The death toll, which is as of a few days ago, I think, is about 28,000. And that includes 12,000 children, 6,100 women, 241 health care workers, and 105 journalists.

**Margaret ** 32:15
Which is like more journalists than were killed in like World War II total or something like that. Like some it was just like, astounding, weird… It’s not an accident.

**Inmn ** 32:28
Yeah. And, you know, this is something that people have been talking about for, you know, a very, very long time at this point is that Israel very specifically targets journalists in their airstrikes. And this is like…. As far as Israel has reported, I think there have been like, I think, like less than 500 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the conflict since October 7th. And there’s a lot of…there’s a lot of criticism about these, or there’s a lot of talk, about these statistics and these numbers from a lot of sides, the right-wing is saying that these numbers are completely inflated and then, you know, people on–I don’t want to say the Left–people who are thinking reasonably about the world see it as being vastly underreported because it is…because of how difficult it is to actually ascertain the amount of damage that’s been done. Yeah. So that’s really, really horrible. And as some things that have happened, kind of like in the United States at least, there was also this…. I think it’s like part of this kind of polarizing culture war that we’ve all been experiencing for a while at this point, but the US Congress had a bill go into effect that kind of effectively defines anti…redefines anti-semitism as being anything that criticizes the State of Israel. Which is fucking crazy. And it was opposed by two people. Do you want to guess who those two people were? Or like, what their backgrounds were?

**Margaret ** 34:29
Palestinian…wait, we only have one Palestinian senator, right?

**Inmn ** 34:33
Yeah, it was a Palestinian. Yeah and a libertarian from Kentucky who thought that it was a little…like that the bill too broadly defined anti-semitism and I feel like probably because he was worried about his own anti-semitism coming into conflict, you know?

**Margaret ** 34:57
Maybe but libertarian–I don’t know this guy. Yeah, libertarians historically…Libertarians recently have gotten worse. But libertarians historically are like–I mean, they’re right-wing–but they sit outside of traditional right-left in a lot of ways, you know?

**Inmn ** 35:13
Yeah, no, that’s true. That’s true. I don’t know this person’s inclinations.

**Margaret ** 35:17
I don’t know this one guy.

**Inmn ** 35:18
Yeah, I hope they’re cool but probably are not. So in terms of, you know, out cry there’s a lot of it. In the US people have–and all over the world–there have been these mass marches, mass mobilizations, like millions of people showing up for demonstrations, especially in areas around Palestine, which is amazing. In the US, and like, I’m just focusing on a couple things in the US, there’s…people have been targeting different Israeli companies and different companies that sell things like arms and technology to Israel and doing things like…there’s indigenous water protector blocs who have been going out in boats and blocking ships from being able to leave port and just a lot of really incredible stuff happening. But who kind of, I don’t wanna say takes the prize, but like guess who has been showing up in an absolutely ridiculous way?

**Margaret ** 36:32

**Inmn ** 36:33
Jews. Yeah. That is not where I was going. But yes, Jews have been showing up in really incredible ways, especially in fighting this idea that criticizing Israel is anti-semitic or that Israel has anything to do with Judaism or Jewishness.

**Margaret ** 36:53
Well, like relates to it, but it relates to it antagonistically half the time.

**Inmn ** 36:57
Yeah. But where I was going was the country of Yemen.

**Margaret ** 37:02
Oh, yeah.

**Inmn ** 37:06
So there are these trade routes that Israel uses through, you know, these like narrow, narrow waterways and Yemen controls one of them and has totally blocked Israeli ships from going through it, and which has a lot to do with shipping oil and just anything. Israel has been blocked from shipping things through the portages that make the most sense and has been forced to sail completely around Africa, which has cost them billions of dollars. Yemen has also, like they’ve just literally attacked Israeli ships with missiles and shit. So Yemen is…Yemen is showing the fuck up. In terms of like, a lot of like, Western countries, Ireland is really showing up, which is not surprising.

**Margaret ** 38:08
Yeah, I was about to say is like, "Why do you sound surprised?" What are you doing? Yeah.

**Inmn ** 38:11
Yeah, not surprising at all like in, especially the UN there’s all these videos of Irish politicians basically being like, "What the fuck is wrong with everyone?"

**Margaret ** 38:25

**Inmn ** 38:27
Which is incredible. And South Africa is suing Israel in international court for genocide. Yeah. Which you know, it’s interesting to me that like South Africa, a country that has…that was…"affected" is not the right word…

**Margaret ** 38:53
Well they know apartheid better than anyone else.

**Inmn ** 38:55
Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I got about Palestine. Keep showing up.

**Margaret ** 39:03
Okay, my–it’s hard to put a positive spin on any of this–although things like people stepping the fuck up is that one of the things that’s so interesting to me about this is if you told me 20 years ago that the media consensus around Israel would be broken, I would either not believe you or be jumping for joy. Because as long as I’ve been involved in activism, people have been, you know, on the anarchists-left and whatever have been trying to show up for Palestine in various ways, right, and be in solidarity in various ways, but it has always been wildly a minority position. And because Israel has always successfully used the manipulation of the idea that to be anti-Israel is anti-semitic. And that’s finally breaking. And I really want to say that like, I think a lot of that breaking is because of groups like–what is it called–Jewish Voices for Peace? And, like, the work of being clearly on the front line in saying, "Not in our name," and like…. Because that kind of activism, I think, matters more than it often does. Like, usually when I’m like, "Oh, like, ‘not our name,’ is just kind of some liberal nonsense that people will shout sometimes," right in other contexts. But in this particular context, I find it very useful, because I think breaking the media narrative and the political narrative is necessary for any chance of the American people to put pressure on lawmakers to push for a ceasefire. And or honestly, like, I have never seen such a stark division between all mainstream media outlets and the government, on one side, and everyone in the country on the other side, because I don’t think it’s leftists who are against the genocide in Palestine, it is like you said, it’s anyone who’s paying any kind of attention to what’s happening. And that is really, really promising to me. That’s my…I don’t know. The question is whether or not it’ll like, work, right? And I don’t want to spread cynicism.

**Inmn ** 41:34
So yeah, but there are some not so promising things on the world’s horizon.

**Margaret ** 41:44
Yeah. Oh, is this your climate transition? Yeah. Okay. So the main thing–not the main thing…. I want to talk about all the stuff that we talked about, but I started off by saying 2023 is the year where we can no longer in any way ignore climate change, right? It is the year where it really became clear to a great deal of the world that climate change is not just coming but is here. And so I’m gonna talk a little bit about some of the ways that we know that. 2023 was the hottest year on record across the world. Some of the cities in the United States that experienced their hottest ever year last year include, and these are only some of them, Albany Austin, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Burlington, Vermont, El Paso, Houston, Jackson Key West, Lexington, Little Rock, Miami, Milwaukee, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Raleigh, Richmond, San Antonio, Tampa, and Worcester. Is it Worcester [pronounced to rhyme with war-chester] The sauce is worchestershire [like war-chester]. I think the town is Worcester [first syllable as similar to "would"-ster. ] Worcester. Yeah, why? Just pick one. Okay, anyway. Well, they won’t have to pick one because it’s too hot to make their sauce. Phoenix, Arizona became the first major US city to average 100 degrees or higher during a month, with a July average of 102.7. November 17th, was the first time that global temperatures reached two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Overall, we hit 1.46 Celsius above global pre-industrial levels, with 1.5 being the level that the Paris Agreement was supposed to be about avoiding. The UN says that there’s a 66% chance that we’ll hit 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next four years. Europe is the fastest warming continent, warming twice as fast as anywhere else. I hate to be like well, it’s your fault anyway. But I mean, anyway, but whatever.

**Inmn ** 43:47
Yeah, yeah.

**Margaret ** 43:51
The COP28 summit finally saw country’s–like finally in 2023–countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels entirely. They’re like, we’ll be net zero by 2050, which is hilarious, because we’re all gonna be dead by 2050. I hate to say this, but…. I’m gonna talk a little bit about ways that we might be not dead by 2050. But like… That’s too late. Okay, anyway, so Florida Keys hit a water temperature of 100 degrees this year. And Arctic ice was at an all time low. The rain forest had a drought. Swiss glaciers were still melting in October. The Mediterranean floods were 50 times more likely than a usual year. And this caught climate scientists off guard. Climate scientists, like at least according to–I’m sure there’s climate scientists it did not catch off guard–but even climate scientists tended to have, at least the ones who were talking to the media about these certain types of things, have like a slightly…. There’s a lot of scientists, as far as I can tell who are like, "We can’t really communicate everything because then we’ll just have like worldwide panic," right? I don’t like any of this, but I also feel vindicated. I don’t feel good about feeling vindicated. But there’s this thing where…I have looked at what has been communicated through the media for the past 15 years and been like, "That is wildly optimistic," and like irresponsibly optimistic is how I have felt about it. And I have tended to, even amongst my peers, not be believed about how bad I think that things are going to get. And I’ve probably talked about this on the show before. And in some ways the show is the reflection of that. And yet, at the end of it all, I’m not a Doomer. I think things are really bad. And they’re going to be really bad. But we need to just actually notice that take a real look at what’s happening. I want to–I don’t know whether the episode will come out before or after this one will, but I just did an interview…. Oh, here’s positive news. The anarchist prisoner Eric King, who spent almost 10 years in lockup, finally got out for a direct action that was related to the Ferguson uprisings. [Inmn yays] And, and I just had a conversation with him, that you all may or may not have already heard, and one of the, you know, it was about how to survive prison. And, you know, in some ways, whenever you ask someone how to survive prison, you’re kind of looking for the like, hopeful, like, "Oh, I could just keep my head down and read books and stay out of the fights," right? You know, and, a lot of his advice was, "learn how to fight," you know? And like, because we actually just need–I don’t want to say we don’t need people to hold our hands. We need to hold each other’s hands. But what we need to do is soberly face what appears to be happening. And what appears to be happening is the dissolution of the climate that we grew up in. And that climate change is happening faster and with more chaotic effects than we’ve been told. And all of the methods that we’ve been told that will work to stop or alleviate climate change are not effective. I want to read some Washington Post headlines. They have a…they actually have a better climate section than any other major newspaper, as far as I can tell. I actually canceled my subscription. I like to subscribe to a lot of the newspapers because I do work and need access to it. I actually finally canceled my New York Times subscription mostly over the Palestine issue because they’re just propaganda for Israel. But the Washington Post is better climate reportage anyway. But even in the Washington Post, you can see the media spin. I’m just going to read you some headlines. "Indoor house plants come with a cost to the planet. Here’s how to minimize it," or "How soon do you have to buy heat pumps and electric vehicles to avoid climate catastrophe?" "Renewables and electric vehicles are soaring, it’s still not enough," "Companies made big climate pledges. Now they are bulking on delivering," "Companies capture a lot of CO2. Most of it is going into new oil," or "Exxon Mobil doubles down on fossil fuels with $59.5 billion Pioneer deal."

**Inmn ** 48:48
Are these Onion articles? Is this the game of whether it’s an Onion article or not?

**Margaret ** 48:51
Those are literally all Washington Post from about the past month or so. They’re all currently on the website. And yeah, exactly, exactly. Because the juxtaposition between "Hey, maybe you should get a heat pump and put solar on your roof and think about getting your house plants from somewhere local," like, I do literally all of those things. I swapped out my oil furnace for a heat pump. I put solar panels on my roof. I went into debt in order to do so. I actually did these as preparation things because whatever, like, you know, they don’t stop climate change. Stopping fossil fuel infrastructure stops climate change. There is no other thing… There are other things that are big, like changing the way that our agriculture works, to not have factory farming and like distribution of animal products across the country. Ironically, centralizing grain production actually lowers the environment embedded greenhouse gasses as compared to like… It’s complicated. But like there’s stuff, but ending fossil fuel infrastructure is the only thing. And then the other thing is that it’s like…. And then okay, the Doomerism is, "it’s too late," right? And it is too late to not have climate change. But there’s like…when you’re watching a genocide, it’s too late to have the genocide not happen. It’s never too late to stop the genocide from happening, you know?

**Inmn ** 49:04
You can always choose to stop….

**Margaret ** 50:43
Yeah. And we need to stop climate change. It is too late to, "peace and love, everything is going to be totally fine. Everything can keep going the way it used to, " right? But there is a difference between a world in which we can survive and a world in which we can’t. And like I know that I’m…I’m just going to like finish out my…. I think it is very likely that we, during our lifetimes, will need to grow all of our food underground or inside. I think that is entirely possible. I think it is entirely possible that we will be looking at mountain ranges and looking at how to put roofs between…. well, where I live where the mountain ranges are right next to each other and they are a little bit short, you know…. Like, roofing in things so that we can grow things inside and we can have some level of climate control, right, in order to have a consistent enough way to grow food. I think that it is entirely possible that everything will be different. I don’t want that to be the case. Well, I do want everything to be different. But it’s because I want a mutual aid utopia where we all take care of each other and etc, etc. But..

**Inmn ** 52:01
Out of the questions. [Jokingly]

**Margaret ** 52:05
So, I don’t know. That’s, um…. And I will say, the best sober look that I have ever read about this, is a book…. Have you read "Ministry for the Future," by any chance? I’ve been mostly talking to the audience and not you Inmn, but I’m switching over to talking to you.

**Inmn ** 52:23
No, I have…I have not. [laughing]

**Margaret ** 52:24
Okay, there’s this book by Kim Stanley Robinson, who’s like probably the most experienced climate fiction author in English that…certainly that I’m aware of, but has been writing climate fiction for a very long time. And "Ministry for the Future" is like, as far as I can tell, it’s a couple years old now, his best guess at what could possibly pull us out of this tailspin. And Kim Stanley Robinson is not an anarchist but he’s always been anarchists adjacent or has always been friendly to anarchists. And we’ve appeared sympathetically in many of his books. And oh, yeah. Yeah, like the "Mars" trilogy is about terraforming Mars and it being complicated. Has anarchist characters that are pretty explicit. And the book "Antarctica" has like eco-saboteurs and stuff like that. The book "Ministry for the Future" is about–what he does best is less the like "eco-arson" and more of the like, "you and organization tasked to fix climate change" or whatever. So it’s like from that perspective. But they work hand in hand with–it’s been a couple years since I read it–I think the Children of Kali or something like that, which comes out of basically–since India is one of the countries that’s going to be the most affected by climate change–and they are basically a direct action group that in that book is like just blowing up airplanes and just like, absolutely being like, "Fossil fuels are done and we’re gonna blow them the fuck up." And now…. And it’s about the, not even the tension, but–dare I say–the dialectic between those two forces. It is about the relationship between and how they can work together between institutional radical change and direct action. I think what is happening is bigger than ideology. I think what is happening is bigger than anything that has happened in human history. And we are so blessed–I say that ironically, but in a weird way I don’t–to be alive during one of the most tumultuous things that will happen in the history of the Earth. And it’s our fault. But it’s not our fault because you didn’t buy an electric vehicle fast enough. It is the fault of a civilization that, you know…is a fault of Western civilization, but it is our responsibility to do what we can about it and/or to try and survive what’s coming. That’s my…. Sorry, this has been… I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

**Inmn ** 55:22
No, I think that makes sense. And I…just a couple days ago, I was talking to a friend about–they work outside a lot collecting plants–and she’s like a plant archivist. I’m forgetting the words for these things. And, like, she was talking about, how, in 10 years, probably this is…. You know, she’s a botanist and a biologist and studies this to some extent, but she thinks that in 10 years that the world will be not a comfortable place, in more places, to just exist outside in. And so she’s on this quest right now to catalog as many plants as possible before they don’t exist anymore and before, it becomes not…like a lot less possible to be out in the world doing that kind of work. Like, her 10 year plan is to not…somehow not work outside anymore. Yeah. Which is not going to be a reality for a lot of people. But yeah, it was very like, oh, yeah, this is not some distant thing. This is like, this is…

**Margaret ** 56:52
What happened now?

**Inmn ** 56:53
What’s happening right now. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, that’s not like a…that’s not like a hopeful or whatever. But I don’t know. I do want to, I do want to say that, like, you know, 2023 was a lot of really bad things that happened in it. And I think people are also doing a lot more about all of this stuff. And, like, I don’t know, it’s like…. I feel like there’s this kind of joke, especially in activist or anarchist circles, that it’s like, the true revolutionary spirit comes out when the most repression and horrifying shit happens. And I don’t know, I hope that at least, at least, more bad things happening means that more people are doing more to stop bad things from happening. That make sense?

**Margaret ** 57:58
Yeah, I mean, what’s funny is like, historically, I tend to think that it’s actually not repression that brings out resistance as much as I’m like, when people are repressed for a really long time, it doesn’t necessarily make them resist as much as like when things get slightly better and then that reverses really quickly…

**Inmn ** 58:16
I see.

**Margaret ** 58:17
…is more often. But that is also part of what’s happening right now. And yeah, I think that we can look at more and more people showing up for Palestine and more and more people showing up for the climate and I think that that will continue and will continue to grow. And I think that another random weird positive thing that’s happened in the past couple of years, or past year in 2023, is that the prepper space is no longer a right wing space. I think. When I look at mainstream… like when you look at like prepper Reddit, right? It is like people talking about how they can take care of their communities as well as get ready for themselves. And it’s like a… that is a sea change. Right. And I…that gives me hope. Okay, one other like, not actually really positive, but funny, almost positive: You know, the DC was built on a swamp?

**Inmn ** 59:11
Yeah. A lot of major cities were.

**Margaret ** 59:15
DC is built in a low-lying delta like New Orleans, but it was constructed on top of rubble fill and the Federal Triangle–which unfortunately includes a lot of museums and I like museums–is built on land reclaimed from Tiber Creek, which is occasionally…. which was eventually buried and turned into a sewer. The US Capitol is sinking. Sea level is rising. The like abandoned…the like forgotten creeks are returning and just using roads. And this will fuck up a bunch of poor people. Like DC is like–although it’s gentrified, like fuck since I first lived near it–but um, it’s still a city with a lot of marginalized people living in it. It’s not going to just directly affect the lawmakers. So it’s only symbolically beautiful that DC is sinking. Practically, it’s actually a disaster and a crisis.

**Inmn ** 1:00:10
Yeah. Golly.

**Margaret ** 1:00:12
Which is a good metaphor for civilization itself. We can be like, "Hooray, civilization is collapsing." And you’re like, "Oh, wait, who is that gonna affect the most? Oh shit," you know?

**Inmn ** 1:00:22
Yeah. Which I…you know, I hope everyone knows this, we are not eco fascists.

**Margaret ** 1:00:29

**Inmn ** 1:00:30
Yeah, if you’re getting that from this show, you’re listening to the wrong show…

**Margaret ** 1:00:34
You’re listening wrongly.

**Inmn ** 1:00:35
You’re listening…listening wrongly. Margaret, you know what other really…. You know what kind of cool thing happened in 2023?

**Margaret ** 1:00:44

**Inmn ** 1:00:46
Um, this podcast, which you are maybe familiar with, I think, Live Like the World is Dying.

**Margaret ** 1:00:54
Sounds familiar.

**Inmn ** 1:00:55
Yeah, we hit 100 episodes.

**Margaret ** 1:00:58
Oh, shit.

**Inmn ** 1:00:59
In 2023. And…

**Margaret ** 1:01:00
We hit any other milestones?

**Inmn ** 1:01:02
Yeah, we also hit over a million downloads.

**Margaret ** 1:01:06
Hell fucking yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:01:08
Yeah. Like, and I don’t know. It’s…I feel like…. Oh, and I came on as a host in 2023, which I think is pretty….

**Margaret ** 1:01:19
Was it only a year ago?

**Inmn ** 1:01:21
It was less than a year ago, actually. Well, we switched to being weekly too, which was…has made it seem a lot longer.And, you know, it’s like I hope that…I hope that more people listening to the show, I hope that us doing more–even though every time I get on the air I’m like, "Wait, how do you be a person? How do you say things?" It’s been really amazing to see this show be important to people and to see this show be helping people have more conversations, more conversations about COVID, more conversations about disability, more conversations about preparedness, more conversations about the dumpster–I’m gonna say dumpster fire again….

**Margaret ** 1:02:11
That is okay.

**Inmn ** 1:02:11
That is our country. But thanks everyone, for supporting the show. And thank you for listening to us rant and all of our Lord of the Rings jokes.

**Margaret ** 1:02:26
We didn’t get a single one in this time.

**Inmn ** 1:02:29
It’s true. We’ve failed you.

**Margaret ** 1:02:33
You have failed me. [Joking] Yeah, that’s why we’re ending the episode. Should we end the episode? Should we sign out?

**Inmn ** 1:02:39
Probably.n Do you have any like…. I feel like…. Margaret was like…I guess reflecting on all of that and having created or founded the show, I’m just wondering if you have any more reflections on 100 episodes of Live Like the World is Dying and anything that you’d like to see in the future going forward for maybe, more specifically for the show. We’ve kind of talked about what we would love to see people do in their lives.

**Margaret ** 1:03:12
I never expected Live Like the World is Dying to take off. I obviously started it right before the pandemic began. So that gave me a little boost right out the gate, you know, but I never expected my interest in preparedness to be more generalized. And, you know, I’ve been so used to feeling…. One time I lived on a land project. And I was saying, "If the following bad thing happens, don’t worry, I’ve got about six months worth of food for everyone in the barn." And the person…one person was like, "You have salt?" And I was like, "Yeah, no, yeah, I’ve got a bunch of giant cans of salt." And then I realized they were joking. And, I feel less alone as a result of the success of this show. And I’ve heard from other people. I’ve heard from listeners who feel similarly. One of my favorite types of messages to get in this world is people who were sort of a political getting into preparedness and were starting to get sucked towards individualistic and right-wing preparedness and then ran across the show and felt like they were pulled back from that brink. I also sometimes hear from people who are starting to normalize, as part of anarchist and mutual aid practice, to encourage individual preparedness. And I also would say that over the 100 episodes and the, coming on, four years of the show, I’ve learned so much from the people that I’ve interviewed and from the people that you’ve interviewed and that Brooke has interview and it’s really given me a lot more of a holistic picture of what preparedness is. It’s really helped me focus my own thoughts on the matter. And, you know, I, when I say things like, "Well, we can do it." I don’t mean it’s going to be easy. But I mean, we can do it, you know, and one of the things that I’ve learned by being an anarchist and how Bonanno influences this, is that doing it is the winning, right? It’s not about…. Like, you know what I have 0% chance of surviving? Life. Life kills. We all fucking die, right? Yeah. And so all we can do is live as well and as in alliance…allegiance to our own values as we can. And I think preparedness is a big part of that. And I think that preparedness has taught me responsibility. I come from a very chaotic background. I think that anarchists in general sometimes eschew responsibility a little bit too much, even though that often when crisis comes up, we’re some of the more…like, our entire ethos is built on responsibility. And sometimes we forget that. And this show has helped me remember that. And a million fucking listeners…listens is a fucking lot. And that’s cool as shit. That’s awesome.

**Inmn ** 1:06:47
Yeah, it’s like a lot more than a million now.

**Margaret ** 1:06:50
Hell yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:06:51
We didn’t like just barely hit…scratch it.

**Margaret ** 1:07:01
Should I do a little close out spiel?

**Margaret ** 1:07:04
And if you want to support us, you should tell people about the show. You should tell people about it in person, you should tell people about it while organizing preparedness gatherings where people from your region get together and talk about needs and how you can help each other. And we’ll probably be putting together a little bit of a like "How to do that" based on one that–I’m going to say "we" organized, but that’s…I’m over emphasizing my own importance in the organization. And you can also just rate and review and do all that other algorithmic shit. I am becoming more and more of a crotchety old lady and I hate all that shit. But you can also support us on Patreon. We pay our transcriber and we pay our audio editor. And we have hopes of paying our guests and hosts at some point as well. And if you want to help make that happen, you can support us on Patreon. We’re published by Strangers in a Tangle Wilderness, which puts out several other podcasts including Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which features our monthly zine, as well as The Spectacle, recently renamed from Anarcho Geek Power Hour, which talks about nerdy shit in a way that is hopefully entertaining. Well…it is entertaining. But in particular, we want to thank some of our patrons, we want to thank….

**Inmn ** 1:07:04

**Inmn ** 1:08:30
Wait. One second. I’ve had a new thing. I’ve had a new idea about these acknowledgments. So these acknowledgments that we do at the end of each episode of our podcasts are for people who are in our $20 a month Patreon tier, and maybe piggybacking off, you know, some of Margaret’s other work is, you, if you sign up for this $20 a month here, we’ll acknowledge something, and it could be you, it could be a mutual aid group that you work with, or dare I say it could be whatever you say that we want to acknowledge. Obviously, we’re not going to do anything fucked up….

**Margaret ** 1:09:09
Like "Pee Pee Poo Poo" or something? If you want me to say "pee pee, poo poo," give me $20 a month, I’ll fuckin say it.

**Inmn ** 1:09:15
Yeah. So in reframing this–and we have some other stuff coming out for $20 a month patrons, hopefully soon, some more some more stuff beyond acknowledgments–but you can get us to say funny things or thank theoretical concepts by signing up for our $20 a month Patreon tier. [Margaret laughs] And that is…that is my new plug about the acknowledgments tier.

**Margaret ** 1:09:40
That rules Okay, well, this is the list from before anyone realized that they could do that. And it is, Patoli, Eric, and Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and the immortal Hoss the Dog.

**Inmn ** 1:10:12
thanks everyone. Talk to you soon

Find out more at

S1E103 – Crisis on the Arizona Border

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined by two humanitarian-aid workers who have been providing care to asylum seekers along the Mexico-Arizona border near Sasabe where Prevention Through Deterrence policies are playing out in realtime as thousands of asylum seekers are left out in the winter desert by Border Patrol.

Guest Info

Groups like the ones these volunteers work with can be found at,, and

Groups in California like are doing similar work.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Live Like the World is Dying: Crisis on the Arizona Border

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today Inmn Neruin and today we’re gonna be talking about some pretty horrible things going on in the world which, you know, of course, we never talk about horrible things on this podcast. It’s always really good and wonderful things. But yeah, we’re going to be talking about a crisis that has been going on on the Arizona border near the town of Sasabe. And it’s gonna tie in a lot of things that we’ve talked about on the show before, especially from the No More Deaths interviews. So, if you haven’t listened to the No More Deaths interviews, they’re not…it’s certainly not required. But if you do not have a…like a broad understanding of the history of border militarization or fucking dumb things that Border Patrol does, it might be helpful to go back and listen to those episodes first. But yeah, but before we get to all of that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts and here is a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo. [Singing a simple melody]

**Inmn ** 02:54
And we’re back. Thanks you all so much for coming on the show today. Would y’all Introduce yourself with your names, pronouns, and I guess a little bit about like what you do in the world that relates to what we’re going to be talking about?

**Bryce ** 03:24
Yeah, Bryce, he/him. I’ve been working with various desert aid organizations over the past couple of years, Tucson Samaritans, No More Deaths and some search and rescue search and recovery groups.

**Ember ** 03:42
I’m Ember, he/him, and have been working with No More Deaths around Arivaca, Arizona for the last year and a half.

**Inmn ** 03:53
Cool. So there’s been a lot of stuff happening at the wall recently, which, you know, is what we’re here to talk about and, yeah, I don’t know, do y’all want to just tell us about what’s what’s going on at the wall?

Yeah, I’ll just preface it by saying, you know, we’re very much just speaking as individuals who’ve been involved with wall stuff around Sasabe, Arizona, which is about an hour south of Tucson and we’ll talk more about it but to just step back, this is a crisis that’s happening all over the border and we’re really going to be speaking primarily to the situation that’s been unfolding around Sasabe in the last months and weeks and not speaking on behalf of No More Deaths or any other groups.

**Inmn ** 04:58
Cool. Cool. Yeah. Yeah, it seems like a huge, huge, huge, sprawling crisis of horrible things.

But yeah, so I think there’s been a lot more media about what’s happening in Jacumba or in Lukesville, where hundreds or thousands of people have been coming through the wall, not a port of entry, to seek asylum, and have been left out there in sort of makeshift camps for days or weeks at a time waiting to be apprehended by Border Patrol. And something similar has been happening east of Sasabe, which is this tiny, tiny, tiny little town, as Ember said, about an hour south of Tucson. For the past couple years, people have been doing a similar thing of coming through gaps in the border wall to seek asylum because they’re blocked from presenting themselves at ports of entry. So over the past couple of years, it’s mostly been like the Tucson Samaritans and Green Valley Samaritans that have been helping these people out, because pretty much the situation was that if you don’t call Border Patrol to come apprehend them then Border Patrol will just never come. It’s a super remote area of the desert. There’s a road that goes along the border wall that you can easily drive to get to these people, but Border Patrol just won’t do it because it’s not really worth their time. And so at times, there would be people stuck out there for like three or four days. I ran into one group that had written SOS in rocks and had built a fire just trying to get Border Patrol’s attention. And this is like two years ago before any of this was even in the news. And just…it’s kind of just slowly escalated until the beginning of November. A lot of violence broke out south of Sasabe on the Mexican side. And it’s just…. Between that and just other dynamics happening, it just shifted things so that we suddenly started seeing just hundreds of people there on the border wall seeking asylum. And where usually there were gaps closer to Sasabe where they could present so that Border Patrol could just show up in buses or vans and pick people up, now people were showing up much further east in more remote areas that are much more difficult to get to because of Biden’s new border wall construction that blocked off access to some of these closer areas. So now the situation quickly became that Border Patrol would take a very long time to pick anybody up. And because of the high volume of people, they’re now 20 kilometers, or 30 kilometers away from the actual port of entry. People are having to hike are left overnight just in the middle of nowhere, just building fires or doing whatever they can to survive the night. And, yeah, it’s been about a couple of months of that now.

I’m going to just reiterate that, you know, a big call of a lot of groups is to open ports of entry because this is stemming from the point that people can’t claim asylum at a port of entry, people are being forced to use this bullshit CBP app and wait for insane amounts of time, if ever, to be allowed to present for asylum. And so as we kind of hear the mainstream propaganda about what’s going on, there’s very little emphasis on the fact that the reason people are coming through gaps in the wall in really remote areas is fundamentally because they can’t claim asylum at a port of entry and because the gaps are being closed nearby and that’s just really important to ground it because there’s just so much misinformation about that.

**Inmn ** 09:10
For folks who don’t know, why can’t people claim…apply for asylum at a port of entry?

I think there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about this. A lot of people I think thought that that was going to change when Title 42 was repealed or thinking it had something to do with the MPP, the Remain in Mexico Policy, but this actually was, it was a separate policy decision that at first got some media exposure. It started with metering back in like 2017 or something–sometimes during–where they would where they would just let in a certain amount of people and then CBP agents would actually block people before they got to the port of entry and say "We can’t take any more people. You have to show us your passport," all this stuff. And then that turned into during COVID, "We’re just not going to take anybody." And then now with Biden, it has continued, where if you don’t have a CBP One app, CBP agents will just turn you away at the port of entry. And there’s been a lot of legal stuff about it. Like, I think in San Diego there were a couple big court cases where they said, "You can’t continue doing this," but the Biden administration has come out saying, like, "We don’t actually turn people away at the port of entry. We don’t do turn-backs." But clearly on the ground, that is what’s happening. And so I think people think of it as like that there’s some big law that needs to be changed or that, you know, people are trying to do something sketchy by coming between ports of entry, or at the port of entry, or that there is a legal pathway through the CBP One app and people just aren’t doing it. But really, the CBP One app forces people…. It’s essentially the remain in Mexico Policy but without the Remain in Mexico Policy. And then if people try to present themselves at the port of entry, which they should be allowed to do, they’re just turned away. And there’s not some…there’s not some big thing causing this to happen. It’s just pure policy that could be changed very, very soon if they actually had the desire to do it.

**Inmn ** 10:29
Yeah. So it’s like with this app, people are being asked to download an app to apply for asylum through and then they just wait for a notification?

Yeah. And then once the…. This should all be…. Nobody should take my word for this because I’m not like a fucking asylum lawyer or something. This is just from talking to people, my understanding of it. So definitely don’t…. Don’t take it too seriously. But from what I understand, people are…people download the app and once they get the notification that they have an appointment then they have to get to the port of entry where that appointment is within 24 hours or something. And then just get to it. But there’s no like…. The people will wait, you know, a couple months, six months, a year, and they just are sort of in limbo until they get their appointment.

**Inmn ** 12:35
Golly, it sounds like…. This sounds like a sick joke of like people like…. Wait, I’m not even gonna make the comparison. This sounds like a sick fucking joke. But um…and so this has been happening for quite some time. But very recently, things kind of got a lot worse in Arizona, or like around Sasabe.

Yeah, I mean, and it definitely seems like a big part of it is…whatever fighting between rival factions of the cartel south of the border. It’s hard to really say exactly, but at the same time, that…. People started coming in higher numbers in the last two months. People also started coming through the San Miguel gate on the Tohono O’odham Nation in even higher numbers than here. And over there, there’s not nearly as much…. Border Patrol was promising to, you know, set up structures and give water and all that stuff, but in the end, there’s just really not a lot of support over there like, you know, what we have here. There’s been a lot of community committee support and donations coming in, which has been great, but over at San Miguel, there’s not even that which is already inadequate.

**Inmn ** 14:08
Yeah, yeah. And maybe this is sort of me asking a question that I’ve had about all of this: I’ve heard that the town of Sasabe is like…. I’ve heard it referred to as a ghost town right now?

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s like 20 residents left or something like that. I have…a couple of friends of mine went down there recently to visit a friend who’s still living there and she runs a migrant outreach center in the town, which hasn’t really had people in it, but it’s doing fine. The garden is still going. [Inmn "Hell yeahs"] I do know people are definitely interested in coming back if and when things calm down.

**Inmn ** 15:00
Do…I guess do you want to talk about what y’all have been experiencing in kind of like the last week, I guess?

Yeah, I mean, pretty much as Bryce was saying, there’s been folks responding to this, primarily the Samaritans as a formal group from Tucson and Green Valley, who have been responding to this for much longer. But folks involved with No More Deaths really got involved more significantly about a month ago because of the massive increase in the numbers of people out there and people being pushed further out into the desert. And that response has grown quite a bit. It kind of started with a few people from No More Deaths who were getting involved and then has exponentially increased in the last week. It was a situation that was really, really challenging in terms of the amount of resources and supplies needed for stuff. Like, basically hundreds of people, primarily a lot of children and babies and families and elders, stuck out in the increasingly becoming winter temperatures with completely inadequate supplies, most people who expected to be picked up immediately and we’re instead waiting for up to three or four days in the winter conditions in very remote areas of the desert. The border wall outside of this area goes just right through very, very mountainous terrain. And so the border wall, you know, there’s a road on the border wall, but it’s basically, as you get far out, just being completely out in the middle of the desert. It’s an insane road. It just goes straight up and down mountains. And so people are stuck out there for, at times, up to multiple days and may have been waiting on the other side for some days before they crossed. And so a lot of the original response as our group started to get involved was just primarily supply distro and medical care and medical triage. And I mean, just to give a context of how many people were out there, I think we originally had an emergency request for $10,000 and we used that money in about a week.

**Inmn ** 17:41
Oh my god.

So that’s primarily for food, water, blankets, you know, over the counter meds, and gas for the trucks, and things like that. Things really came to a head. I mean, it was a very untenable situation or unsustainable situation in terms of people going out there regularly and being like, "People are going to die out here. This is a really fucked up situation." People tried to pressure and call Border Patrol to pick people up, which they were slow to do. So sometimes they would do it regularly. Sometimes they would take a lot longer. But last Friday, there was a massive rainstorm. And we had…those of us who had been involved in organizing support around it had already started to put out larger calls for support, realizing this was way out of the depths of just what our group could respond to. And so we were putting out larger calls for support from the Tucson community, from Arivaca, which is a town about 15 miles from Sasabe, and we were preparing a little bit for the rain in terms of…the day before we set up some tarp structures at some of the places people were waiting. But what happened on Friday, I think really expanded the calls to mobilize and got way more people involved. And yeah, I’ll leave it to Bryce if you want to talk a little bit about what happened on Friday.

Sure. Yeah. I mean, I guess some other context would be that, increasingly, we had to do a lot of advocacy for emergency situations because, like Ember said, it was really just, you know, kids, infants, people that were not prepared to be out, you know, 30 mile…30 kilometers from a road, coming just with the clothes on their backs or maybe a little day pack or something but really kind of expecting to be picked up by Border Patrol immediately. And there’s a lot of people that had started out with very serious medical conditions even. There’s at least a few cases that I was personally involved in of people coming to the United States specifically to seek medical care for their children. So, it’d be like a kid with kidney disease or, you know, needing some kind of medicine daily that hadn’t had it for multiple days are really serious things, you know, or some woman who is nine months pregnant and having medical issues. I mean, really serious things where somebody should just not be out in the middle of the desert. And the kind of advocacy we had to do for on 911 [calls] was just really obscene. Like, we call 911, say, there’s somebody out here with some particular medical emergency, they’d ask the nationality of the person, whether they were entering the United States illegally, things like that, and then transfer us to Border Patrol. And Border Patrol would either drop the call or say, "Okay, we’re sending somebody." and then we sit there for six hours and, of course, nobody comes. There were times when Border Patrol would actually come out. They’d check out like two or three 911 calls, say, "Okay, this person is not going to die today," and then leave. And then we eventually were able to convince some ambulances to occasionally come out for very, very serious cases. But even then, they started getting upset with us for, quote-unquote, "Crying wolf." And just the amount of advocacy that we had to do even to get that response was just…I mean, it was…it would just be hours of calling everybody we knew with connections to be able to get an ambulance down there. And then, even then, we would get threatened with arrest by Border Patrol for transporting people to the highway to rendezvous with an ambulance, even with permission of the ambulance. And so when the rainstorm came, it was this sort of perfect storm where we had a system in place where we were sort of prepared to medivac the most serious patients out of there and just sort of keep everybody else alive until Border Patrol came to pick people up because…. And then we would advocate for, "Okay, these people really need to be taken first. You need to take these people first." Which in itself is a really compromising position to be in just because we’re acting as an intermediary between people and their physical safety and the asylum process. It’s like this weird…. Like, we’re not the government, but we’re fulfilling this weird government role. And, yeah, it’s a very weird thing. But when the rain storm happened, we were not prepared for the reality of Border Patrol just not showing up at all. They had been pretty consistently, even if we don’t see them all day, they eventually show up at like five or six, especially if we call a million times and advocate and call 911, and all that. And so, the roads were muddy, but we were doing it in our janky little trucks, we were driving back and forth just fine. And somewhere around like two or three, it started…we started to realize that just nobody was coming. And they were…. Like, I don’t know why, after everything we’ve all been through, that anybody would have had any faith in Border Patrol to avoid, to want to avoid a mass casualty incident. But here they were, seemingly, just like willingly causing one. Just to give an example of what the scene looked like, we showed up, things were already pretty bad. Like people were in good spirits, just because, you know, they’ve been traveling so long, they’re glad to finally be there. And having a good sense of humor about things is kind of the only way to survive something horrible like that. People were still kind of in that space when we showed up. We handed out food and water. Most people, even though we had built some really rudimentary tarps structures, people generally opted to just keep walking because they didn’t want to just be stuck out there in the cold and rain. And every time we drove back and forth along the wall, we just noticed people getting increasingly more desperate as they realized that they’re just stuck out in the middle of the desert in this rain. And to the point where there was just no way to properly triage. There would just be…. We were just sort of bouncing…. Or, instead of actually helping people out, we were just bouncing around from emergency to emergency Yeah, we would be on our way to an emergency and then just see somebody laying in a puddle of water, just in agonizing pain–because even, you know, somebody gets a muscle cramp and can’t stand anymore and then they’re just laying in the cold and rain. And they don’t have warm gear, they don’t have anything waterproof. They’re just laying there and it becomes a medical emergency just because they’re stuck out in the elements in this rainstorm. And so we’d be on our way to some medical emergency and have to drop two people off to go deal with another one and then just hope that another of our trucks would come back to get people. And yeah, we started just having to treat it as–I mean, Ember could speak more to the medical stuff as an EMT–but there were…we had nurses with us and other medical people who essentially just started treating the triage as if it was…as if it was going to be a mass casualty incident.

Yeah, I mean, Friday set historic rainfall records. In Tucson, there was an inch of rain. And there was probably almost that much where we were and we’re talking about, you know, winter desert rain. So you know, 4000′, almost 4000′, elevation, like freezing…almost freezing temperatures and dumping, dumping rain, including large amounts of thunder and lightning. And with the lightning, keep in mind that everybody who’s there is against this 30′ metal border wall. And so, just a really, really scary situation. And it very quickly became obvious, as Bryce said, that we were…it was going to be way overwhelming for the capacity of the amount of people who are out there to respond to. It kind of started in the morning, there were a few Samaritans’, a group out of Tucson and Green Valley, a few Samaritans’ vehicles out there and then a few No More Deaths trucks came out. But one of the first things we did when we really understood the scope of the situation was just put out a massive call for more support, which was really inspiring to see really come out that night. But obviously, it takes time for people to mobilize. So we really tried, those of us who were on the ground there really realized, "Okay, this really has the potential to be a really horrific mass casualty situation." And I want to say, I have no illusions about Border Patrol, no illusions about the State giving a shit about people seeking asylum dying in the desert, but I was surprised, based on my experiences in the few weeks prior, I was genuinely surprised that Border Patrol completely refused to come out at all. And once that became clear, I think our plans really changed, because those of us who were responding that day, our plans for the rain were really to try to build, you know, to have some some shelters but fundamentally to keep people okay until they can get picked up by Border Patrol and brought to an actual place to be warm and dry. And as it became clear that Border Patrol was absolutely not going to come that day–and we had Border Patrol liaisons on the phone with them–and they were being pretty explicit about, "Yeah, we can’t come. It’s raining." Obviously, they can. They have trucks way better than our trucks. And they chose not to at all. And once that became clear, I think our mission really changed quite drastically too, to where, "Okay, we need to get as many people to these shelters and we need to build more shelters, but, fundamentally, we need to get people off the wall, just from a medical perspective." I mean, I was rolling out in the morning with my friend who’s a nurse who has been in a lot of disaster contexts and situations and he was like, "Holy shit, this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen."

**Bryce ** 29:01
I think he said, "This is [emphasis on "is"] the worst thing I’ve seen."

He said, "This is the worst thing I’ve seen," and equated it to when he was in Haiti after the earthquake. It was where I think those of us out there were…. Once we realized the extent of the situation and thought that we are going to see a lot of children die today. A lot. You know? It was–and I will preface this by saying that, as we know of, nobody did die that day. And I think that was because of generally just choices of people responding on the ground, people taking care of each other who were out there on the wall, and pure luck of breaks in the rain are the reasons for that. I think it was a situation that could have…. A lot of people absolutely could have and would have died. But, you know, before the rain storm, there had been a lot of conversations about, you know, "Should we be driving people to the substation?" which is, you know, where people can be processed by Border Patrol–that has a certain capacity limit–in the town of Sasabe. And there were a lot of these conversations about the legal risks of that and the potential dangers to people seeking asylum because, to keep in mind, like most people, when we’ve been out there for the time any of us had been out of the wall, most people wanted rides to the substation. That was, you know, a big thing people wanted and needed. That’s where they were trying to get to. And there were all these conversations about the potential dangers of that legal risk. And what we encountered on Friday in the rainstorm was a situation where there was simply no choice. I mean, we were able to have some janky makeshift shelters at two camps along the wall that people, some people, did stay in, and we’re trying to treat and warm and dry and triage those people, but there were about 150 people–there was over 300 people out in the wall that day and there was about 150 people who were walking past the last camp the 12 to 15 miles between the camp. And by camp, I mean a very shitty janky tarp structure setup. I don’t mean a real camp. But there are about 150 people walking between the town of Sasabe that like 12 to 15 miles from the camp. Those people were out in the rain with no protection whatsoever. And so after we did some triage and made sure that, you know, the people further back on the wall were at one of these makeshift camps, we made the decision–that was not even really a choice–but just fundamentally that like people are going to die if we don’t drive everyone to the substation. So we made a choice to evacuate everyone on the road in multiple caravans of trucks and shuttles to the substation while calling Border Patrol, telling them what we were doing, making it clear that it wasn’t really a choice, that people people are going to die if they don’t get to get to the station. And we weren’t really sure how they would react to that. They, Border Patrol, did process everybody that was brought to the station. They got buses down from Tucson. And at the same time, they were being pretty hostile with volunteers that were evacuating people there, including a lot of threats of arrest, that people would be arrested and to "Not be doing this." But no volunteers were arrested. And everybody who was evacuated to the substation was processed within the next chunk of hours. And so, yeah, that kind of changes the whole dynamic in a sense. And the other thing that changed the dynamic is just this massive call for mobilization and support. So a lot of people from Tucson and Arivaca came down to support that evening and we were really in a triage situation all day and night of evacuating the most vulnerable and medically unwell people to the Border Patrol station and trying to do our best to make the makeshift camps slightly safer. But fundamentally, they were extremely inadequate shelters for people in the conditions that we were in.

**Inmn ** 33:34
Dang, yeah, that sounds harrowing and just fucking terrible. I I don’t have a real emotional response to it because it’s just…it’s just fucked. But I don’t know, it’s like this thing where it feels like things we’ve talked about on the show before with Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths talking to us about Border Patrol’s kind of…their tendency to create a humanitarian crisis that they then refuse to respond to. But they, at the same time, you know, they claim to…like, they claim all the time to rescue people from the desert. Or, like, framing themselves as these humanitarian actors when they’re the ones who are creating these crises and then completely not responding to them or like…. I don’t know, like, hearing more confirmation of discrimination of medical dispatchers and stuff to respond to calls or to pass that off to Border Patrol who then just doesn’t respond. I don’t know. It’s just terrible. And it’s like… Like Border Patrol’s perfectly capable of responding to these crises, right?

**Bryce ** 35:24
Oh, totally and even in this case with the same…. Because eventually they do get everybody. So if they just…they’re basically making the choice, in addition to like border wall, asylum, all that stuff, even with the current situation as it is, they’re making the choice to leave people out there versus if they just went and got everybody. They say their issue is capacity for processing people. But why not have them wait in Sasabe or near the station or somewhere where they’re not in the middle of the desert? They could just go get everybody, bring them to the station, and have them wait where an ambulance can arrive, where people can easily show up and give them help, where they’re not just…. I mean, there’s vigilantes along the wall, there’s like gun battles. For many days, we were hearing automatic gunfire just south of where people were waiting for asylum. Like it’s very much even outside of the danger of the desert itself. It is not a good place to be waiting. These people are freaking terrified. But the benefit of them being there for Border Patrol is that they’re totally invisible. So they’re just sort of hiding what…a thing that should be happening in public view in front of the Border Patrol station, in the middle of the desert where there’s just extreme danger. If they wanted to, they could bring everybody to a safer place. It would be bad for PR, because then we’d have a bunch of news articles about like, "All these people are like being kept in an open air detention facility," or whatever. But they’re essentially doing the same thing. But because it’s far enough away from the public eye and from their own facilities, it just becomes invisible in a way, the same as, you know, Border Patrol’s nonsense that they get up to with other kinds of people crossing the border with Prevention Through Deterrence, all of that policy; the suffering really is the point. I think they’re hoping that people will tell stories back home that they, "Showed up and things were really bad and we almost died and there was this rainstorm," or whatever, "Don’t do it this way." And the same way that their narratives kind of push things on the quote-unquote "smugglers" as being these predatory people that–which they are–but as being like, "It’s them that’s doing this. They’re the ones that are causing this," and just really outsourcing any blame of anything on to on to other people.

**Inmn ** 38:05
This situation makes me wonder if Border Patrol is making this conscious choice to, where with open air detention facilities they’re–in Arizona at least–are just like, "Oh, we don’t want to deal with that." or, "We don’t want to deal with the PR. We just don’t want to deal with it so we’re gonna do this other thing to push people further out or to really invisiblize it," like you’re talking about? I mean, that seems like a very Border Patrol thing to do. Which is horrible to laugh about but…. I guess you talked a little bit about Border Patrol’s responses to what’s going on, or to interventions that people are taking, and I’m just wondering if there’s any more, anything more to say about how Border Patrol is reacting to how people are intervening in the situation?

**Ember ** 39:09
There’s been significant threats of arrest to people as we’ve continued to evacuate people to the substation, and to people that are just walking to the makeshift camps. There have been continual threats of arrest. Some volunteers had their IDs taken and said they were coming back for them to arrest them. Fundamentally, we feel extremely strongly that, obviously, we would be doing it even if it wasn’t legal because it’s the right thing to do, because we’re not going to…we’re going to do what we can to keep people from dying. But fundamentally, we feel very strongly that it is completely legal what we’re doing and we will not back down from threats from Border Patrol and have been pretty explicit with them about that,

**Bryce ** 40:00
Yeah. Also, after one of those threats of arrest, they did go up to the further camp, which usually is a lot of women and children, and they picked up just a few people. They could have picked up way more. They just picked up a few people and said, "Wait in three lines. We’re coming back for the rest." The people all–it was, I think, like, maybe 100 people or so–they all waited in lines. Border Patrol left and then just never came back. And so people ended up standing in lines for hours, thinking that they were going to miss their place in line or mess up if they left the lines. And [it was] just this really cruel display of–and this is right after we got some media attention for the thing that happened during the rain, so maybe [Border Patrol was] punishing them for what we were up to or, you know, who knows how those people think? But that was one thing that we saw. Another thing is, we’ve actually been caught by Border Patrol while transporting people. And they stopped and essentially thanked us. So there’s, in addition to threats of arrest, we’ve also gotten that, because, I mean, if you’re a Border Patrol agent, and you have an…you believe your own bullshit about like, "You’re a humanitarian," and all these things, or whatever, then by those standards, hypothetically, we were actually doing your job and you should be thankful for what we’re up to by moving people. And this one agent that we’ve run into a few different times has definitely had that attitude, which is…. Yeah, I don’t know whether…. I don’t even know how to think about that. But it’s made it so that it’s given us a little bit more confidence in what we’re doing, but also has set up a weird thought of like, "Oh shit. At what point are they going to stop picking people up because they think we’re gonna do it? At what point are we really just unpaid fucking Border Patrol agents?" And so I think there’s a big…. And even just our role in the camps and all this stuff, like, how much of what we’re actually doing to save lives is playing into the wants and needs of the Border Patrol? And so trying to figure out ways to–we have been talking a lot internally about ways to ways to push back on that and sort of change tactics of what we’re doing in order to…in order to pressure them to be doing the right thing, rather than this unsustainable thing in which we’re clothing, feeding, housing, and triaging hundreds of people a day, which is just like wildly unsustainable.

**Inmn ** 43:01
I mean, it seems like this thing that’s become very wildly unsustainable. And I know that y’all have recently put out this big call for like, what? For like things needing to be different? Pr like, just like broader kind of community support? Just wondering if y’all wanted to talk about that a little bit?

**Ember ** 43:28
Yeah. The calls for support really started to come out of, you know, conversations after a few weeks of folks in our group responding really heavily to the situation and realizing that we needed way more support. And also, I mean, for one, supportive people autonomously responding to the situation outside of our organization, and also more like visiblization what’s going on because it was very invisible. There’s a few news stories about things going on in other parts of the Borderlands, similar situations, or even worse situations, but really not the attention that the extent of the situation demanded. So those calls for support went out before the rain, but the rain day really amplified it. A lot of people from larger networks in the area came out that night. And it led to huge…way more numbers of people getting involved. And part of it is us really trying to encourage a non–outside of our organization–an autonomous response from more people regionally to the situation that can obviously look a lot of different ways and I don’t think any of us presume to know what the best strategy or way to go about this is, but that, you know, making it more visible and having more people being involved is is an important and good thing. And I will add to that, this is obviously a situation going on throughout the Borderlands. But I think we’re in a unique position because of where we are, because of our proximity to Tucson because of networks of mutual aid and support that exists in these areas, because of the proliferation of aid groups that exist in these areas, and just generally, yeah, large networks of individuals that are down to support with something like this. I think there’s a potential for us to really build a lot of mobilization and support here that hopefully can also help spread and support other places where people are trying to respond to the crisis in their areas, some of which, as Bryce was talking about are, are significantly worse than what’s happening here. But it obviously also breeds enormous questions about like, what are we actually doing? What is our role here? And, yeah, and what are we doing? And I don’t think, you know, anyone presumes to know the answers to all questions.

**Inmn ** 46:06
Yeah, I think in terms of what the role of aid groups is…. Just just wanting to bring up this like, kind of weird, maybe complexity of like, I don’t know, it sounds, it sounds really, it sounds really weird to have to put yourself in the position of helping people get to Border Patrol or like helping people get to situations that are a potential open air detention facility or a detention facility that’s as hellish as it is out in the desert. But like, I don’t know, that…. It seems like a real…it seems a real mindfuck. And I don’t know, this isn’t really a question, just a thought.

**Bryce ** 46:58
It’s fucked up.

**Inmn ** 47:01
Yeah. Yeah. I was…we talked a little off air about this, but so there has been a little bit of media attention and I know that y’all have not been exactly happy about the media, like what large media sources are saying about what’s happening? I was wondering if y’all wanted to talk about what kind of media myths or narratives you see going around that don’t reflect what’s happening?

**Ember ** 47:44
Yeah, and I think on a personal level, just those of us that were out Friday that had been out for weeks before, you know, there have been a lot of conversations about the role of media and our general hesitation with media with most of our other work. But it just became clear that there had to be a significant push for a lot more media outrage about what was going on and about what happened that rainy day, because it was just a question of that this is just going to continue to happen and we need to visibilize this more. There was a journalist, a local journalist, who was out, who came out during the rainstorm and wrote a solid story about what was happening, but the larger mainstream media attention to it has been pretty horrific. I’ll say the New York Times came out here a few days ago and wrote a disgusting propaganda piece that basically…it was a piece about how, you know, hordes of people are coming into the country and Border Patrol is overwhelmed and doing everything they can and trying to rescue as many people as they can. But they’re so overwhelmed. It felt very much like the liberal media version of like an "invasion of the country," and Border Patrol being overwhelmed. I mean, I think it’s really scary that those are the…are the stories that are taking shape in the more kind of centrist or liberal mainstream media with no context of why people are coming here, no context of why people are being pushed out into the remote areas of the desert, no context about how much money Border Patrol has, and their absolute refusal to do their job in this case, which is to process people that are seeking asylum. None of that context. And instead, a story that literally is about, you know, Border Patrol just like trying to do everything they can to save these people being manipulated by smugglers. And it was also in the New York Times, was next to an article about the–kind of fear mongering–about a large migrant caravan that’s coming up through Mexico right now. And it just felt very much part of this media narrative that is really just playing into the worst fascist impulses. So, yeah, it was a pretty horrific article.

**Bryce ** 50:20
Yeah. And in addition to that, I mean, the New York Times article, in addition to other articles that ended up talking about the rainstorm and some of what we’ve been dealing with, we’re really tucked into a different story about the record number of migrant apprehensions. It seems like all these news media outlets were just sort of waiting for those numbers to get released and then they kind of had these pre-written articles and anything about the humanitarian disaster was just sort of tucked into that, which that narrative is always like, "There’s too many people at the border. Border Patrol is overwhelmed," or they’re not really interested in any other narrative whatsoever. And, which is just really bizarre, because, I mean, when a journalist comes out and we talk to them, the first thing we explain is [that narrative] is so much the opposite to what we actually see on the ground. Like, the migrant apprehension data is inflated because there’s now, rather than people seeking asylum at a port of entry, they’re coming through irregularly where that gets put in as a Border Patrol migrant apprehension. So it seems like numbers-wise that there’s some huge surge of, you know, the numbers are just off the charts and they’ve "never seen anything like this before." But these people actually should be under an entirely different system altogether, coming through a port of entry and, in which case, the migrant apprehensions would probably not change that much at all. And so there’s this narrative that gets pushed forth where you look at this increase in numbers, which is totally fake, and then you get to show Border Patrol in a place where we’ve been going out and just seeing…dealing with the most horrific medical emergencies every single day and watching Border Patrol do nothing to stop it and also [Border Patrol is] causing the situation in the first place, and it shows them, like…rescuing people. I think the New York Times article specifically said like, you know, under the caption for one of the pictures, it was like, "Border Patrol’s leaves with a group of people and rushes off to go rescue some more people," or something like that, which as you’re saying before, it’s like, they cause a problem and then give themselves credit for rescues, which is just not…is just upsetting and false and just like, insulting on a human level, you know?

**Inmn ** 52:57
Yeah. Yeah, they’re really…they’re quite…they’re quite adept at what they do, which is creating humanitarian crises that they then pretend to respond to so that everyone thinks that they’re humanitarian actors. Meanwhile, they’re sitting on their asses doing nothing.

**Ember ** 53:25
Well, I mean, literally. When we were evacuating people to the station that day, they were sitting on their asses doing nothing, not wanting to get up. "Well, there was a massive rainstorm," and asking us, you know, like, "How do you know these people are cold?" as a question.

**Bryce ** 53:42
Yeah, literally.

**Ember ** 53:43
That was a question. I was literally asked. And this was with a group of like, mostly children who had been out in the freezing rain and were in severe danger of hypothermia, and they [Border Patrol] literally were like, "How do you know these people are cold?"

**Bryce ** 54:00
And then since we started building shelters, they would ask, "Oh, do they have shelter?" using our little like, half-assed, last-ditch effort to fucking have people not die against us or as an excuse to not go pick people up because they have, quote-unquote, "shelter?" You know, I mean, it’s just horrific. And Ember, do we have permission to say that correction thing?

**Ember ** 54:26
Oh, yeah, I think we should say it. I mean, yeah.

**Inmn ** 54:31
I’m so curious about what’s going to be said.

**Bryce ** 54:32
So, the New York Times, their original article that they published, so we all sat together and read it together and we’re like, "Oh!" we’re all yelling like, "What the fuck? That’s bullshit. Like, what the fuck are you talking about? Like, that’s totally…" and we get to the end and see that they have a paragraph saying, "Last friday, Border Patrol had to evacuate 300 people during this rainstorm that almost caused all these deaths," or whatever. And we were just like…I almost threw the computer across the room. It was like, you know, we expected an awful narrative but to have not just a lie but the literal opposite of what happened, like the people that caused the problem…. You know, because it would have been messed up no matter what it was on that day, but we expected, stupidly, Border Patrol to show up in the same way that they had been. And so by not showing up, they actually caused a potential mass casualty incident. So to give them credit for averting something that just outside of anything, any context, just was going to happen, and Border Patrol "rescued" people…and not that some random scrappy punks from Tucson wandered down into the desert and under threat of arrests drove a bunch of people to the Border Patrol station was just like…like, I don’t even have words for…. Like, what do you even fucking do with that? Like? Yeah, it’s…it was, so we…one of our media people forced them to make a correction. And they quickly did. They didn’t fix the rest of the heinous fucking article, but they at least changed that, which they also seem to credit it to Border Patrol. But our person was there during their [NYT’s] interview with Border Patrol, and at no point did Border Patrol claim to have rescued anybody on that day. So this was just New York Times on their own just coming up with some bullshit out of thin fucking air.

**Ember ** 56:37
And then when they corrected it, they never…there’s no note in the article that says a previous version was…had this lie in it and it was corrected. But I will also add that the article on the website was also next to an ad for Exxon Mobil and the other articles next to it were defending the genocide of Palestinian kids because IDF spokesperson says "It’s justified." So we also obviously shouldn’t be, you know, shouldn’t be surprised.

**Inmn ** 57:06
Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s like, we see the same thing over and over and over again, of governments causing horrifying things to happen and then blaming it on some shadowy thing and then taking credit for fixing it. Or making it worse. Wow, yeah, that’s fucked up. Like fucking shame. Shame on the New York Times. I know this is not a new thing for anyone to hear, but fucking shame on y’all. Yeah, it’s upsetting. It’s beyond upsetting. Well, I, you know, I want to end on a positive note. What’s some like…what’s some inspiring shit? Because also, this is…this is like, I don’t know, it’s…I feel like it’s easy to get wrapped into this, the horrifying reality of like, "Oh, we’re just doing Border Patrol’s job for them." Or, like, "How sustainable is this?" But y’all I’ve been doing…like, people have been doing some truly inspiring shit and I think that’s like really worth reflecting on and y’all will continue to do really amazing things to respond to these horrifying things.

**Bryce ** 58:42
But also, just right afterwards, the huge community mobilization that happened and continues to happen has just been not surprising but just really amazing like knowing that in some situations like this people can just…the Tucson community will just throw down so hard and so quickly for some shit is just… like I think brought us all to tears the next day when we went down to collect donations and stuff.

**Inmn ** 1:00:13
Yeah, the supply drives have been wild. Like that’s… Yeah, I don’t know. Ember, you got any inspiring shit to go out on?

**Ember ** 1:00:25
I mean, everything Bryce said. And just like, I mean, the night with the rainstorm, where it’s like, what we really realized we needed at a point is just like, people are building tarp structures, people are taking care of each other, but what we really needed at a certain point was just more trucks to drive people and evacuate people to the substation. And we would just get, kind of, convoy after convoy, late in the evening and at night of friends or people we don’t even know, through our networks, coming down. And it was really fucked up because it wasn’t Border Patrol, who we needed to fucking pick people up. But to just see so many people come out on really last minute notice and be able to help with evacuating lots of people, what we needed was those vehicles and more and more people. And people really showed up and continue to show up. And it’s the same thing people are doing all over the country in response to this, you know, from cities where people are mobilizing to support asylum seekers that are, you know, just being dropped off in random cities, and to just like other places along the border where people are responding to this at its inception point at the wall. Like, it’s really…. Yeah, the amount of mobilization is pretty awesome, just people like trying to take care of each other on all levels.

**Inmn ** 1:01:52
Are there any things you want to say before we…before we break? Any, you know, broader call things people who are listening hundreds or thousands of miles away can do?

**Ember ** 1:02:12
I think, you know, on a small scale people are gonna do what they can in the places they are, but on a larger scale, it’s like…a lot of these media narratives, a lot of the right-wing push, all of that is really going to continue to grow and push for harsher, gnarlier border policies. And I think that really the thing that can push back against that is people mobilizing together and organizing against it. And I do think there is power for…or potential for, with enough, you know, people, power for things to actually not get gnarlier but, you know, go in the other direction. And I think we really have to keep that in mind that we can’t just submit to the idea that, you know, the right-wing and the mainstream news outlets are just gonna push this narrative and policies are gonna get stricter and stricter. Like, we have power to push back against that as people everywhere, mobilizing and organizing together.

**Inmn ** 1:03:18
Great. Well, I mean, you know, not great, but…shit. Great that people are doing great things in response. I’m a little emotionally dead end right now because this…because everything’s just really fucked. Thanks, you all so much for coming on today and talking about what’s going on. And, you know, if anyone in the Arizona area wants to donate 4×4 trucks, donate your 4×4 truck.

**Ember ** 1:03:58
It will die a glorious death.

**Bryce ** 1:04:03
Yeah, a couple of trucks have already died on the border wall roads. So, trucks are very needed.

**Ember ** 1:04:11
I will add too, obviously, we preface it that we’re just talking about this one area, but maybe we could link in the show notes to just some of the other struggles of other groups and communities, you know, pushing back and mobilizing for similar shit.

**Inmn ** 1:04:28

**Bryce ** 1:04:30
I mean, yeah, it’s all over too. I mean, the stuff in California has gotten a lot of coverage. But also in Texas this stuff is happening just as much. So it’s really like border wide. And it’s somehow managed to be pretty invisible or co-opted into other narratives. But yeah, pushing…pushing back on that I think is super important.

**Inmn ** 1:04:52
Cool. Well, thanks y’all for coming on today. Hope you get some rest.

**Bryce ** 1:05:02
Yeah, thank you.

**Inmn ** 1:05:07
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this show, then do what you can to fight border militarization and do what you can to support asylum seekers in your city. Or go out and respond. If you’re near a place where similar things like what’s happening in Arizona and Sasabe are happening, then go out and get involved, see what you can do to help. And also, if you like the show, you can support it. You can support the show by liking, subscribing, following, and whatever…. These words are…. I’m clearly actually detached from how the algorithm works. And you can also just tell people about the show. It’s one of the better ways to support it and one of, just one of the best ways that people hear about the show. You can also support Live Like the World is Dying by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness is a radical publishing collective. We put out books, zines, and other podcasts, obviously. And you can support Strangers by buying books. You can support Strangers by listening to our other podcasts, like my other podcast, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, or our other podcast, The Spectacle, which was formerly the Anarcho Geek Power Hour. You can also support Strangers by supporting us on Patreon. If you support us on Patreon, for $10 a month, then we’ll mail you a cool zine every month, anywhere in the world. And you can subscribe to our Patreon at And if you support us at $20 a month, then we will give you a really awesome thank you at the end of all of our podcasts, which are the names that you usually hear. And what I think is really cool about the acknowledgments tier of our Patreon is that you can put whatever! You know you can put whatever name you want there and we will thank and acknowledge it. So, you know, come up with a cool name or a cool organization that you want people to about like six times a month and we’ll thank it. We will thank those things. And speaking of which, we would like to thank Patolli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, Theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thanks y’all so much for all of your support and making this show and so many other shows possible. And you know, to let people know, our Patreon goes to support, you know, broader things that Strangers does, but it also goes to support people who helped create the show. We pay our audio editor and our transcriptionist and maybe one day we’ll be able to pay guests or hosts. But currently…currently, we can’t do that. But yeah, anyways, I hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on. And we will see you next time. Bye.

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S1E102 – “Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” with Matthew Dougal

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, we have a short story about prepping called "Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners" by Matthew Dougal. It’s a parody about two right-wing preppers who are faced with a collapse in society. After the story, there’s an interview with the author about prepping mentalities and writing. This episode was reposted from the Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness podcast. The story can be read at

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery


The Reader is Bea Flowers. If you would like to hear Bea narrate other things, or would like to get them to read things for you check them out at

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at

Theme music

The theme song was written and performed by Margaret Killjoy. You can find her at or on twitter @magpiekilljoy


Live Like the World is Dying: “Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” with Matthew Dougal

**Inmn ** 00:16
 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today, Inmn Neruin, and today we have something a little different. I host another podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness where every month we take a zine that Strangers puts out and turn it into an audio feature and do an interview with the author. We had a two-part feature called Blood, Soil, and Frozen TV Dinners by Matthew Dougal, and it is a short story about prepping from a very strange perspective, that of two right-wing preppers facing a mysterious collapse of society. This short story is a parody and I promise that the two main pov characters are not the heroes of the tale. It’s a fun story and I do an interview with Matthew afterward about prepping mentalities, fiction, and other neat stuff. If you like this episode, check out my other podcast that this is featured from. I did not re-record the outro, so you’ll get a little taste of Margaret playing the piano, because she wrote the theme music for the Strangers podcast. You’ll also get to hear our wonderful reader, Bea Flowers narrate the story. Follow along with the transcript or at where you can read all of our featured zines for free. But before all of that, we are a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on that network.  [sings a simple melody]

**Bea ** 02:49

“Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” by Matthew Dougal. Read by Bea Flowers. Published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. 
Katie sat, wide-eyed, beneath the kitchen table and hugged her knees to her chest. She was shaking, vibrating visibly. Tanner put his finger to his lips and prayed that her silent tears would remain just that. There was no time to stop and calm her down. Not again. He moved slowly around the kitchen, fumbling through cupboards and pulling out pre-wrapped packages of food. Always be prepared. Tanner had practiced this before things went dark, but it was different doing it for real. His hands hadn’t been so shaky, back then. 
A noise, on the porch. His body froze before his mind registered the sound. Tanner dropped into a crouch and crossed the room to the window, willing every cell in his body to radiate confidence toward his baby girl. His hand found the Glock 17 at his belt and he brought it up in front of him, the familiar feel of the grip reassuring. He took a breath, steadied himself, and raised his eyes to the level of the windowsill. The muscles in his thighs steeled and he remained, unblinking, utterly still, staring out into the darkness. 
After thirty or forty nerve-twanging seconds, Tanner drew breath and relaxed. His quads were burning, and they thanked him as he straightened. He could hear the specter of his ex-wife in his head, telling him to lose some weight, exercise more… Well she’d left, and that was 135 pounds gone right there. She’d probably say that was a good start.  
An unbearably loud ringing pierced the silence and sent him diving to the floor, landing awkwardly on his gun and sounding a crash through the kitchen. A keening whine came from under the table, Katie shaken from her silence. 
The doorbell. 
Feeling foolish, Tanner twisted over his shoulder and hissed at his daughter to be quiet. Still prone, he crawled toward the hallway in the most reassuring manner he could manage and pointed his Glock at the front door. 
Footsteps outside, then a shadow appeared at the window. Tanner’s heart pounded in his ears—more violent pulses of silence than sound—and his vision blurred as panic flooded his body. He’d heard the early reports of armed groups in the streets, some sort of fighting downtown, but he hadn’t really believed they would come here. His legs were weak, and he silently thanked God that he was already on the floor. The shape at the window didn’t move, frozen in the gloom, silhouetted by flickering light coming from the street. As Tanner’s head cleared he tried to take stock of what was happening. 
The apparition was vaguely man-shaped but shorter and slighter, an ethereal grace evident even in its stillness. A voice called out, muffled through the door, the guttural singsong completely at odds with the sleek form at the window. Tanner couldn’t understand everything, but he thought he caught the words “little girl.”
A second shape mounted the porch alongside the first, similarly short but squat and stocky, and grunted something to its companion in an alien tongue.
Fluorescent light flooded the yard and the voices momentarily disappeared beneath the growl of an angry engine. Tanner’s breath caught. His trembling finger hovered over the trigger and he willed the barrel to still its swaying dance. Two shots exploded outside—loud shots, from a much bigger gun than his. The creatures spun to face this new threat, their chatter rising in pitch and speed. They sounded panicked. 
yalla! hawula’ alnaas majnoon.”
Tanner sensed his opportunity. He was forgotten. All those hours of training kicked in and muscle memory took over as he rose to one knee, took a two-handed grip, and unleashed a furious hail of fire at his front door. 
“Keep your filthy hands off my daughter!”
He fired until he felt the Glock stop kicking, the magazine spent. As the cacophony faded he realized he was screaming. 
“Tanner! It’s me, Blake. Stop shooting goddammit, they’re gone.” 
“Blake?” Tanner mechanically reloaded his gun. “Why…” His throat was raw, his voice barely audible even to him. He swallowed, fighting to control his breath, and cleared his throat. “What are you doing here?” 
“Come to see if you were okay. Figured you and the kid might need a hand.” 
A stocky, heavily muscled figure wearing fatigues and a plate carrier stepped up to the porch, visible through the splintered ruins that had been the front door. A halogen glow lanced through the holes, like the brilliant aura of some kind of avenging eagle. 
“When this shit spread across the river from the city we locked down. It was touch-and-go for a while, but things quieted down eventually. When they did, I came straight over. Good thing I got here when I did. The quick little fuckers ran for it, but I think you hit one of ‘em.” 
The figure stopped, pulled down the red, white and blue bandana covering its mouth, and spat. Tanner had never been more relieved to see his buddy’s foul-mouthed face. Or his M1A SOCOM 16 rifle. 
“We’re alright.” Tanner’s voice was exhausted, his body shivering as the adrenaline fled. “Thank God I was prepared. Still, it’s good to see you.” 
“Prepared, shit.” His buddy grinned. “I been telling you for years to get something heavy duty.” Blake kicked the splintered remains of the door and his grin faded. “You can’t stay here. Those things’ll be back. Grab your girl and jump in the truck. Let’s head to mine, she’ll be safe there.”
The grin returned.“Prepared, shit.” 

An hour later they were sitting in “the Hole,” as Blake affectionately called it. The Hole was both name and description, although it perhaps undersold the amount of effort that had gone into its construction. Attached to the garage by a short, downward-sloping corridor, The Hole was a full-blown bunker that spread underneath almost the entirety of Blake’s backyard. Tanner was sitting in the main chamber eating Top Ramen, chicken flavor. 
They had made the half-mile journey in silence—lights down on the Tacoma, Tanner jumpy, Blake grim, Katie in a state of shock. The streets had looked completely foreign, the usual calming glow of LEDs replaced by the orange flicker of scattered flames. The familiar hum of traffic had been gone. Instead, gunfire had cracked in the distance. 
Blake’s wife Lauren had buzzed them inside after Blake confirmed his identity via video feed—three times: at the gate, the door, and the entrance to the Hole. The security was impressive. Lauren had ushered them inside, AR-15 at the ready.
“This is prepared,” Blake was saying, as Katie stared blankly at her untouched ramen. “Old owners, they had this backyard full of fruit trees, vegetables, fuckin’ kale and kohlrabi. What good is that gonna do, I said, you gonna hide in the pumpkin patch with a slingshot? Idiots. 
“Anyhow me and Lauren, we wanted to be ready, so I been building this the last two years. Ain’t no one knows about it, not even the contractors…” Blake sliced a finger across his throat, then laughed, “I’m joking, but they were from one of them Mexican countries. Had no idea what they were building. Good workers, though, came here the right way. And I did the security all myself.” 
Tanner laughed too, but at what he didn’t quite know. “You took this all real serious.” 
“Yessir. You never really believed, but we did. Earl Swanson was right, this here’s been a long time coming. It’s just like he said, and we listened. And here we are, while you was laying on the floor waving round that little waterpistol of yours.” 
Tanner had listened too, but apparently not well enough. There was only so much time he could watch an angry man on TV shouting about the state of the nation, no matter how prophetic he was turning out to be. Tanner tried to put up a strong front and flex his knowledge. He had listened, dammit. 
“Is this it, then? The invasion? Earl said they’ve been preparing it for years, brainwashing people. Recruiting sympathizers and traitors…” 
“It’s worse than that. The invasion started way back, we just didn’t notice. Well, most of us didn’t. Earl did. He tried to warn us, that the aliens’d started infiltrating, landing in remote parts of the country, blending in, looking just like us…” Blake spat. “Well, not quite like us. But close e-fucking-nough, hiding out and biding their time.”
“And now it’s out in the open…”
Tanner looked from his friend’s face to his daughter’s, scared and staring, and trailed off. He may have been listening, but he sure as hell didn’t understand. 
“What’s happening?” Tanner asked. “We’ve been laying low at home, locked down and trying to wait out whatever this is. We haven’t heard a thing since the power cut out three days back.” 
He could feel a surge of emotion building, pent-up adrenaline and stress and fear and loneliness rolling over him in a wave as they were released. His stoicism wobbled. 
“We’re… Katie’s scared and confused, and tired and sick of hiding and we’re all alone! What is all this? What’s happening?” Tanner realized he was shouting and stopped, taking a deep breath and lowering his voice. “Blake, man, what the hell is going on?”
Blake never flinched, just ran his tongue over his teeth in thought while he watched Tanner’s outburst through hooded eyes.
“Naw, we don’t know nothing for sure. Swanson’s been off-air for two days, since just after shit started going down. Said he was right, that it sure as shit seemed like those aliens he’d been warning us about were making a move, and the whole fuckin’ lot of us did nothing. Well, seems like it blew up in our face. Last thing he said was he’s heading somewhere safe to keep broadcasting, and he’d let us know when he found out more,” Blake paused, sucked his teeth, “We’ve had the TV and radio on non-stop since then, since we fired the generator up. Nothing.” 
Lauren lent forward. “There was something, couple days back…” 
“Nothing useful,” Blake cut in. He spat. “Same old fuckin’ commie stations, same old crap. They took over the channels, emergency broadcasting. Said there was a ‘protest.’ Stay inside, all under control, daddy government’s here, blah blah,” he laughed “Hell of a protest. More like an insurrection. Doublespeak bullshit.” 
“So what’s the plan? We hide out? Lay low? Wait for the military?” 
“The troops ain’t coming, chief.” Blake grimaced, “Alien tentacles go deep. Probably strolling around in general’s stars by now, the politicians just handing over the keys. This President’ll have us kissing their feet before dinner. 
“Nah, if we wanna fight back we can’t rely on that fuckin’ bunch of secretaries and scribes. We hole up here, wait for instructions.” He laughed again, “Huh, hole up in the Hole. That’s funny.” 
That grin was starting to get on Tanner’s nerves. “Instructions from who? How long is that gonna take? Who’s gonna fight back against… this?”
“I know some people, from back in the old days. Good people. There’s still patriots out there who won’t give up this country without a fight.” 
 Tanner still bristled with questions, but he was starting to feel relieved. There were people in charge, and they had a plan. That was something he could work with. “What if it takes weeks? Months? Do we have food for that long?”
Blake settled further into his chair, grinned that cocky grin. “I do, don’t know about you.” Before the words were even out of his mouth he was already raising his palms, “Chill out, I’m joking. I’ll put it on your tab. You’re a lawyer, I know you’re good for it. Show him, babe.” 
Lauren got up and went over to a large yellow flag hanging on the concrete wall, pulling it aside to reveal a long, narrow room that ended abruptly at a large steel door. She flicked on the light. 
“Dry storage,” she said, gesturing at the shelves lining both walls. Packets of ramen, boxes of cereal, rows of whiskey, and gleaming stacks of cans stared down at Tanner. “And cold storage,” Lauren continued as she stepped over to the door, kicking aside two enormous tubs of supplements and pulling it open to reveal a walk-in freezer. Tanner followed her inside as she happily chatted away, showing everything off like a house-proud hen. 
“We’ve got everything we need. Steaks, hotdogs, chili, hamburgers, mac and cheese, chicken parmesan, mashed potatoes–whatever you want. There’s a well, too, over the other side, we had that dug last summer. Tastes a bit funny, but it won’t hurt you.”
Tanner was hardly listening. He had never seen anything like it, never imagined anything on this scale. Blake really had taken preparing for the end of the world seriously. The freezer room was filled, wall to wall, with a treasure trove of gourmet excess; thousands upon thousands of frozen TV dinners. 

Tanner stared at his microwaved salmon filet, fries drooping from his fork. Out of habit he was eating in front of the TV with Katie, though the display hadn’t changed in… however many days it had been. Just the red, white and blue logo, a tile flipping between ads for pillows, brain pills, and frozen food, and the same scrolling red banner: 
Breaking: The United States of America is under attack. Stand by for updates. 
Katie was poking at her food silently, barely eating. Still no appetite. Tanner had told her they were safe, told her he wasn’t going to let anyone hurt her, told her a hundred times in different ways that she was his precious little girl and he would make sure she was okay. It had made no difference. She had just looked up at him with big, frightened eyes that pulled at Tanner’s heart. The only time she had spoken in the past 24 hours was to ask why he had tried to shoot people. Of course she didn’t understand. Maybe he should ask Lauren to talk to her. 
The TV display glitched, blipped, flicked to static and then to black. Tanner shoveled the fries into his mouth and rubbed his eyes. He’d been staring at a blank TV for too long. He chewed and stretched, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to straighten out his aching back. 
Earl Swanson was on TV.
Tanner blinked a few times to make sure he was seeing straight. Swanson’s shirt was wrinkled, his hair a mess and his signature bowtie slightly crooked, but his face wore that familiar expression of righteously indignant bewilderment. It was him. 
“Blake. Blake, get in here!” 
Swanson was in what looked like a large living room rather than his usual studio. Bookshelves and a TV cabinet were visible behind him. There were shadows under his eyes and his wrinkles were clearly visible without his usual TV makeup, but his eyes were as sharp as ever. There was a strength to them, piercing the screen, full of faith and fire. It felt like he was in the room. He looked like he’d been in a fight, and won. He was back. 
“Good evening America, and welcome to Earl Swanson Tonight.”
Blake stuck his head through the door. 
“What? I’m working out, give me a…. No shit.”
Blake stepped into the room. He was topless, breathing heavily. His stomach was shiny with sweat, pooling and running down the chiseled channels between his well-defined muscles before disappearing behind the low-riding waistband of his camo pants. Tanner realized he was staring and felt his cheeks flush as he snapped his eyes back to his friend’s. 
“Blake, it’s–”
“Shut up, I’m trying to listen.”
The rebuke slapped Tanner back to the present and back to the TV. He surreptitiously sat a little straighter and sucked in his gut, trying to ignore the heat rising in his face.
“…cities up and down the west coast. From Seattle to San Diego, the alien invaders and the traitors from among our own citizens have taken control, sowing chaos and destruction. Order has broken down, and anarchy rules in the streets. Yet we hear nothing but silence from the White House. The elites in Washington won’t do anything about this — they encouraged it. They caused it!
“No, it is up to patriotic Americans to stop this existential threat. It is up to us, to you and me and the other patriots out there. If you value the American way of life, if you respect the principles that built the greatest nation ever imagined, if you care about your family and the future of your children, then the time has come to stand up. Your country needs you. 
“I have been warning about this day on this very program for years. If you have been listening, you will be prepared for this betrayal. You know what to do. Find other true Americans who are ready to fight for our civilization and our culture. Defend our Western values against this attack by anarchists and aliens who wish to destroy us. They tried to take our guns from us, to disarm us, and failed — now is the time to use them. Seek out the prepared, the militias, the heroes. Fight back. Show them that we will not allow it.
“I will be moving to an undisclosed safe location so I can keep you informed. You know your job. I am doing my part, will you do yours?”
Swanson sat erect and defiant, no less commanding for his disheveled appearance. His willpower flowed from the screen in waves, washing over the watchers. It was compelling. It was urgent. It was the only option. 
The screen went black. 
Swanson’s gaze bored into Tanner long after the TV went dark, burning with righteous fire, lip curling with fury. The heat in Tanner’s cheeks sharpened, focused, began to spread into his chest and throughout his body. There was only one thought in his mind.
“We gotta go.”
It took him a second to realize that Blake had spoken the words out loud. 
“We do. But where? I don’t know anyone like that.”
“You know me, and I know people. Don’t worry about that. We gotta go to Baker City. I talked to one of my buddies from the marines this morning, he’s headed to join one of the militias out east. They might not be big, but they’re hard. They’re something.”
Tanner looked at Blake blankly, unable to quite comprehend what he was being told. Days of no news, no action, now everything all at once.
 “But what’s in Baker City? Don’t you know anyone here? This is where we live, where we have the Hole, where we have a safe base.” 
Blake was clearly agitated, shifting from foot to foot. 
“It’s not safe. Weren’t you listening? It’s fallen. The military ain’t doing jack, like I fuckin’ told you they wouldn’t.” Blake stopped bouncing and steadied himself. “But my buddy said the boys in Baker held out. It was bloody, but they held strong. If we can get there in a hurry, we can join a caravan heading for Boise.” 
“Baker… Boise? What the… Boise?! Surely it’s safer in Texas, or… or…” 
“Texas? And how far away is that? Look, I don’t know nothing about nothing, but I know I ain’t looking for safer. All I know is I got buddies in Baker, and they say Boise, and they are the fuckin’ resistance. We got our orders, soldier.
“The west had been invaded. Destroyed. Gone. You heard Swanson, same as me. Grids are down, water’s down, TV’s down–mostly, anyway. Sky’s half full of fire and smoke, gangs roaming the streets, traitors and aliens taking or breaking whatever they can get their thieving hands on.” Tears came to Blake’s eyes. 
“It’s a fucking mess out there, buddy. Anarchy. They’ve burned the lot.”
It was a lot to chew on. Tanner put a piece of salmon in his mouth. 
“I’m not gonna let some filthy aliens take my home, fuck my wife, invade my country, and steal the god damn US of A! The fight is right there, and I’m gonna fight it. Are you?” 
Tanner’s brain was spinning, but his blood was still hot from Swanson’s speech. Blake’s fire, delivered standing there half-naked like a Steven Seagal action figure, was rousing something inside him. His country needed him, and he felt the call in his bones. He put down his fork. He swallowed. He rose. 
“Of course I’ll fight. I’ll put a bullet in every alien who steps foot on American soil. I’ll put every collaborator in the dirt.”
He saw himself, next to Blake, riding shotgun as they made a fighting escape through the streets. He saw a heroic journey to Baker City, filled with danger and righteous violence. He saw a triumphant return, at the head of an army, cleansing his city with purifying flame. And he saw Katie, small and fragile and beautiful. Perfect, and terrified. The flame wavered. 
“But I’m fighting for her,” Tanner gestured, “I got my little girl, and I’m not so red-hot on riding out guns blazing to meet these savages with her hanging off my arm. She’s the future of this country, and that’s a future we have to protect.” 
To Tanner’s surprise, Blake took a half step back. 
“Shit. I know, man. Katie and Lauren, the innocent and the pure. I’m thinking of them, too.” He dropped his shoulders, but held Tanner’s gaze. “But it’s not safe for them here neither. We’re on our own, and all hell has broken loose up top. We fight for them, and they are the reason we have to fight.
Tanner paused, then nodded. He reached out and placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, fingers gripping the sweaty skin. 
“Let’s go pack the truck.” 
As the sun set and twilight brought a low fog creeping across the city, they piled into the Tacoma with as many frozen dinners as they could carry. 
Tanner rode in back. Lauren was up front, AR at the ready, while Blake drove, M1A by his side and his Glock taped to the dash. Katie was at Tanner’s side, curled up below the window and hidden from view, and Tanner watched over her with his own Glock and a borrowed Remington 870. They were all a little jumpy. He and Lauren had wanted to maintain a shoot-on-sight policy. Blake had been more cautious. According to Swanson, there would be plenty of people collaborating with the aliens. Lights out, engine low, and hopefully they could slip right on by. 
No one knew what to expect—Tanner suspected they were all terrified. He certainly was. Even Blake had swapped out his flag bandana for a more understated camo print. He had stashed the red, white and blue fabric in the bed of the truck with the rest of their gear.    
They pulled out into streets Tanner knew, but didn’t. He had driven them every day, on the way to work, to Katie’s school, to church, to the mall. The streets were as familiar as a cold Coke, yet now, in some important way, they were… different. As they left the Hole and drove through the suburb he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but once Blake reached the main street and turned past the bars and shops and take-out joints, it hit him. 
The streets were dead. The cars were gone. The steady flow of traffic, of people living their lives, had stopped. The parking lot in front of the drug store was empty; so was the one behind the bar. The convenience store, normally ticking over with a steady stream of customers buying cigarettes and beer, was dark behind its windows. Unintelligible graffiti in some alien script covered the ads for energy drinks, an expression of mindless violence across someone’s hard work. 
A light rain had started, misting around them and adding to the dreariness. A billboard loomed overhead, the lights that illuminated the Colgate-bright smiles of the models now permanently dark. Tanner was glad—the gloom obscured the flame-scarred destruction streaking the toothpaste company’s perfect white message.
“Disgusting,” Blake spat. He looked like he wanted to say more but pulled up short, shocked at the sudden sound of his own voice. His eyes focused back on the road and he fell into uneasy silence. The truck continued its crawl down the deserted street, barely clocking 20 miles an hour. Even at that speed, the low growl of the engine seemed unbearably loud as it reverberated among the carcasses of commerce and ricocheted down abandoned side streets. 
They kept driving, and nothing kept happening. It was torturous. Every minute of unbroken inactivity twisted the crank on the tension in the car, until the unceasing hum of the engine began to seep into Tanner’s brain. Every muscle in his arms and legs, primed and waiting and ready to spring, began to tremble, and his eyes focused and unfocused on nothing at all.  His frantic heartbeat messed with his breathing, a powerful panicked thud that matched the rumble of the pistons. 
Overall, he was relieved when the road curved and they entered a strip of restaurants to see signs of life among the debris littered across the street in the distance. 
It wasn’t immediately clear through the gloom what was happening. Blake slowed the truck, now rolling along at barely more than walking pace, and they crept closer. The scene was illuminated by the flickering light of small fires and backlit by a pair of enormous floodlights, creating a glowing aura in the surrounding mist. Images began to resolve, ghostly figures flitting in and out of view and the harsh geometric shapes—not of debris, but of hastily manufactured barricades—throwing long shadows that lanced through the air around them as they approached. 
All eyes were fixed on the barricades as they pulled within shouting distance, and Tanner nearly pissed himself when someone knocked on his window. He yelped, Blake swore, and Lauren’s weapon x-rayed Tanner’s head and pointed at the intruder. Tanner followed her lead and jerked his gun up to aim in the general direction of the window and for ten, twenty heartbeats nothing moved. Then another knock, and Blake hissed at them: “Put those things away you idiots, we’re the good guys here. Whatever side that guy is on, so are we.” 
Tanner slowly lowered the gun, then the window. 
“Hey folks, no cars through here.”
The man was clad head to toe in black—black jeans, black hoodie, black gloves, black bandana covering his face, black curly hair running with rainwater. No wonder they hadn’t seen him. The stranger spotted their guns. 
“Oh, nothing like that,” he added, catching the nervous energy in the truck, “You’re a bit late to the party. No trouble ‘round here, this area’s been cleaned out for days.” He chuckled, sending a shiver through Tanner. 
“Some folks messed up the cop shop a while back, it was a bit of a fight. Streets were all blocked up anyway, so we set up a little kitchen here. Been feeding some folks. Symbolic, like, new world in the ruin of the old and all that.”
The smile fell from his face as he took in the scene in the truck. 
“Everything alright? Is she okay?” 
He gestured at Katie, curled up and quivering silently beside Tanner. Tanner opened his mouth to respond, but Blake was quicker.
“Sure, probably just spooked by that fucking mask. Look, we don’t mean to bother you people. Just heading east, trying to cross the river. We’ll go around you and your little kitchen.” 
If the man took issue with Blake’s tone, it didn’t show. 
“Bridge is a no-go, I’m afraid. Pigs blew the cables as they pulled out, some of it collapsed. It’s way too unstable to cross.” He scratched at his temple. “What d’you want out that way, anyway? There’s dangerous people out there, not exactly safe for… families.” 
“We’re heading for, uh, Hood River,” Tanner spoke up, “Taking supplies out to the girl’s grandparents.” 
“Indians,” Blake chimed in, “they need the help.” He winked at Tanner. 
The stranger turned to Blake and met his eyes, holding his gaze for an unnerving moment. Then he seemed to resolve some internal discussion, relaxing his shoulders. “Well, you might be able to get across up St. Johns, last I heard the bridge was still intact. There’s some folks in the park up there, you can ask them.” 
“St. Johns? That’s the wrong fucking way!” 
“A bridge is a bridge. It’s that or swim, champ.”
“Can you at least call the, uh, your boss? Tell him you checked us out, ask if we can get across?” 
The man smiled, but something hardened behind his eyes. 
“My boss? Sure, sure. Look, I think it’s time you moved on. Head on up there and tell ‘em what you told me, they’ll let you out. There’s a bunch of poor Indians waiting for their dinner.” 
There was something strange about the way the man said “Indians,” but he patted the hood of the truck and turned away, waving them down a side street away from the barricade. As Blake slowly drove off, Tanner collapsed back into his seat and quickly rolled up the window. His underarms were cold with sweat, and he relaxed muscles he hadn’t known were clenched. 
Blake took the turn the stranger indicated, muttering that if he heard anyone say “folks” again he would hit them. Tanner stared out the window at the “little kitchen” as they passed. There must have been a couple hundred people, milling around a dozen or so small fires. They were all loosely centered around a large tent directly in front of the scorched skeleton of the precinct. Laughter and music drifted through the open window, and Tanner closed it. He didn’t think he could see any aliens, but it was difficult to tell in the dark. 
“Collaborators. Must be a ration station or something,” he muttered, mostly to himself. 
Lauren heard him. “No, this has been going on much longer than that, it just wasn’t so out in the open. Swanson warned us about it. He said they lure hungry people in with food.” 
“Yeah,” cut in Blake, “this is how they recruit ‘em. Set up a kitchen, give ‘em food, homeless and crackheads and queers, mostly. Drugs too, probably, and spewing their propaganda. That guy was probably one of the junkies. Sure as shit looked like it, you see the way he stared at me?” 
Tanner shuddered. A junkie. He had an overwhelming urge to wash his hands. He remembered the way the man had talked about the police station, his manic laugh in the face of such violence, and glanced back at the quickly fading light. And saw a small figure, tottering at the edge of the firelight. A child. 
“Disgusting,” he said out loud. 
“Yeah, disgusting. It’s like Earl said,” Blake continued, “they been feeding people right under our fucking noses.” 

They drove on toward the bridge. The streets were more cluttered here, both with people and the remnants of the riots, and they could only manage a slow pace as they picked their way through the destruction. Blake had to swerve to the wrong side of the road to avoid a group of people carrying trash bags, picking through the rubble. 
“Looking for something to eat,” he grunted, and locked the doors. 
Signs of violence were everywhere. Tanner’s chest tightened as they drove past the law firm where he had started his career—the job that had brought him to the city after he finished college, working for his father’s best friend and learning his profession. Inside the shattered windows it was nothing but a shell, the desks overturned and the computers gone. No one would be working there any more. 
The destruction was completely random. Violence for its own sake. Beside the firm was a pawn shop, covered in graffiti and looted. Next to that, a Vietnamese restaurant, completely unharmed except for ‘Delicious, 5 stars’ sprayed on the pavement outside. Across the road was an untouched convenience store and a bookshop with its doors wide open, light flooding out and people crowding the entrance. A donut shop and an Apple store destroyed, a mechanic and a bar looking like they had simply closed for the night. There was absolutely no pattern or reason to it. 
They saw a Fred Meyers with every window broken, the front door jammed open with a twisted shopping cart. A movement caught Tanner’s eye and he saw someone leaving from a side door, carrying a huge bag of stolen food. He hoped Blake didn’t see—he might do something stupid, and Tanner didn’t want to stop. It wasn’t safe. 
They made it a few more blocks when Lauren gasped and grabbed Blake’s arm, making him brake. She gestured across the intersection to a KFC. Half the building had collapsed in what must have been an enormous fire; the half that still stood had been savagely attacked. She pointed to the entrance with a shaking finger. Someone—or something—had toppled the giant bucket sign and sent it crashing through the ceiling of the kitchen. Above the door, someone had scrawled a message in red spray paint: 

There were more barricades set up near the bridge. Where the others had been makeshift, marking a boundary, these were more serious. They were to stop people getting through. Blake slowed before they got too close to the blockade, which they could now see was lined by shapes that very much suggested people. On both sides of the road the land fell away into darkness, sloping down to become a park that ran beneath the bridge. 
The park itself, a rare green space normally dotted with dog walkers and children, was transformed. The once-quiet lawns were a mass of tents and makeshift structures, stages and bars and sound systems, the proud trees now decked out with effigies and lights. Fires burned everywhere, and the distant space was carpeted with a swarming mass of humanity, undulating to a throbbing cacophony of noise. 
“This doesn’t look good,” said Blake. He pulled over, a hundred yards or so short of the bridge. 
“That guy said they would let us through,” said Tanner, “if we stick to our story.” 
“He was a junkie,” scoffed Lauren. 
“But he thought we were working with them,” said Tanner, “he had no reason to lie to us.” 
“I guess it’s worth a try. Anyway, they ain’t gonna try anything against this much firepower.” Blake grunted. “Too late to change our minds now. They’ve seen us.” 
He nodded at the barricade, where two shapes had detached from the mass. They moved toward the Tacoma, and Blake responded by flicking the lights to high beam and heading to meet them. As Blake swung back out into the road the beams cut through the darkness to illuminate the figures, throwing wild shadows from the two shapes until the truck steadied course and they coalesced into recognisable forms. One was a large man, white, with a nose ring and a loosely-tied blond ponytail. He was wearing a plaid shirt and carrying a large rifle. The other—Tanner’s throat caught—the other looked like one of the aliens. 
“Shit,” said Blake, as the headlights picked out at least half a dozen more shapes along the barricade, several with big guns visible. “Fuck.” He stopped the truck and rolled down the window, then cursed again and threw open the door. 
“I’ll be fucked if I’m gonna sit here and be pulled over like some criminal. Tanner, you’re with me—let’s go meet them man to man.”
Tanner scrabbled for the door handle and chased after Blake, half-skipping to catch up. They pulled up a few paces before colliding with the approaching party. The blond man stepped forward. 
“How’s it going, dude?” he said. 
“We need to get to Hood River,” said Blake, “we’re trying—”
“Yeah, we heard.” The man cut him off. “Bridge is closed to traffic, unfortunately. You wanna cross, you’ll have to walk.” 
Blake bristled. “Are you joking? We need to bring all this stuff. It’s… important,” he objected. “You can’t just keep people here!” 
“We could,” said the blond man, calmly. He sounded confident in his assertion. Looking at the line of men—and women, Tanner realized—standing along the barricade, he agreed. 
“But we’re not,” the man continued. “You can go wherever you want. Take your shit, cross the bridge. Some folks have organized buses up the river, they’ll take you. But the truck stays.” 
“But that’s my fucking truck!” Blake squealed. The man’s eyebrows shot up and Tanner laid a hand on Blake’s shoulder, squeezing it and hoping he got the message. The stranger paused, then sighed. 
“Look, I’m sorry dude. I love my truck, too. But there was an attack at another camp last night by these so-called freedom fighters,” he grimaced. “Militia wackjobs, really. Word is they are gathering across the river, and we can’t risk weapons and vehicles falling into the wrong hands. Especially not an arsenal like you folks got here.” 
The alien stepped forward and, much to Tanner’s surprise, spoke in perfect American English. 
“Don’t worry, it’ll be here when you get back. We’ll take real good care of it for you. They will appreciate the help guarding the buses and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you move these… important supplies.” 
They signaled to the group at the barricade and two more figures made their way into the light of the truck’s high beams. The first was a slim Black man in fatigues, wearing a red beret at a jaunty angle and carrying a AR-style rifle in one hand. The other was a woman, tall and imposing. She wore a leather jacket over a long black dress, which was slit to the thigh to reveal hints of slim, bare legs that stretched from the pavement to the heavens. Tanner blinked rapidly and swallowed. He had always had a soft spot for long legs in thigh-slit dresses. 
As they came closer the man nodded at Tanner and Blake, but he was not what held their attention. The woman with the legs from God was also rocking a luxurious mustache that would have put Teddy Roosevelt to shame. As Tanner’s eyes bulged, she caught his gaze and winked. 
“Hello, boys. I’m Sunshine, they/them. I’ll be with you on the bus.” 
Tanner didn’t know how to react. A fuzzy memory bounced around in the back of his head.
“An investigation on college campuses found that increasing numbers of American citizens are using pronouns.” Earl’s bewildered face frowned, then puckered. “These ‘theys’ and ‘thems’ are making a mockery of the American tradition, seeking to spread their insidious ideology among good, hard-working citizens, brainwashing young Americans into adopting these ‘pronouns.’ What’s next, people identifying a different age? A different race? We need to speak out against this perverse trend and most importantly, keep them away from our children.” _
That was it. These were the pronouns Swanson had warned them about. He gripped his gun and glanced at Blake, trying to get his mental footing. 
Blake looked shocked, too, but quickly pulled himself together. He threw Tanner a sly look, one that hinted at an idea. “Give us a minute,” he snapped, and pulled away from Tanner, back to the truck. When they were both inside he turned on the occupants with a spark in his eyes. 
“They must be talking about my boys, alive and kicking,” the old grin was back, his excitement barely contained. “Must have set up in the woods. We’ll head over and find ‘em. Maybe they got word from Earl. If they’re here, and they’re fighting, maybe we don’t have to go all the way to Boise after all.”
“What’s going on?” Lauren looked confused. 
“We’re leaving the truck. Grab the shit, cross the bridge, hijack their fucking commie-wagon and strike out east. Either we find them in Baker, or our boys find us first.” 
Tanner was still coming to grips with the situation. “What about… them?” he said. 
“They… them. In the dress, with the pronouns!” 
“And what are they going to do, stop us? You ever tried to fight wearing something like that? No. The four of us, across the bridge, grab the bus, easy.”
“Katie’s not hijacking any bus. She’s eight, for God’s sake. Maybe she and Lauren should stay here…” 
“You stay here with Katie,” Lauren snapped, cutting Tanner off. “If you think it’s safer, if you’re looking for safer, you take her for a nice walk in the park down there. I’ll be with my husband, taking my country back from these freaks.” 
“I know you want to keep Katie safe,” Blake added, almost apologetically, “but you saw what it’s like out there. You heard Swanson’s warnings. These aren’t people, they’re animals, aliens. She’s your baby fuckin’ girl, man. You do what you’re at peace with, but my wife sure as shit ain’t staying here to get felt up by some dick in a dress.” 
Tanner looked at Lauren. “But she’s just a kid! What if she gets hurt.” 
“What if she gets hurt _here
? So you look after her. Be a man,” Lauren spat back.   
Blake clapped Tanner on the shoulder and held his gaze. “It’s do or die time, soldier. Let’s get the fuck outta here, hook up with the resistance, then bring back the fury of God and freedom and the USA to take back this city and liberate my God damn truck!”
Tanner looked at Katie, curled up in the footwell, and wanted to object. He wanted to take her somewhere safe, back to the Hole, where it was warm and they could hide from the aliens and the bad people and they had all the food they could need and they could wait for this all to be over. 
But the fire in his belly wouldn’t let him. He knew Blake was right, he knew that he should be ashamed of his moments of weakness. He saw Lauren gripping her rifle and staring at Blake with faith and devotion in her eyes and he knew that was the kind of man he wanted to be. Tanner breathed a silent promise to keep Katie safe, no matter the cost. 
“Let’s do it.”
Blake pulled the truck up to the group of guards and they all piled out, Tanner standing straight and feeling tall, Blake’s words ringing in his ears.
It’s do or die time. _
Two of the barricade guards came over to help them unload while the others stood around and watched, their mustachioed escort who made Tanner’s skin crawl and the large blond man. Traitor. They stripped off the tray covering and began shifting gear, Blake and blondie up above handing packages down to everyone else. Tanner heard the guards muttering to each other. 
“Holy shit, that’s a lot of firepower.”
The blond man snorted. “And a lot of nasty-ass TV dinners. Important supplies, my ass.” 
Sunshine shrugged. “Folks eat what they eat. Not everyone lives in a Whole Foods and learned to make Tom Yum on their gap year,” they rebuked him.
The man grimaced and scratched his jaw. “Yeah, right. That was unfair of me. Well, Thai cooking workshop tomorrow and I’ll make a big pot, so at least folks here don’t have to eat that frozen stuff… unless they want to.”
They busied themselves unloading, bundling food and weapons into bags or tying them together for ease of carrying. Tanner was tying the straps of his backpack and settling it on his back when he heard a curse from the back of the truck. He glanced up, and, frozen in time, watched the next few seconds helplessly. 
The blond man had pulled out one of the last few satchels, the one containing all their spare clothes. He was standing upright, arms held out, nose ring quivering in silent outrage. In his left hand he had Blake’s flag bandana; in his right, Blake’s spare jacket, rebel flag patch sitting proudly on the shoulder. 
Blake reacted fastest. He dropped the food he was holding, raised his Glock, and with a vengeful crack the blond ponytail exploded in a spray of red. 
The man in the beret raised his rifle and fired two shots into Blake’s chest, sending him flying from the tray. A scream burst from Lauren as she reached for her gun, but the alien matched the sound and met her with a powerful tackle, sending both of them crashing into a pile of frozen hamburgers. Sunshine reached out and grabbed Tanner’s arm.
Time snapped back into motion for Tanner. He instinctively pulled away and shook his arm free of the grasping fingers. Stepping back, he spun and swung his fist in a wild roundhouse. It connected with Sunshine’s jaw as they overbalanced toward him. Tanner watched them collapse in a heap. His gaze danced over the chaos unfolding around him, frantically searching for Katie. _There
. Tanner picked her up and ran. 
They plunged off the road and into the darkness. There was only one thought in his mind: get Katie across that bridge. She was sobbing, shaking in his grasp, and Tanner made what he hoped were comforting shushing noises as he ran. He knew this park—there was a staircase inside one of the support towers that rose from the park to the bridge overhead. That was his way out. Holding Katie tightly, breath ragged, he ran toward the orgy of light and noise pulsating below. 
The two escapees burst into the mass of people. Tanner looked around, eyes darting, taking in the madness and trying to get his bearings. The sensory assault was overwhelming, but he slowly made out patterns in the polyrhythmic press. What had looked from above like a continuous swell of humanity was actually a hundred, a thousand separate groups and camps and parties. People flowed freely between them, groups forming and merging and coming apart in a chaotic, everchanging anarchy. A makeshift stage to his left throbbed with bass, colliding with the bone-jarring screams and guitars of a group of punks. Tanner found himself surrounded by ecstatic dancers, while a group almost under his feet sat staring into a campfire, oblivious to the rest of the world. He crashed through their doped-out reverie and bounced off two men, locked in a hungry embrace. 
Tanner recoiled and turned away, shielding Katie with his body, searching desperately for the tower that would lead him out of this nightmare. Lights flashed, blinding, creating a sort of slideshow of horror as Tanner scanned the crowd. There. He found it. His escape from this festival of the damned. He soldiered on, caught up in a whirl of half-naked dancers, men, women, and everyone else, mindless of the frigid air as they span and writhed in rapture. 
Tanner spotted an exit, an island of calm, and dove for it. He exploded from the throng, gasping for air, and breathed in the relative silence. Collecting himself, he was faced with rows of bodies, still, staring at something unseen up ahead, the very air trembling with collective anticipation. 
A voice shattered his uneasy reprieve, loud and bombastic and dripping with drama. 
“And now, my darlings, it is time for these fuckers to do what I do best—go down!”
Tanner dashed through the crowd as they roared and surged into motion, and caught a glimpse of the scene ahead: two lines of people, straining on thick ropes, as a woman in lingerie and feathers pranced like a princess of hell before them. The ropes led upwards, where they were tied around the necks of two enormous metal figures.
Lewis and Clark. 
Tanner broke into a full sprint, shouldering bodies aside. He was almost there. Up ahead, rising from the chaos, was his stairway to the heavens. His legs trembled and his breath came in ragged sobs, but he couldn’t slow down. Not when he was so close. He tore out of the crowd and into the comforting darkness of the spaces in between. His hysterical panic began to subside. One foot in front of the other. Keep running. They were going to make it.
As he neared the tower a figure came into view at the base, looming from the shadows of the doorway, staring into the blackness beyond. A stocky, muscled figure wearing fatigues and a plate carrier. It couldn’t be…
“Blake! Blake, thank God.”
Tears welled in Tanner’s eyes as he reached his friend. Lauren was nowhere to be seen, but right now Tanner couldn’t think about her. He had survived, and he had brought Katie through. His heartbeat was still frantic, but from exertion rather than fear. They were here. He, Katie, and Blake. Emotionally exhausted, physically spent, battered and terrified, but alive. They were going to be okay. He reached out to his friend.
Blake turned—No, not Blake. A thick black beard engulfed the shadowy face, momentarily lit by the glowing ember of a huge cigar. The eyes were deep-set and dark, the skin weathered, wrinkled, brown. The face of an illegal alien. 
Tanner’s throat betrayed him. He squeaked, and nothing more would come out. His knees wobbled and threatened to give way, his feet froze in place. He wavered. He whimpered. 
Puffing on the cigar, the alien took in his terrified face and the little girl slung over his shoulder. He gestured toward the doorway and blew out an enormous plume of smoke. 
“Go, gringo.” 

It was well past midnight when Katie ran into the side of a tent, fell on her bottom, and started crying. They had crossed the bridge, left the highway, and headed for the safety of the forest. Since then they had been wandering among the trees for hours, directionless, driven by fear, then by hope, then exhausted aimlessness. Tanner wasn’t going anywhere except away from that park. He had briefly entertained the image of finding a group of militia, sitting around a fire, eating and laughing and, maybe, swapping stories with their old friend Blake. That was hours ago. Visions were fleeting in the fever dream of the forest. Since then, they had walked because they didn’t know what else to do.
Tanner stumbled over to Katie and collapsed beside her, holding her close and hushing her. He felt like crying too. 
A flashlight clicked on inside the tent and a dreadlocked head poked out of the flap. 
“Hey, there’s someone here!”
Rustling erupted from all around and more faces appeared.
“Wasn’t someone keeping watch?”
“I thought you were.”
“Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. Someone’s crying.”
“You folks okay?”
Tanner and Katie were soon surrounded by a small group of people. He looked up at them.
“Are you the militia?”
“No, don’t worry. You’re safe here. We’re friends.”
“Although I guess we are a militia if you think about it. Sort of.” 
“Shh, don’t confuse the poor people. They’re terrified.” 
“Sorry. No, no militia. Someone get them a blanket and something to drink.”
Minutes later, Tanner and Katie were wrapped in sleeping bags, sipping on hot cocoa. It was scalding and familiar and Tanner felt the tension of the past day fading, leaving bone-deep exhaustion in its place. 
“Are you okay? What happened?”
“Thank you. We were… we just need to sleep.” 
“And you? What’s your name? Are you alright?”
Katie looked at her dad, then stared up from her tin mug.
“I’m Katie. I’m scared.”
“You’re safe now. We’ll help you. Look, we’ll get you somewhere to sleep.”
The first face they had seen rummaged around in a tent and brought out a bag.
“Lucky we have a spare tent. I’ll just put it up, won’t be a second.”
The tent was almost up by the time Tanner and Katie finished their drinks, and they got up and walked over, sleeping bags over their shoulders, holding hands.
“Hey, thanks,” Tanner said. “I would have helped but I don’t really know how. Never had much call for camping. I am, uh, was a lawyer,” he glanced around, “not criminal, uh… intellectual property. Copyright.” 
“No problem, of course. Here, it’s not hard. I’m just clipping the…”
“This isn’t the time for camping lessons, Jacob. Anyway, you’ll scare the man, sharing information for free like that. They’ve been through enough already.” 
“Sorry, yeah. Look, slide in. Take these sleeping mats. It’ll do for tonight, I’ll teach you tomorrow.” 
Tanner and Katie squeezed into the tent, sleeping bags huddled together on the cold, hard ground, and slept.

**Inmn ** 1:03:01
Hello, and welcome to the show. Thank you so much for coming on today. Could you introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, and just a little bit about what you do in the world?

**Matt ** 1:03:15
Yeah, hi, I’m Matt. He/him pronouns. And I’m a student again, after a really long time, actually, which is why I’ve just moved to where I’m living now. But I like to write, you know, mostly for me, and this is the first first thing I’ve published but I enjoy it. And yeah, I’m really grateful that you’ve taken an interest in it.

**Inmn ** 1:03:37
Yeah, totally. I love the story. So we just listened to the second half of your story, Blood, Soil and Frozen TV Dinners and even though listeners just heard…just heard the whole story, I’m wondering if you could just kind of like walk us through the story in your–you know, from the mouth of the author–what is this story about?

**Matt ** 1:04:01
So the story, for me, was about, to some extent, seeing yourself in some ways or, you know, people like you, through the eyes of…through the eyes of someone else, I guess, someone who’s very different and might see things in a different way. So I always find it interesting to play with different perspectives or different characters instead of telling the story from a heroic perspective or something. And I wondered what a pathway to a better world might look like from someone who didn’t necessarily want that to happen. So we have these, you know, preppers who–call them you want, right-wing conservatives, something like this–and what they might think, given the knowledge that they receive about the world, what they might think is happening when something happens that a lot of the rest of us might want.

**Inmn ** 1:05:00
Yeah, totally. I really like how you put that. What was it, like, "a better world that they don’t necessarily want?" [both laugh] Okay, well, how did this, how did this story kind of…like how did it come to be? What inspiration did you kind of draw from to craft this situation or these like personalities from Tanner and Blake or Earl Swanson?

Yeah, the story itself, there was a discussion last Halloween, I believe it was, on Coffee With Comrades, there was a interview with Pearson and Margaret Killjoy, talking about the discussion of the monster in literature, which is where I first took the idea that they were talking about seeing yourself as the monster in this idea and sometimes reveling in that or perhaps enjoying it. And that was where the first idea came from. And then the most specific layout of the story or main theme, I guess, was, I was doing something on the US Tax Office website. And there’s this whole section for aliens, right, if you’re an alien in the U.S., these are the tax rules you need to follow. And I just thought it was a funny word. You know, I’d seen it on Fox News or something before but it just struck me as really weird in such an official position. Yeah, and I just was playing with the ideas of this and, you know, I like thinking about utopias and things. And this is where the like the main shape of the story had come from, just the idea of seeing the monster, seeing the alien from there. And then specific characters, I mean, some of them are just kind of people that I’ve met, you know, Tanner and Blake, specifically, and I think Earl Swanson’s character, I mean–I don’t know it’s possibly libelous–but we can probably figure out who that’s meant to be, right? I think it’s reasonably obvious.

**Inmn ** 1:07:09
Totally, totally. Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s super interesting. Yeah, it’s funny, I was rereading the story today to prepare for this interview and I realized that the first time that I was reading it, because of this perspective of the…. I’m like, okay, I know, these are some, you know, at least center-right, far-right preppers and they’re using the word "alien" and I don’t actually know what they mean by this, which was, you know, maybe a purposeful being vague about it, but I was like, I don’t know if they think that it’s, you know, illegal aliens or undocumented  migrants or whatever or if they mean, like, literal from outer space aliens. And, yeah, I was like, I don’t know what they mean by what they’re talking about. And maybe they don’t either.  

This was part of the conceit, right, was setting it up like it’s a pretend big reveal, I think, that it’s a twist in the story that at some point gets revealed, but that’s not really the point. It’s not really meant to be a big trick or something like this, you know? I think in discussions in the editing, we talked about in the first page or so when they speaking Arabic, and it’s reasonably obvious to anyone that knows Arabic who these people are, you know, it’s not hidden, but this was the idea, that they may have meant illegal alien all along, was, you know, the way they we’re using the term, but that they weren’t necessarily drawing so much of a distinction between the two uses of the word alien, that in their minds a, sort of, invasion by one was the same as the invasion by the other to some extent.

**Inmn ** 1:09:10
Yeah, which, you know, I actually really love that from the perspective of…. It’s like maybe an interesting twist. I didn’t listen to that interview with Pearson and Margaret, so I’m not sure what they talked about, but there’s this kind of idea in a lot of spaces that I’ve been part of,you know, when people talk about things like assimilation or something, especially in queer spaces, of like, "We have to seem harmless to them. We have to seem innocent. We have to seem like we just want to be part of the group," you know, and then this other side that’s like, "No, we want to be unknowable. We are claiming the monstrosity that they are putting on us," and I’m like, yeah, we’re fucking…. I don’t know, anarchists are kind of aliens, like, in an entirely other way of thinking, you know?

Yeah, and just considering some social norms is completely irrelevant or harmful or repressive and other things that other people would consider, perhaps, violent or something seem completely okay to other people. There is a complete sort of alienation of perspective from broader society, I think. And yeah, it is, there’s a tension between sometimes wanting to go unnoticed, or, as you say, like assimilate, and even, for me, walking around, you know, sometimes you want to look like an anarchist and sometimes you don’t. It’s an interesting dynamic, I guess, that you can switch sometimes day-to-day.

**Inmn ** 1:10:54
Yeah, yeah. Have you read much of–you know, love talking about this person on the show–have you read much of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle?

I’ve read only "The Dispossessed" and "The Left Hand of Darkness". 

**Inmn ** 1:11:16
Great examples. I think "The Left Hand of Darkness," kind of brings out this idea of where the reader is going to maybe most identify with the alien, or whatever, in "The Left Hand of Darkness" being not the not the Gethens–or I don’t remember what they’re called. But then it’s like, the more that we’re reading the book… or there’s some times where I’m this alien or, you know, our perspective person just doesn’t understand this culture. And that’s really painful. And then there are other times when I’m like, I don’t know, maybe the alien’s perspectives on the world are far more dissimilar to what a normal person on like our planet Earth would think, because they’re advocating for a better world that is very alien to people on this planet. Does that make sense?

**Matt ** 1:12:24
Yeah, I mean, in "The Dispossessed," I think it’s the same dynamic with Shevak coming back to Earth and presenting the perspective, both ways that it seems incredibly alien to him and then the other way around to everyone else that’s there, to the general culture there. Yeah. I think it’s an interesting literary device to present the outsider point of view, I think, which I mean, is quite the opposite of what I did in this story, I presented the more mainstream point of view, I guess, but from the circles that we’re in, it’s funny to see from the outside what that looks like.

**Inmn ** 1:13:02
Yeah, yeah, I had this very silly idea once for…I don’t know if it was gonna be a short story or what but kind of, using that "alien" trope or like "Stranger in a Strange Land" trope as a way to talk to my parents about anarchism or about radical queer spheres.

**Matt ** 1:13:27
Yeah, I mean, that’s about as alien as it can get for a lot of people’s parents, right.

**Inmn ** 1:13:31
Totally. But just as some funny little zine that’s like an introduction to the punk house, you know?

**Matt ** 1:13:44
Yeah, viewed as some sort of interesting zoo creatures.

**Inmn ** 1:13:46
Yeah. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the kind of political renderings of Tanner and Blake or ,rather, their differences in how they perceive or interact with either preparedness or this new world that they’re encountering?

**Matt ** 1:14:14
Yeah, I think that Blake’s character is a lot…. He knows what he’s doing, right? It’s a lot more intentional and more–I guess educated is maybe not quite the right word–but a lot more of an actually constructed ideology, whereas for Tanner it’s very much received. He’s not so keen, not so entirely sold on the idea or doesn’t necessarily know the idea. It feels like it’s like lost and failing a lot of the time and I think that’s why I found him a much more interesting character because that’s how I feel a lot of people that I know and talk to and family members and friends and things or friends of people I know get pulled into a lot of these, you know, reactionary ideologies is kind of by accident a lot of the time, right? Because it’s what’s presented and what they’re drawn into by someone who has a lot more investment in it than they do. And they just kind of bumble into it almost by accident. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:15:20
Because it’s what they’re seeing on TV. People who are deeper into that philosophy are like…. It’s like the people that they’re around who are their own little echo chambers of, "Oh, okay, there’s this thing happening. Not sure how I feel about it. But I’m being like, fed this perspective on it."

**Matt ** 1:15:46
Yeah, and a lot of the social or interpersonal issues that draw people in as well, I think. I tried to make it seem relatively obvious that Tanner is envious of Blake in a lot of ways, right? He is, you know, hotter than him and he is cooler than him and he knows more than him and he’s always trying to, like, live up to this ideal that he has just completely interpersonally with no politics or anything in it. And he just wants to live up to what he thinks Blake wants him to be, which it turns out, is a bad thing. I mean, I’m not trying to excuse Tanner’s character too much here. But yeah, I think this is what’s really dangerous a lot of the time actually, for people who don’t necessarily have a fully formed belief in all of these philosophical systems or something that then puts them on the wrong side not by…not necessarily out of evil intention.

**Inmn ** 1:16:54
Yeah. No, that’s very true. And it’s interesting talking about not excusing Tanner’s character too much, but as I was reading the story I found myself like, not necessarily rooting for Tanner and Blake to win or whatever, but rooting for Tanner to be confronted with the contradictions in his worldview. Because it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like, that’s what I hope for in the world that we live in is that these kind of–I heard this phrase recently. It was people talking about everything going on in Palestine right now and these "sharpening contradictions" and that’s what I hoped that would happen for Tanner, which is not really what happened for Tanner. [Laughing]

**Matt ** 1:18:00
Yeah, well I’m sorry to let you down, I guess. When I was thinking about the story initially, I was thinking about doing this, but then it became kind of a, I don’t know, a redemption story, everything ends…. Well, he gets pulled out of this destructive ideology. He, you know, potentially reconcile some of these contradictions and, you know, maybe even talks to his daughter or something. But I didn’t necessarily want it to go in that direction because it’s not necessarily the way I see the world going, that these things just get better and everything’s okay in the end and I don’t always like stories when that happens. You know, it’s a bit too optimistic for me sometimes. And I thought it was maybe more interesting just to sit in it.

**Inmn ** 1:18:50
No, yeah. No, I appreciate how the story ended. And like, I think that is, you know, that is unfortunately probably a more likely outcome for most people and that is a hard reality to sit with because–I’m not an optimist as much as I am just really holding on to hope or something. I don’t know. You know, I’m a hopeful nihilist or something.

**Matt ** 1:19:25
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s important to be hopeful. I mean, I’m quite happy to call myself a utopian…maybe a pessimistic utopianist or something like this, but I think these things are important. And, you know, I tried to leave a little seed of that in there with–you know, there if there’s one thing that does redeem Tanner’s character in some way is his poorly expressed but the care for Katie. And we tried to end it on that, right? 

**Inmn ** 1:19:55
Yeah, totally. And maybe I’m experiencing these political ideologies wrong but Tanner is like this kind of center-right kind of character–in the American perspective, I know other places these things mean vastly different things–but how Americans might view Tanner is center-right, who…. You know, Tanner’s fear, or the core fear for a lot of people is reasonable things where they’re like, "Oh, I’m worried about my kids. I’m worried about surviving with my family in these situations." But then, you know, they go about it in the most horribly wrong way.

**Matt ** 1:20:48
And they take the easy options that are given to them that don’t make them think too much. I mean, just on the point of him being center-right in the US, here in Portugal, a friend was telling me the other day that they consider their Socialist Party center-right. So it’s kind of funny. But I think Tanner represents someone who’s maybe not even so political, but he’s just been given explanation to things that he is worried about and it doesn’t require him to think too much. And he doesn’t have to do so much. I mean, okay, well, then the position is presented in the story, a lot of stuff happened, but ideologically, he hasn’t had to do too much work, right to get to where he was.

**Inmn ** 1:21:31
Totally, totally. And golly, I’m sorry, my last like having empathized a little too much with Tanner throughout the story, is–I think this is the quotation–"These were the pronouns Swanson had warned us about." And when Tanner attempts to use Sunshine’s pronouns, I was like, okay, yeah, you’re a little wacky and like, I don’t know, you’re trying I guess? 

**Matt ** 1:22:12
Yeah, I mean, okay, I was not sure about this, you know, we talked about being a bit concerned about how the story would be received because it’s through this strange perspective. And I genuinely wasn’t sure if this was kind of funny or weird or a little offensive or something, perhaps. But, you know, it’s important to acknowledge that this is at least like such an amazingly popular topic at the moment in the US on the reactionary right. I think. So….

**Inmn ** 1:22:50
Totally, totally. Um, well, I don’t know, you know, at least as someone who…. I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns and I found it weirdly relatable at least within…. I don’t know, we have a lot of caricatures built up about what the Right looks like here in the United States. And these depictions, to me, are very spot on. I’ve met both of these people, you know. But it’s like, I’ve also met that version of Tanner who’s center-right has some wacky thoughts about the world, listens to Earl Swanson, or whatever, but like, at that core, just, you know, they’re like, "Oh, well, this person hasn’t harmed me. They seem nice. And they want to be called this thing. And I was told that was dangerous, but I just want to refer to people how they want to be referred to," it’s like, I don’t know, you know, it’s like I’ve met that person. I’ve met that person who has some problematic views and also doesn’t actually want to be rude or be viewed as rude to people.

**Matt ** 1:24:18
Especially, I think, you know, on a lot of these more conservative positions, that politeness is, you know, almost a virtue above all others sometimes. In a more traditional Conservative view, maybe not so much sometimes now, but, yeah, like, exactly like you say, that someone doesn’t want to be mean for no reason, or they might not understand it and they might have very problematic views about it, but this inherent very conventional politeness just prevents them from actually saying what they might mean or say otherwise when they don’t necessarily–like I said–does not necessarily have this ideological position so much. Like, why would they want to be mean to another person?

**Inmn ** 1:25:07
Yeah, they view themselves as you know, like the quote-unquote, "Good guys." And so when they’re confronted with someone who’s like, "Oh, this is just a person, they seem nice. I don’t know, doesn’t seem dangerous anymore." You know, because that’s the narratives that people like Earl Swanson are feeding people, is "These people are dangerous." And I don’t know. Sorry, not not to harp too much on the humanity of these characters, but I think they’re…. I do think there’s interesting things to find in those interactions. I don’t know.

**Matt ** 1:25:53
Yeah, no, sure. I mean, I was talking to some people about this last night, but that this liberal position that especially we saw coming up during Covid, where, you know, "Oh, Florida voted Red, let them all die," type stuff. You know, "Everyone’s redneck hicks and things," that this is for me much more…. It’s horrible, right? It’s really, really terrible. And there are a lot of people who, I mean, again, maybe a lot of people who wouldn’t even attempt to use the right pronouns or that do genuinely hold more problematic views, but fundamentally they’re still people. We can’t just write off half of everyone because they vote the wrong way. Or, we don’t have to accept the positions, but we have to accept that they are people, right? 

**Inmn ** 1:26:39
Yeah. Or it’s like, I don’t know, I think about it, as–you know, again, talking to people where I’m like, okay, yeah, y’all got some problematic views. And when I talk about pronouns, you try at least? And I don’t know. Anyways, I’d be super interested to hear about like…. So you have spent some time living in the United States but I’m curious what…. I’m curious how, kind of, American. you know, preparedness, prepper culture is viewed from not the United States.

**Matt ** 1:27:26
Yeah, I mean, I’ve sort of got a background in anarchist circles and things, so a lot of the more community preparedness sides are more universal, especially when we’re talking about climate resilience and food sustainability or, you know, local food sustainability and production and these kinds of ideas. And, you know, even just decommodification of some of these things, to provide them for ourselves even without a massive sudden crisis or something. So I’m, like, more familiar with these kinds of ideas, but the specifically right-wing, American version, or US version, is kind of interesting, you know? Like, one of the first experiences I had coming into the US that I found quite interesting was went to the supermarket the first or second day I was there and there was just a guy with a hunting knife strapped to his thigh that was down to his knee, you know, just walking around. And this kind of stuff, I mean, okay, not necessarily prepper ideology, but it just really threw me off that these kinds of things happen and how…. The way that this then pulled…the types of things they’re being prepared for, I guess, is what it is, I just find very, very funny. I mean, that was part of the reason for choosing the frozen dinners, apart from a symbolic value of it, is that as a way to prepare for the end of the world, they’re the worst kind of food you could have. You know, they’ve got the highest sort of…. They require the most convenience infrastructure, right, you need a freezer, you need some kind of microwave or something. It’s a very useless way to prepare. I find it kind of funny, you know, that Blake talks about when he builds his bunker, that there were a bunch of useless fruit trees and stuff there, so he took them out to put in a freezer full of frozen foods, right? Yeah, I find the approach very strange. And it’s incredibly individualistic, I guess, is the main point and assumes a level of comfort that might not necessarily be there if the end of the world came.

**Inmn ** 1:27:27
Yeah. And there’s these, I don’t know. there’s some really fun quotations that I’d really love to just highlight from the story that kind of relate to that, like them talking about, you know, when talking about food, they’re like, "Oh, they’ve been luring people in with food," or I think Blake says, "They’ve been feeding people right under our noses," and I’m like that’s what you do during disasters, is you feed people.

**Matt ** 00:12
Yeah, this is, I mean, not so much even on the prepper side of things, but just the attitude of people towards a lot of the sweeps and stuff, right, the absolute dehumanization of people that just don’t have somewhere else to live, that all of a sudden that…. Not even that they don’t deserve anything, but that anyone who helps them is a criminal in encouraging, encouraging the fall of the US empire or something. And I just, I mean, I find these attitudes just deeply inhuman. I don’t know, I just…the story is mainly a joke. Not trying to highlight too much. I think most people know most of these things, right? Especially people that are listening to this podcast, but I just wanted to have some fun with some of it.

**Inmn ** 01:06
Yeah, I really appreciate that as like, you know, we do Live Like the World is Dying and we talked a lot about preparedness and we usually approach it from these like, really, you know, these much more serious views and we’re like, "the danger of the Right, the danger of bunker mentality," and, you know, with good reason, those things are scary and like the world is having some wild…you know, wild things are happening in the world right now. And I really appreciated this bit of humor about it to be like, yeah, here’s this funny tale. 

**Matt ** 01:48
Yeah, I had to do a lot of research into all the different types of guns, because I’m not so familiar with them. I mean, okay, there’s like three types of guns, but I still had to go look at what they were because I don’t know them. But that seems to be the number one, the number one thing to do, if you’re right-wing prepper is to build a bunker and put like 70,000 guns in there. So…. 

**Inmn ** 02:08
[Laughing] Yeah. Extreme forethought on the guns and not that much forethought on food.

**Matt ** 02:16
Or access to water or something, you know?

**Inmn ** 02:19
Yeah, or just community, you know? I don’t know, that’s one of my big things with bunker mentality. It’s like, okay, you’ve built the bunker where you’re going to survive the collapse, or whatever, and then what? You’re just like, alone in a bunker? That doesn’t sound like a good place to end up. I’d rather build these communities that can, kind of like, get through things together and like, take care of each other.

**Matt ** 02:52
Yeah, I think you can have a lot better chance of getting through something with a group of people around with varying skill sets and expertise and experience and so on. But also, like you say, I mean, I just…I don’t want to end up by myself in a bucket. That sounds like not a lot of fun. It’s not really a life I want to live.

**Inmn ** 03:10
Um, how do people talk about community preparedness in Europe or Portugal?

**Matt ** 03:21
Yeah, I mean, it’s not so much of a…. Things here maybe haven’t broken down quite as much as they have where you are. There aren’t…the contradictions haven’t sharpened–I think was a way to use before–quite as much as they maybe have. So people are much more interested in–or, not interested, maybe more focused on–finding ways to provide things for ourselves in the moment without a market, right. So finding ways to access housing and to access food and to provide food. There’s at least as much hyperbole and xenophobia and panic about refugees in Europe as there is about people coming into the US. And so trying to, you know, build links with these communities and things I think are much more focused on. The sorts of community care that people are doing here is more immediate, it’s not really aimed at the future. It’s kind of aimed at now. It has a different character, right?

**Inmn ** 04:30
Yeah, which stuff like that certainly happens here where there’s just so much to respond to. There’s so many bad things happening that it…it does feel hard to adequately be able to plan for the future because we are constantly reacting to what is currently happening.

**Matt ** 04:55
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s plenty of people trying to make life better right now in the US too. Yeah, I think maybe there’s not quite the same expectation that it’s all gonna go to shit soon here right away.

**Inmn ** 05:14
Oh, yeah, no, that’s an interesting difference because here, there’s just so much that it feels hard to stay on top of it but we all know stuffs gonna get real bad. Whereas there, it seems like people have more optimistic views of stuff not getting bad or they’re just like not thinking about it? [Said like a question]

**Matt ** 05:36
I mean a lot of it’s just kind of more hidden, because there are, you know, stronger welfare states in some parts of Europe. So things aren’t as immediately bad for, you know, as many people. It’s still very bad for plenty of people. But there’s not as many people who are facing the same immediate problems. And, sort of lurking in the background, you know, like, but I think they haven’t been brought into focus as much as the US has. 

**Inmn ** 06:08
That makes sense. I guess like…I usually ask this at the beginning of the story, or at the beginning of the interview, but like…and, you know, we’ve talked about a lot of this already, but what is the story behind the story? like, why is this an important story for people now?

**Inmn ** 06:27
I know, I love that the mechanism of collapse, of whatever’s happening in the story is really vague, you know? I’m like, did something happen? Was there just an insurrection? But whatever happened, like, I don’t know, these anarchists are really on top of it. [Laughing, like it’s unexpected they would be]

**Matt ** 06:27
I think it’s, first, important to sometimes laugh at these things because otherwise you just despair. And like I said, I wrote this for myself as a joke initially. So for me it was important for me to write, not necessarily have a plan for anyone to read. But I think–so, I mean, this is maybe stretching the definition of Utopia a little bit–but I think that thinking about what worlds could look like is incredibly important. You know, I think Bookchin says that, "The change comes from the difference of what people see their life to what they can imagine it to be like," basically, the bigger this differential, the more likely people are to act. And I think by expanding the sort of normative horizons of what we can expect of the world, I think this is quite important, genuinely. Like I said, it might be stretching it a little bit to apply that to this story. But I think it’s maybe a funny look at changes happening, right? I mean, it’s somewhat utopian to imagine that a city in the US could fall. So…. 

**Matt ** 08:09
Yeah, I didn’t want to go too much into that and make some sort of, you know, "10 pages on how to do a revolution," because, I mean, who am I to talk about that? And we’ve had that and got that. And, you know, this is a much bigger, more serious discussion. Also, it didn’t make any sense for Tanner and Blake to know how that happened. 

**Inmn ** 08:33
No, I love that we’re wrapped up in the mystery of that.

**Matt ** 08:37
Yeah. And I think, you know, we wanted to suggest that some things, they’re very basic things, like you mentioned before, just, you know, feeding people for a long time, recruiting people by helping, you know, helping people, convincing them at their side is better because actually their side was nice to them and help them and, you know, gave them some agency. Oh how dastardly of them. [said sarcastically]

**Inmn ** 09:02
Yeah, so dastardly. But, yeah, sorry, just to go back real quick to this….  It’s funny because I think maybe we maybe have different terms that we might use, but I, for instance, I feel resistant to the idea of utopian thinking, but something that I think is really important is like–and I think Bookchin talks about this idea or at least Cindy Milstein talks about this idea a lot–is prefigurative organizing or prefigurative visioning, which is like…. I don’t really…I don’t know enough about these things to know the difference between utopianism and prefigurative visioning but prefigured visioning being like, "We want to build the world that we want to live in now and not like wait for the future or for to be too late," or something?

**Matt ** 10:02
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there’s a lot of debate over what utopianism is, if it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s whatever. So I’m just, you know, I’ll use the word and other people can disagree. But I exactly agree. Like, I think, you know, prefigurative politics is what we need to be doing. We need to build a world that we want to live in. But we need to have an idea of what world we want to live in to do that. And so I think we hold it out as a horizon that we can move towards, it’s not some fixed blueprint of how we want the world to be, but rather, that we can just continuously imagine and change and reflect on and we can bring little bits and pieces of it into the here and now. You know, like I’ve mentioned a couple of times with people trying to find ways to feed themselves in their communities and other ways to access housing and other ways to just exist right now. I mean, we need to have some idea of how to do this. And I think if we can, if we can conjure–especially as writers–I think if we can conjure some of these ideas of Utopia then people can take bits and pieces and try it. We can experiment, we can see if it works. If it doesn’t work, we can update our idea of Utopia. But it’s important that it’s a practice not a…not some fire or vision, you know?

**Inmn ** 11:13
Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, I totally, totally agree. And that’s like one of the…that’s like one of the natures of, you know, anarchism or anarchic philosophy is this adaptability or the ability to experiment and be like, "Oh, golly, that didn’t work. Well, we’re going to…. We thought it would, but it didn’t. So we’re going to try something different and see if that works better for people." We can change. Our visions can change. I don’t know.

**Matt ** 11:44
Yeah, and we try ways of, I don’t know, something as simple as try a way of organizing some collective or something. And then you find out that, actually, maybe we didn’t need 10 pages of different bureaucratic structures to stop power accumulating in one place too much. Maybe we could just wing it a bit, you know?

**Inmn ** 12:02
Yeah. Well, we are nearing the end of our time. But is there…are there any…is there any last things you want to say about this story? Or like, questions that I should have asked you that I didn’t ask you?

**Matt ** 12:18
I don’t think there’s anything that I was really itching to say that didn’t get mentioned. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe, like I said, I was worried about the story. Maybe just to mention that the misogyny that comes across is, as you know, is definitely…the characters are not speaking for a reason. So maybe I’ll just mention that in case anyone’s worried about it.

**Matt ** 12:42
Totally, totally. Yeah.

**Matt ** 12:45
No, I think there’s…. Yeah, it was a good discussion. I enjoyed talking about it. 

**Inmn ** 12:50
Yeah. And maybe that’s my final question about the story is like–we talked a little bit off air about this–but there being some nervousness around how the story would be perceived. And I was wondering if you wanted to say just a little bit more about that?

**Matt ** 13:07
Yeah, sure. I mean, I think writing from this perspective, I mean, from the perspective of someone who holds some racist views, misogynistic views, they’re gonna have a racist, misogynistic perspective. And it would be kind of weird not to have that in the writing. It would feel off somehow. So I mean, okay, obviously, I’m not using slurs and stuff. And I think in some way, you know, we mentioned this slightly before, but that in some ways, this is a caricature and in some ways it’s toned down. Like I think of these characters that actually have this happened in real life, they would have been a lot…. The language would have been a lot stronger in a lot of cases, even if they behaved slightly more sensibly in some cases, right? I think there was a tension there. But I think this was a very nervous story. So far everyone that’s read it has been very graceful or given me a lot of grace or goodwill, I guess. In reading it, assumed I had good intentions, which is very nice. But yeah, it was definitely very nervous submitting it to people that don’t know me at all and I don’t know them and they could have read it in a different way. So yeah, that went a lot better than I was maybe hoping

**Inmn ** 14:18
That’s all very understandable. I thought it was…. Like, we thought it was hilarious that Strangers so….

**Matt ** 14:25
Oh thanks a lot.

**Inmn ** 14:28
Yeah, I had some nervousness because where we ended the first part was like the kind of big reveal really hasn’t happened yet. I really hope people stick with this and are viewing it as a caricature or as a satire, which I thought was pretty obvious from the beginning. So….

**Matt ** 14:50
Yeah, it’s hard to satire something these days. I mean, alright, it’s cliche to say that satire is dead. It’s definitely not. You can still do it, but it’s getting difficult, you know?

**Inmn ** 15:00
Yeah, well it’s like…. I don’t know like there’s this–this is a weird plug–there’s this really silly movie that came out a while ago called Dark Dungeons and it’s a movie that some people made about this Chick Track of this Evangelical comic about how Dungeons and Dragons the game will make your kids queer and it’s about how they’re trying to summon Cthulhu. And they like…. So people made a movie of it and the movie is incredible. And like you watch it and you’re like, "Wow, this is a whole area satire." and the creators of that movie we’re like, "This is not a satire. We didn’t change anything. This is a sober rendition of these events and they satire themselves."

**Matt ** 15:57
Yeah, this is documentary. What are you talking about? [Joking]

**Inmn ** 16:02
Yeah, it’s like these things where it’s like, yeah, maybe it’s not the appropriate thing to call it a satire because it’s just presenting it as it is, you know? Does that make sense?

**Matt ** 16:13
I mean, as the world gets more ridiculous, it’s, you know, you have to do less work to do satire, I guess. [Laughing]

**Inmn ** 16:21
Yeah. Okay. Um, are you working on anything else or have anything that you would like to plug?

**Matt ** 16:28
Um, nothing really to plug. I mean, I’m writing…. Like I said, I like…I like the idea of utopia–as you know, we could disagree on maybe–and the idea of different perspectives and different utopias and how this could be. So I’m working on, you know, a collection of short stories of, you know, different utopias from different points of view. So, you know, maybe people can find that on Strangers. I don’t know. In the future. But yeah, that’s about it.

**Inmn ** 16:58
Are you…can you be found on the internet anywhere where you would like to be found? 

**Matt ** 17:03

**Inmn ** 17:04
Great. I love when people can’t be found on the internet. It’s wonderful.

**Matt ** 17:10
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s not my favorite place to be.

**Inmn ** 17:15
Yeah, it’s a weird place. Yeah. And I think we probably have more similar views than…. I think the word "utopian" is like a kicker word to me. But it seems like we have pretty resonant views on those things. Um, so just to end out the episode, we do this, Word of the Month, which is I’m going to tell you a word. I’m going to ask you if you know any of its origins or like any guesses about its origins and then I will tell you a little bit about the word.

**Matt ** 17:54
Excellent. I can’t wait to sound pretentious by guessing the origins of something.

**Inmn ** 18:01
So, you know, the word apocalypse? 

**Matt ** 18:03
I do. 

**Inmn ** 18:04
Do you…. What does the word apocalypse mean to you? And where do you think the word might come from?

**Matt ** 18:12
Apocalypse? I’m probably just gonna embarrass myself here, like "the end of the world," something like this. Right? Like, maybe it doesn’t mean this. But where it comes from? No idea. I mean, the only thing I could think of it similar to it is like Calypso, and I’m sure that’s not…that’s very far away.

**Inmn ** 18:29
Oh, I should have looked up Calypso. I didn’t make that connection. I’m gonna have to look. There might be…there’s there’s usually connections. Um, yeah, you know, it means the end of the world. That’s what we’ve come to…that’s the meaning that it’s come to have. Yeah. And Margaret actually posted something about this recently, which is why I’m doing this word. I was like, "Oh, that that is an interesting word." But you know, Apocalypse from the Greek ‘apokalyptein," in which means, ‘uncovering,’ and it has these two components there’s ‘apo’ and ‘kalyptein.’ ‘Apo’ meaning ‘off’ or ‘away from’ and ‘Kalyptein’ meaning ‘to cover’ or ‘conceal.’ And then, you know, the root word ‘kel’ goes to form some other words. Like in Latin, there’s ‘celare’ [said like ‘sell-are’] which means–or celare [said like kel (rhymes with ‘tell’)-are], which means ‘to hide.’ The derivative, there’s a derivative of ‘kol’ which forms ‘hal’ in Germanic and ‘haljo’ which means ‘hidden place’ and it’s the source of the Old Norse word for the deity Hela, who rules the underworld and then also like the Christian ‘hell’ as in like the bad place. And you know, it’s famously like, The Book of Revelations was, it was originally called like, or it was, since it was named in Greek, it was ‘apokalyptein," or sorry, ‘apokalypse,’ which was a derivative of ‘apokalyptein’ and it’s an interesting word to me because it’s like an–I always tried to pick a word that in some way applies to the story–which is like…. Apocalypse, meaning disaster or cataclysm wasn’t a component of the word until the 19thcentury or something. And prior to that, it was like…it was a word that was like, "uncovering" or "revealing things that have been hidden." And like…I think, disasters kind of do that. They reveal simmering things in our society that are apparent to a lot of people but not apparent to everyone. And yeah, I don’t know. 

**Matt ** 20:47
If they’re  big enough disasters, maybe they can reveal some sort of pathway to utopia, you know, we’ll see. 

**Inmn ** 20:56
Yeah, or at least like–again, to use this phrase–these  sharpening contradictions of like…. For which is I think applicable to a lot of people who are like, not, you know, not like anarchists or like people who are confronted with these things in their lives all the time, but for people who are more hidden away from these realities and like being fed propaganda by people is like, that these systems or structures that they have put faith in are not designed to help them and that will become more obvious to them so that we can build a better world with more people. That sounds great. Yeah.

**Matt ** 21:41
That’s a good place, a good place to end with apocalypse, I think, is that maybe it can lead us to something better.

**Inmn ** 21:49
Yeah, exactly. Which…I hate this kind of…this lining up with the Book of Revelations. It’s a weird…it’s a weird book. Christian mythology is really weird. But anyways, thank you so much for coming on the show. And we will catch you next time.

**Matt ** 22:10
Yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

**Inmn ** 22:21
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, then prepare for the apocalypse. Or just tell someone about the show. Or tell someone about the show and then prepare for the apocalypse together. That’s the ticket. Also, you can rate and review and like and subscribe or whatever the nameless algorithm calls for. Feed it like a hungry god. But really just tell people about the show and prepare for the apocalypse. It’s the main way that people hear about the show and honestly one of the other one of the better ways to support it. However, if you want to support us in other sillier ways that don’t involve feeding a nameless and mysterious entity, consider supporting the show financially by subscribing to our Patreon. If you subscribe to our Patreon at $10 a month, we’ll mail to you a zine version of the pieces that you hear here every month, anywhere in the world. You can also get access to an archive of old Strangers content as well as discounts on things like Tshirts and books we publish. Find us at Oh and current Inmn, or future Inmn, looked up the origins of Calypso and you know Calypso’s a Greek word. It absolutely has the same roots as apocalypse or at least that Calypso has the root ‘kel’, meaning ‘to conceal’ and so Calypso literally meaning ‘hidden one’ or ‘one that hides.’ So, these words are absolutely related. And that’s…that’s kind of cool. That’s all I got. Our theme music is by Margaret Killjoy. Our zine layout is by Casandra. And thanks to the lovely mountain goblins that mail out our feature every month. I would like to give some special shout outs to these wonderful people though, who have helped make this podcast as well as so many other projects possible. Thank you. Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carrson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milicia, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Miccaiah, and Hoss the Dog. If you sign up for our $20 a month Patreon then you can also get your name read here. And, you know, it can be, it can be whatever you want. So, you know, so if you feel like supporting us at that level, come up with a fun name for us to read every, you know, two or three times a month. It’ll be fun. And lastly, a lot of these features on the podcast come from listeners like you. So if you feel like a stranger that would like to find their story at home in this tangled wilderness, consider submitting it. Next month, which is going to be a little bit earlier than usual. It’s not…. Instead of coming out on the last day of the month, it’s going to come out earlier in the month, so keep an eye out because we’re going to be talking about a pretty timely thing. And that is St Lucy’s day. And…which means that we have a really wonderful piece by one of my favorite writers and one of my oldest friends, Wren Awry, who is bringing us a piece called "St. Lucy: an anti-hagiography." It’s gonna be a lot of fun. And if you want to learn more about, you know, Catholic mysticism and other really cool things–you can tell I feel really articulate right now–then come back and give it a listen. It’s gonna be a fun time. Stay well. We hope you come back

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S1E101 – Leah on Disability and Preparedness

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret and Leah talk about disability, preparedness, finding community, and covid.

Guest Info

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (They/She) is a writer and structural engineer of disability and transformative justice work. Leah can be found at, on Instagram @leahlakshmiwrites, or on Bluesky

Their book The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes, and Mourning Songs can be found:

Their book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice can be found:

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Leah on Disability and Preparedness

Resources Mentioned:

StaceyTaughtUs Syllabus, by Alice Wong and Leah:

NoBody Is Disposable Coalition:

Power To Live Coalition:

Disability Visibility Project article about Power to Live :

Power to Live survival skillshare doc:

Long winter crip survival guide for pandemic year 4/forever
by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Tina “constant tt” Zavitsanos

Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid by Rebel Sydney Rose Fayola Black:

Half Assed Disabled Prepper Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine. (By Leah)

Sins Invalid Disability Justice is Climate Justice:

Skin Tooth and Bone: The Basis of Movement is Our People (A disability justice primer):

DJ Curriculum by Sins:

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies:

Live Like the World is Dying: Leah on Disability & Preparedness

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret killjoy. And I always tell you that I’m excited about episodes, but I’m really excited about this episode. It put me in a better mood than when I started the day that I get to record this episode. Because today, we’re going to be talking about disability and preparedness. We’re gonna be talking about Covid abandonment. And we’re gonna be talking about a lot of the questions that… a lot of the questions that people write us to talk about that they have about preparedness and I think that we can cover a lot of those. Not me, but our guest. But first before the guest, a jingle from another show on the network. Oh, the network is called Channel Zero Network. It is a network of anarchists podcasts and here’s a jingle. [sings a simple melody]

**Margaret ** 01:08
Okay, and we’re back. So, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess just a little bit about how you got involved in thinking about and dealing with disability and preparedness.

**Leah ** 02:00
Sure. Hi, my name is Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. She and They pronouns. Right now I live in Pocomtuc and Nipmuc territories in Western Massachusetts. And that is a great question. I will also just plug myself briefly and be like I’m a disability justice and transformative justice old sea-hag, aging punk of color who has written or co-edited ten books and done a lot of shit. Okay, so when I was sitting on the toilet thinking about "What do I want to tell Margaret when we get on the show?", I was actually thinking that my disability and my preparedness routes are kind of one in the same because… So I’m 48 [years old] now and I got sick when I was 21-22. So like back in 96-97. And, it was the initial episode that I got sick with chronic fatigue, ME, and fibromyalgia. And I was just super fucking ill and on the floor and was living in Toronto as somebody who was not from Canada. And, you know, I was just sick as hell, like crawling to the bathroom, like sleeping 18 hours a day. The whole nine. And I’d been really really deeply involved in anarchist of color and prison abolitionist and antifascist organizing and lots of stuff. I had a community, but it was 1997, so most of my community was just like, "What you’re sick? Why didn’t you make it to the meeting? We have to write all the prisoners with the [untranslatable]." And I was just like, "I just…. Okay, great." Like it was a really different time. There was no GoFundMe, mutual aid, Meal Train, someone brought me some soup. Like, know you, we weren’t really doing that. And people really did not have a consciousness around, "You can be a 22 year old brown, nonbinary femme and be really, really sick and be disabled." So something I think a lot, and I’ve said before, is that disabled people are really used to the concept that no one is going to save us and we are really not surprised when state systems abandoned us because we live in that all the time. And so I was just like this little 22 year old sicko weirdo who’d read my Octavia Butler–and, in fact, that was part of the reason why I was like, "Toronto, great, there’s gonna be more water and less heat." Okay, wasn’t totally right about that. But, you know, I mean, I really had to save myself and I kind of was like, "Alright, I don’t have…" Like, I’m working off the…I’m working under the table. I have hardly any money. I’m gonna make my own herbal medicine. I’m gonna grow a lot of what I eat from my backyard. I’m going to store water. I’m going to run a credit card scam and get a lot of dried goods and live off of those for like a year. [Margaret Hell Yeahs] Yeah, stuff like that. I feel like from there, over the last, you know, 26 years like it’s….like, that’s the route. The route was, you know, similar to a lot of people, I think of my generation, we were like on the cusp of looking at the current crises of like hot fascist war, hot eugenics war, hot climate crisis, and being like, "It’s coming," and I started being like, "Yeah, like don’t…don’t think that it’s all going to work out okay and that somebody else is going to fix it for you." So, I would say that’s where my initial route–and then do you want to jump in? Or can I jump ahead like 20 years or something?

**Margaret ** 05:10
Honestly, you could jump ahead 20 years later. I’m gonna come back and make you talk more about Octavia Butler. But we’ll do that later.

**Leah ** 05:16
Let’s talk more about Octavia Butler because I have a lot of stuff about Octavia Butler and how she thought of–and I think sometimes misused–like nowadays [this is probably not the word but it’s untranslatable] and also about disability. [Margaret "Oooohs" curiously] I know. We can get to that. Okay, so that’s one route. And then, you know, I mean, I was always kind of like a little weirdo, where it’s like, yeah, I grow most of my own food–or as much as I can–and it’s not a fun green hobby. It’s like, I’m broke as fuck and I need to grow a lot vegetables that fucking, you know, I can mulch and that can stay growing into December, you know? I stashed stuff. Something I also think a lot, is that as disabled people–and we talked about this a little bit when we’re emailing–I think we’re always prepping whether we call it that or not. Like most disabled folks I know just do shit. Like if you get a prescription and you have extra, you store it, you know? Like, if you can get a double dose, you put that aside. And then maybe you have it for yourself. Or, there’s so many disabled mutual aid networks I’ve been a part of where someone’s–I mean, before Facebook clamped down, this is really common on a lot of Facebook disabled groups–someone would be like, "Yo, does anyone have an extra five pills of such and such?" and I’ve seen total strangers for 15 years of disability justice be like, "Yep, what’s your address? I do. I’m gonna mail it to you. I have my old pain meds. I’ve got this. I’ve got that." But, um, yeah, like doing the jumping forward that I promised you, so for people who don’t know, disability justice as a movement was founded around 2005 by a group, a small group of disabled Black, Asian, and poor and working class, white disabled folks, who were all pretty, you know, gay, trans, and radical. And they were like, "We want to bring a revolutionary intersectional out of our own lives and experiences and issues. We want to create a disability movement that’s for us and by us that’s not just white, single issue, often cis, often male, often straight." Like, we want to talk about the fact that 50% of bipoc folks who were killed by the cops are also disabled, deaf, neurodivergent, etc… just to give one example. So, you know, that was ’05 in Oakland, you know, Patti Burn, LeRoy Moore, Stacy Milbern, Ely Claire, Sebastian Margaret, Stacey Milbern Park, you know, the six. And I was living in Toronto and I moved to Oakland in ’07 and I was kind of around for some of the beginnings of it. There’s two stories I want to bring in. One actually predates my move. It was right when I was getting ready to leave Toronto, I got invited to go to this reading by a bunch of queer–I think all white–disabled radical folks. And I was just like, "Oh?" And I did the whole, like, "Am I really disabled enough?" and then it was like, "Oh, it’s gonna be really depressing." And then it was really awesome. And I was like, "Whoa, disability community. Life saving." But it was kind of one of my moments of being brought into the disability community because there was this writer who was there who, their reading series was actually a choose your own adventure where there’s four disabled, queer, and trans folks who are having a sex party and the zombie apocalypse happens. And then they have to figure out how to survive it without abandoning each other. And it was all like, "Okay, you all get to the van, but then there’s no ramp. What do you do? Oh! You get this accessible ramp, but it smells like perfume and somebody has NCS. What do you do? And I was just sitting there with my mouth open–and it was also interwoven with like, ‘Yeah, and then somebody’s fucking somebody else with like, you know, a dildo strapped to their prosthetic,’" and I was like, wow, I fucking love disability. Like, sign me up. But I gotta say briefly, that was one of my first examples of like, you know, there’s a really important phrase in Disability Justice, which is, "No one left behind, " right? Like, that’s one of the core organizing principles. And that was kind of…. Before I even heard that phrase, I was like, "Fuck like this is…"–because I’d been around antiauthoritarian, quasi prepper, like "shit’s gonna happen, we have to get ready." But I was always kind of quiet in the corner closeting my disability being like, "Well, shit, like, what if I don’t have my meds? Or what if I’m too…. What if I can’t run away from, you know, the Nazis or the zombies because I have a limp and I walk with a cane? Like, what if?" And that was my first example of this cross disability fantasy space of like, "We’re going to escape together and we’re not going to let anyone get eaten and it’s going to mean really being creative about access stuff." Okay so jump ahead to, right, then I moved to Oakland and then I ran into actual Disability Justice community through Sins Invalid, which is an incredibly important foundational Disability Justice group, and through a lot of friendships I started making with other QTBIPOC disabled folks and my really, really good friend Stacy Park Milbern, who, people should totally know her work. She’s incredible. She was one of the best movement organizers that the movement has ever seen. And we met online. And she was living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina with her family on the base because her family’s military. And she was a queer southern, working-class, Korean and white, you know, physically disabled organizer from when she was really young. And then she was like, "Okay, I love my family, but I’m literally hiding my gay books in the wall because my mom’s Pentecostal." So, yeah, and she’s like–I literally realized she tells the story a lot–she’s like, "Yeah, like, I realized I hadn’t really left the house for a couple months and like, this is gonna be it," and she’s like, "I was literally watching Oprah. And Oprah said, ‘No one’s coming to save you.’" And she was like, okay. She’s 21 years old. And then through online, disabled, queer of color community there was this–or she organized–this initiative called To the Other Side of Dreaming where she moved crosscountry with Mia Mingus, who’s another queer Korean organizer who was a friend of hers, ad moved to the Bay Area. And so that was around 2010-2011. And then in 2011, what happens but the Fukushima nuclear accident, right, disaster? And we’re all on the West Coast–and it’s completely ridiculous bullshit, looking back on it now–but all of these Bay Area folks were like, "Oh my God! Radiation!" And some people pointed out, "Look, you know, we’re not…. There’s…it’s a big ocean. The people who really have to worry are in Japan and areas around it, so whatever?" But it was one of those times where we were like, fuck, this is a really big nuclear accident and we are sort of close and it’s making us think about disaster. And I remember just going to fucking Berkeley Bowl, which is this big, fancy, organic supermarket and people had bought out all of the burdock all the fucking seaweed. And I was like, "Oh, my God, these people." But out of that, Stacy started having conver–and I and other people who were in our organizing network of disabled, majority BIPOC–were like, "What are we going to as disabled BIPOC if there is an earthquake, fascism, like another big disaster? And Stacy said, really bluntly, she’s like, "You know," and she was a power wheelchair user. She used a ventilator. You know, she’s like, "Yeah, I am supported by electricity and battery dependent access equipment." And she’s like, "Well, I’m going to be really honest, my plan has always been, if something happens, I’m just going to lay down in my bed and die, because I don’t think that any emergency services are going to come save me and the power is going to run out in 48 hours. And then we were like, "Okay, that’s super real. What if, through our amazing collective access stuff we’re doing, we could figure out something else?" And we had this meeting at Arismendy bakery, which for folks who know, is like a worker owned co-op chain, Our friend Remedios worked there. It’s wheelchair accessible. We met there after hours. And it was just like, 12-15 of us who started just sitting there and being like, "What are the resources we have? What are the needs we have? And we made this map, which I still have, which I think I shared with you, which is just like, "Apocalypse, South Berkeley/Oakland Map 2011," where we were like, "Okay, you know, when the power goes down, the communication goes down. We’re gonna meet at this one traffic circle because people who are wheelchair users can roll up. And we’re gonna bury note paper in a mason jar with pens and we’re gonna leave notes for each other. But we’re also going to agree to meet there the day after at noon." And I was like, okay, my collective house, the first floor is wheelchair accessible. We have solar, we have a landline. And we have a lot of space. So like, let’s meet there. And then someone was like, "We’ve got the one accessible van. And we know, it’s only supposed to fit 4 people, but we can fit like 12 in there." And we started…. Like, I just think about that a lot because it’s, I think it was a really important moment where it was important…the stuff that we did like that–you know, the actual strategies and the resources we started talking about–but it was also that it was the first time in my life that I was like, "Okay, we’re not–not only are we not going to just die alone in our beds, I’m also not going to be the one person who survives. Like, I can actually survive with, and because of, other people. And we’re all disabled BIPOC with a couple of disabled white folks. And we can actually collectively strategize around that. And this will be my last leap forward, because I see that you’re like, "I want to ask you stuff." So, you know, eight years go by, and in that time we all do an incredible amount of Disability Justice organizing and strategizing. And, you know, in 2019…. And a lot of it started to be around climate disaster on the West Coast. Like, I moved to Seattle in 2015. The wildfires started being really bad a year or two later. A lot of us were involved in mask distributions, just spreading information about smoke safety and survival. And then 2019 was the infamous year where the wildfires came back and Pacific Gas and Electric, in all of its fucking glory, which is the main–for people who don’t know–it’s the main utility electrical company in Northern California. They announced two days before wildfires were going to really impact the Bay, they were like, "Oh, so we’ve decided that our strategy is going to be that we’re just going to shut down all the power in Northern California.

**Margaret ** 14:52
No one uses that. [Sardonically]

**Leah ** 14:53
No one uses that. And they’re like, "Oh, if you have a medical need, call this number, and we’ll make sure to leave it on at your house." and Stacey was, "Okay." She had just bought her house, the Disability Justice Culture Club in East Oakland, you know, which was her house but also a community center, de facto community center, that housed a lot of disabled folks of color. And she was like, "I was on the fucking phone for eight hours. Like, I never got through." And she and some comrades started this campaign called Power to Live where they were like…. It started out as, "Okay, we can’t save everybody, but we’re not going to just lay down and die. What do we do?" So it started out as like, okay, let’s identify who has housing that still has power. There’s some people in Richmond, there’s some people in this neighborhood, but then it also developed into this thing where it was just this amazing crowdsource survivalist resource where it was everything from, she’s like, "Here’s a number. Here’s an email. If you need something, text us, call us, email us. We have a team of eight people. We’ll figure it out. If you have something to offer, do it too." And then some of it was that people were sharing everything from generator information, to generator shares, to people in different areas– like I was in Seattle and we were like, "Okay, we will mail you generators and air purifiers, because it’s obviously all sold out in the Bay, but we can get it here and get it to you." The thing that always stands out to me is people being like, "Oh, yeah, here’s how you can use dry ice and clay pots to keep your insulin cold if refrigeration goes down." And there’s a lot more I could say about that action and how amazing it was. But for me, when I think about the through line, I’m like, that moment in 2011, when we all got together, and were like, "What do we do?" we were prepping for what we couldn’t fully predict, you know, the exact manifestation of eight years later. We’re there and we’re like, "Okay, there’s wildfires, there’s smoke, there’s no fucking power, and we’ve not only built our organizing base, we built our relationships with each other so that we can actually trust each other and more or less know how to work together when this shit actually is hitting the fan to create something that’s really life giving. Okay, I’ll shut up. That was a lot.

**Margaret ** 16:52
Now I have so many questions about all of it.

**Leah ** 16:53
Yeah, ask me all the questions.

**Margaret ** 16:55
Because there’s a couple…there’s a couple of questions and/or feedback that we get with Live Like, the World is Dying a lot. And some of them are very specifically disability related, and you covered most of them, but I want to highlight some of them. Like a lot of people write and are like, "Well, I rely on the following thing that is provided by civilization. So my plan is to lay down and die." Right? This is a–and I know you’ve kind of answered it–but I…. I want to ask more. Okay, I’ll go through all the things. Okay. So to talk more about what "No One Left Behind," means? And then the other thing that really stands out to me is that, you know, when we were talking, when we were talking about what we were going to talk about on this on this episode, I was saying, okay, we can talk about, you know, making sure that preparedness is inclusive and open and includes disabled folks, or whatever, and you pointed out, really usefully, the, the necessity to reframe it. And I think that the story you just gave is a really beautiful example of this, where it’s less about, like, "Hey, make sure to pay attention to the people who need canes," you know, or whatever, right? Like, you know, "make sure you keep track of folks based on disability." And more than like the thing you just described, is the thing that we’re always trying to push, which is that you need to make a list of all the resources and needs within your community and then figure out how to meet those needs and instead of assuming that we can’t meet those needs, figuring out how to actually do it. And so I love that it’s actually like…. It’s actually disability justice movements that we should be learning from, I mean, or participating in, depending on our level of ability, or whatever, but I just find that I find both of those things really interesting. And so I wonder if you have more that you want to say about alternatives to laying down and dying, and specifically, to tie into the other thing that I get asked the most or that I get the common feedback is–because we talk a lot about the importance of community for preparedness on this show–a lot of people don’t feel like they have community and a lot of people write to be like, "I don’t have any friends," or "I don’t know any other people like me," or, you know. And so, I guess that’s my main question is how do…. [Trails off] Yeah, how do?

**Leah ** 19:22
So how do you make community when you don’t have community? Alternatives to lying down and dying? And was there a third one in there?

**Margaret ** 19:28
I was just highlighting how cool it is that y’all sat there and made a list of resources and needs, which is exactly what…. Instead of deciding things are impossible, just being like, "Well, let’s just start doing them." You know?

**Leah ** 19:40
And I think…. Okay, so I’ll start there. Like I think that like…. You know, Corbit O’Toole, who’s like a, you know, Disability Rights Movement veteran and like older Irish, disabled dyke, you know, in Crip Camp, the movie, she’s like, "Disabled people live all the time with the knowledge that the society wants thinks we’re better off dead," right? Like one…back in the day, you know, there’s a–I think they’re still active–one of the big Disability Rights direct action organizations was called Not Dead Yet, right? [Margaret Hell Yeahs] I think this is the thing is like I think that sometimes abled people or neurotypical people are not used to sitting down and making the list. And I think that even if disabled people aren’t preppers, we’re used to being like, "Okay, what do I need? Fuck, I need somebody to help me do my dishes. Oh, I can’t bend over. I need to figure out what is the access tool that will allow me to pick up something from the floor when my that goes out? Like, if my attendant doesn’t show up, can I have a…" You know, like, my friends always like, "Yeah, I’ve got a yogurt container by the bed in case my attendant doesn’t show up so I can not piss the bed. I can lean over and piss in the yogurt container." Like there’s a–and I think that…. God, I mean, there’s been so many times over the years where I’ve done or been a part of doing like Disability Justice 101 and me and Stacy would always talk about crip wisdom and crip innovation and people will just look blank like "What are you talking about? You guys are just a bunch of sad orphans at the telethon." It’s not just about making the list, it’s also about how disabled disability forces you to be innovative. Like, Stacy would always share this story where she’s like, "Yeah," like, she’s like "Crip innovation is everything from," she’s like, "I save a lot of time sometimes by pretending I can’t talk when people come over and want to pray over me. You know, I just act like a mute and they fucking leave and they go on with their life," and she’s like, "You know, I realized one day, if I took my sneakers off, I could ramp a step if it’s just two steps. I could just put them there and I could roll up." Or I mean, there’s a million examples…. Or like, because I think it’s about prepping and about making the lists and it’s also about whatever you prep for, there’s always going to be the X Factor of "Oh, we didn’t fucking expect that." And I think that’s where a lot of prep falls apart is people have their "Dream Bunker." They’re like, "Oh, okay, I know exactly what the threats are going to be." And then of course, it doesn’t fucking happen that way. I really hope I can swear on your show.

**Margaret ** 21:46
You can. Don’t worry.

**Leah ** 21:47
Great. So, I mean, one example I could give is I’m remembering at, you know, a Sins show when we were in rehearsal, where everyone drove over from Oakland in Patty’s wheelchair accessible van, and then the ramp broken wouldn’t unfold. So we just were like, alright, who do we know who has welding equipment? Who do we know has lumber? Like, I think we ended up going to a bike repair shop and then they had tools. And then we’re like, okay, we’ll just bring the rehearsal into the van and do it that way. Like, you have to be innovative. And that’s a muscle that I think society doesn’t teach you to flex and that often, I think that even people who…. I think there can be a lot of eugenics in prep, you know, whether people are overtly fascist or not, there’s a real belief of like, "Oh, only the strong and smart," –which looks a certain way– "survive," and that "We should use rational thinking to make it all work out." And I think a lot of crip intelligence or wisdom is actually knowing that shit can go sideways 48 different ways and you have to adapt. And you have to just kind of be like, "Well, let’s try this." So I think that’s one thing. And I think, you know, one thing I’ll say is, yeah, just speaking to kind of the reframing we were talking about, I think it’s less like, "Oh, remember the people with canes," but, I mean, that’s good, but also knowing that we’re already doing it and that abled people actually have a shit ton to learn from us. But also, I mean, something…. I mean, the title of my last book is "The Future is Disabled," and it comes from something–it’s not unique thinking to me–it’s something that a lot of disabled people have been thinking and saying throughout the pandemic is that we were already at like a 30% disabled world minimum and we’re pretty close–we’re probably at majority disabled right now. Because what, 2% of the world didn’t get Covid? Like, how many people have Long Covid? How many people have complex PTSD? We’re all sick, crazy, and, you know, needing access equipment. Disability is not out there. It’s in here. Like there’s no such thing as doing prep that’s like, "Oh, only the three Uber Mensch are gonna survive." Like fuck that. And that actually–I mean, sorry, this might be a side note, but a lot of people have probably seen The Last of Us. And I’m just gonna SPOILER ALERT it. You know that famous episode three of those two gay bear preppers in love? Yeah, I loved a lot about it. I was so pissed at the ending, which I’m just going to spoil. So you know, the more artsy, non-prep guy….[interrupted]

**Margaret ** 21:47
Yeah, they don’t survive.

**Leah ** 22:47
Well, no, but like, not only did they not survive but one of them gets chronically ill. And I was just like, grinding my teeth because it’s like, "Oh, he’s in a wheelchair. Oh, his hand tremors." And then they end up deciding to both kill themselves rather than do anything else. And I was so furious at it because I was like, these are two people who are so innovative. They have figured out all kinds of problem solving. They have an entire small city for themselves. And it’s all like, "Oh, no, he can’t get up the stairs." And I’m like, really? There was no accessible ranch house you couldn’t of fucking moved to?

**Margaret ** 24:38
Or like build a bedroom on the fucking ground floor.

**Leah ** 24:40
Or youcouldn’t get meds? You couldn’t? I mean, when his hand was shaking, it was like, "Oh, it’s so sad. He’s being fed." I’m like, there’s tons…. First of all, it doesn’t suck to be fed. A lot of things that seem like a fate worse than death are not when you’re in them. And also, there’s like all kinds of adaptive utensils that they could have fucking raided from medical supply if he wants to feed himself. Or I’m sorry, there’s no cans of Ensure? They absolutely have power. They couldn’t have made smoothies? Like, what the fuck is this? But beyond that–and I think that a lot of people who have talked about that episode did, I think, have some good analysis of it where, you know, the whole way they set up their prep was they were like, "Oh, it’s just the two of us," and the one super prepper guy was like, "I don’t even want friends to come over." And the other guy was like, "Hey, actually, we need to make alliances because there’s things they have that we don’t. And we also need more than just the two of us because I love you, but I’m gonna kill you." And I think that’s something to think about is really moving away from the idea that just your little you know, the utopic queer rural community that so many fucking city queers fantasize about or, you know, lover are going to be enough, because it’s not. So that actually leads me to, "I don’t have community. Where the fuck do I get it?" And I’m like, yeah, that’s super real. Right? And I think it’s something I actually wrote about in "The Future is Disabled" is that I have people be like–when I write about different crip communities, just even when I talk about stuff on Facebook…. Like my friend, Graham Bach, it’s going to be his second year death anniversary in like two weeks, and he was like, you know, white, psychiatric survivor, super poor, amazing sweetheart of a human being, he died…. I mean, he died in his, you know, rent to your income apartment because he was really afraid to go to the hospital and he had cardiac stuff going on. And he was an anarchist, he was amazing, kind, complicated human being. And, I was writing about, like…. I’m going to tell the story and there’s a couple things I want to pull out of it. So I was writing about meeting Graham when I was in my early 20s through radical Mad people community, and somebody was reading it and was like "That sounds so great." And I was like, "Yeah, it wasn’t utopic. Like, I had to yell back at Graham because he would scream at me and I’d be like, "Shut the fuck up!" Like, there was so many fights. There was so much racism. There were so many older white cis dudes who had electroshock who were jerky or gross, you know? And I guess that was the thing is, I was like, they’re like, "Well, how did you find each other?" And I was like, it wasn’t perfect. Also, it was very analog working class. Like my friend Lilith Finkler, who is an amazing Moroccan, Jewish, working-class queer femme psych survivor, she would just go to the donut shop where everybody poor hung out and would talk to everybody who wass there who wass crazy who no one wanted to talk to and be like, "Hey, do you want to come hang out at this meeting at the fucking legal clinic? We have a room. We have a snack plate. I’ll give you tokens. Let’s organize." So I think that’s the first thing is that it’s not–and I don’t mean this in a finger-wagging way–it’s not automatic. And also, one of the really big ways that community is often ableist, and that a lot of us get cut out from it, is that a lot of us who need it the most are not particularly easy to love in ableist neurotypical worldview. It’s like we’re cranky, we’re wounded, we’re in a bad mood, we’re weird. So a lot of the time, I think it’s thinking about, first of all, what’s one step, one move you can take towards it. Like, can you make one fucking acquaintance and build it. And really think about what it would mean to build some kind of relationship. I think the other thing that I really want to highlight is that a lot of the communities that I see that keep each other alive, that I’m lucky to have been a part of making and being supported by in disabled community, they’re not static and they’re not perfect. Like, I have networks with people who piss me the fuck off and who, you know, I’ve sent 20 bucks to people who I’m just like, "I really don’t like you, but I can see that you really don’t have food," you know, and we’re not going to be friends and we’re not going to like each other, but I don’t want you to die. And that’s not…I mean, it’s bigger…. There’s also people who I’m like, "Okay, you’re my ex-abuser. I’m not gonna give you $5. Someone else can give you $5.

**Margaret ** 28:42
There’s this person who puts a lot of their effort into talking shit on me on the internet and I…they’re also broke and have a lot of chronic health issues and I send them money every month. And every now and then I’m like, could this like…could you stop talking shit now?

**Leah ** 29:03
I think this is the thing sometimes is like, hey, how about this is the deal, like maybe just say "Thank you," or maybe just talk shit even like 20% less? Because you know, I’m really doing we keep us safe here. I just really want a "thank you."

**Margaret ** 29:16
I don’t want you to die. Like, I don’t want you to starve to death, but I really wish you would be a little bit more open minded to people having different opinions on yours.

**Leah ** 29:26
Oh yeah, nuance, right? Yeah, it’d be fucking nice.

**Margaret ** 29:29
God forbid. Anyway.

**Leah ** 29:31
No, it’s good. I guess my TLDR would be to start where you are and start with "what’s one thing you can do? What’s one person you can reach out to?" And I think, you know, I don’t know if this is true for everyone who reaches out to you and it’s like, "Well, I don’t have anybody," but I think that social media and online connectivity is a real double-edged sword because for some of us who are isolated, it can create both online communities that can sometimes become in-real-life community and, either way, can be sources of some community or support. But I think…. I mean, you know, I’m a Generation X’er and I’ve just seen social media get more and more chokehold and just turn into fucking the panopticon meets a mall, you know? [Margaret laughs] And I think it’s hard because 12 years ago I was part of really early online disabled spaces, which were great because so many people were like, "Well, I’m so isolated in my small town or in my city," or "I can’t leave bed, but this is great. I’m meeting with other people and we’re building these connections and it’s actually more accessible for me to be real about my stuff from like my bed with a heating pad." And now I just think it’s so chokeholded that it’s hard for us to find each other. So it’s much more common for people to be like, "Wow, I’m seeing all these people who have millions of followers and a shiny brand and I just feel like even more of an isolated loser." And then at the same time, I think people are like, "Well, how did people meet each other before this?" And I was like, "Yeah, like, you go to the coffee shop or the donut shop. You put up a flier. You go to the library. You like, I don’t know. I mean, I just remember people I met on the food stamps line, you know, when we got there at six in the morning. And not everything’s gonna stick, but maybe something sticks. And I also think about like, I’m going back to 13 years ago in early Disability Justice community spaces where–I mean, I think back to [untranslatable] when I went back to Toronto–which, yeah, big city–but I remember I had so many people come to me and be like, "You’re…"–because I was starting to be more out about disability, cuz I was like, "I’m in the Bay and there’s these wild people who talk about it and they’re not all white people." and so I have so many, especially Black and brown disabled femmes be like, "Hi, you don’t really know me, but I have fibromyalgia too," or "I have Lupus too. And like, no one I know talks about that. How do you do it?" And I’m specifically thinking about this time that this person I’m no longer in touch with–but we used to be friends–who’s like, you know, queer, brown nonbinary person was like, "Let’s just have a meet up of other chronically ill femmes of color," which is how we were identifying a time, and it was four of us, four heating pads, a bottle of Advil, and just very tentatively starting to share things about our lives. And I was like, "Yeah, that was four people." But a lot of that hang out then rippled outward. And it was like, I think it’s also important to be like, it’s scary to build community. Some tools I want to shut out like, so Mia Mingus, who I mentioned before, she has a lot of really great writing on her blog Leaving Evidence and she created this tool a long time ago now–that some people might be familiar with but for folks who aren’t–it’s, you know, it’s her tool that she calls Pod Mapping. And she actually created it as part of a collective she founded called the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective that was working on doing transformative justice interventions into intimate violence, specifically childhood sexual abuse a lot of the time, and she had this framework that I find really helpful. She’s like, "A lot of…" she was talking about in community accountability, transformative justice spaces and she made a really good point where she’s like, "Sometimes we talk about like, ‘Yeah, bring in the community. Like, everyone has a community.’" And she’s like, "Most people don’t have a fucking community, let alone one that can interview in childhood sexual abuse." So she created this tool where she’s like, "Let’s broaden the idea of what community is." Like, maybe it’s that one cousin, that you only talk to once a year, but you could call them in a jam, or it’s this hotline, or it is like, yeah, they’re a weird church, but you really like their food banks. She’s like, "You have to really bring in…. Like, start where you are and do the resource mapping we were talking about" I really liked that tool a lot as a place for people who are like, "What’s my community?" because I think it’s a big word and really being like, "What does that even mean to me?" and like, "What’s one place that can start building it?" And I also want to shout out, Rebel Sydney Black, who’s a friend of mine who passed this June, at the beginning of the pandemic, he created this tool called Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid that was specifically aimed at disabled folks who were trying to pod map during Covid–and we can provide the link and stuff like that–but I would say that those are two places to start and then I want to get to alternatives to lying down and dying. And then I’ll stop.

**Margaret ** 34:04
Okay, wait, wait, before we get to that I want to talk more about the building community thing.

**Leah ** 34:08
Yeah, please.

**Margaret ** 34:09
I think you brought up a lot of really interesting points. And one of the things that I really like about it, you know, talking about having like…you’re broadening the idea of what counts as community, which I think is really useful. And one of the things I realized is that a lot of times when I was younger, I was like, "Y’all say ‘community’ and you just mean the people that you like," right? And that didn’t make any sense to me. Community seems like the people where you have a shared interest, whether the shared interest is you live on the same block, or whether the shared interest is an identity, or whether the shared interest is an interest that you’re trying to see change, or whatever. It doesn’t mean people you like. It’s a different thing. Friends are the people I like, right? Well, mostly. I’m just kidding. I love all of you. I mean, there’s a lot of people I love that I don’t always like. Anyway, so I don’t know, and so I think that one of the things that stuck out with me about what you’re gonna say and I want to highlight is the idea that–or maybe I’m misreading it–but like "pick issue to work" around seems like a good useful way. Especially if you struggle to just have friends, right? That’s not like the thing that you’re good at. But maybe there’s a thing that you want to work on? Or having that meetup where it’s like, oh, all the following people who have the following things in common, let’s meet up and talk about it. Or honestly, activism is a really good way to meet people and work closely with people about things. And it doesn’t necessarily have to mean these are now your friends. But they can be people where you rely on each other. And that doesn’t have to be the same. I think about it a lot because I live in a fairly isolated and rural environment where there’s not a lot of people around me who are culturally…. Whatever, there’s not a lot of out, queer people where I live. There’s not a lot of punks. And I’m like, that’s okay. I talk to my actual neighbors instead. I mean, some of them, not all of them, but most of them, you know, they’re who I would rely on in a crisis, because they’re right there. It doesn’t mean that we have the same ideas about a lot of stuff, you know? But we have similar ideas, like, "Let’s not die," right? And so that’s enough sometimes. Anyway, I just wanted to….

**Leah ** 36:12
No, I really appreciate it. And I mean that makes me kind of think about, when you were talking, I was like, yeah, you know, there’s friends, there’s communities, and then there’s survival networks, which can include contacts, right? Because I just think about what would I do right now, if some should happened? And I was like, I’ve got long distance kin and long term friendships and relationships ofvarious kinds and I also have–because I moved to where I live, which is like semi-rural, but definitely more rural than where I’ve lived before–and I’m just like, yeah, I have a small number of friends. But there’s like people who I know who I can…who are neighbors who like, maybe we don’t know a shit ton about each other but I could be like, "Hey, this thing?" or "Hey, do you have water?" or, "Hey, let’s do this." I think it’s a lot about thinking about what are your goals? Is your goal intimacy? Is your goal survival? Is your goal friendship? Because you need different levels of trust and commonality depending on those things, right? I also think, and this is the thing too, I think something…. I think a lot of times because I’ve had people be like, "Well, I don’t have community," also, I’ve heard that. And I think that a lot of times the context, I hear it in is people being like, "Well, I have care needs, but I don’t have any community." So then there’s also the really big thorny question of "need" and like being cared for is actually very complicated. It’s very risky. It’s very vulnerable. It’s not safe a lot of the time. It may feel a lot easier to just be like, "I don’t have any fucking needs." And so there’s a lot, I will just say that there’s a lot of unpacking that needs to do around like, "What would I need to be cared for? What are my lower risk needs that I need help with? What are my higher risk needs?" right? Like, there’s people who I can…. There’s some needs I have where I’m like, I don’t need to trust you super, super deep politically or on an intimate level to let you do that. There are certain needs where I’m like, that’s only going to be people where we’ve really built a lot of fucking trust because if this goes sideways you could really stuck with me. Right? And I think that when you’re starting from nowhere, I think often where people get stuck is like, "Where I am feels like I have nobody and nothing. And I want to get to like the thing I’ve read about in your topic science fiction, where you know, it’s Star Hawk and everybody loves each other. And how the fuck do I get from A to B." And I think the solution is like, yeah, you’re not gonna get to fucking "Fifth Sacred Thing" right away–and that book is complicated.

**Margaret ** 38:29
Yeah, It was very influential on my early….

**Leah ** 38:31
Oh yeah, when I was 18, I just wanted to fucking move there. And now I’m like, "Oh God, this is embarrassing. There’s some shit in here." I’m like, "Wow, everybody’s mixed race, but everyone’s Black parents are dead." Wow. Cool. Nobody really thinks about race. I’m like, I’m gonna throw up. And like, you know, BDSM is just violent….Okay, sorry. We’re not going to get into that.

**Margaret ** 38:47
Oh my God, I don’t remember that part.

**Leah ** 38:49
Oh, yeah. No, where it’s so violent. Like, "We’re just loving." And I wrote a really no passion paper for school, because we actually had to read it in a college class I was in, and I was like, "Why are they not into leather sexuality?" And my professor was like, "Okay, 18 year old…" but yeah.

**Margaret ** 39:04
I mean, legit. You 18 year old self had a legitimate critique.

**Margaret ** 39:08

**Leah ** 39:08
Yeah, no, there’s a lot there. But, um, but jumping back, I guess it’s just like, you know…. And I think this feels like disabled wisdom too, it’s like, what can you do with the spoons or the capacity you have? Like, what’s one move you can make that small? And then can you build on that? Yeah, but can I talk about alternatives to lying down and dying?

**Leah ** 39:28
Yeah. Well, I think…I mean, this is the thing, is like, I’m a survivalist, but I’m not like anti-civilization in the ways that some people are. Like, I want meds, you know? And I think that’s something that other crips I know talk about a lot, which is like, you know, we’re really against this way that some people, including some people who would like align themselves with like Healing Justice who are like "We’re like, oh, yeah, we just have to go back before colonialism and capitalism, and just everyone lived on herbs and it was great." and I was like, "Nah, bitch, I need surgery and meds." Like I want it all. Like, I love non-Western pre-colonial traditional healing. Absolutely. And I’ve had friends who died because they didn’t get their surgeries on time. Like my friend LL died because nobody would give him a fucking kidney because they said he was too fat. And I’m just like, my good future involves…. I mean, and he’s one of millions right? So like, my good future involves that we have surgical suites. And I’m just like, you know, honestly, also, a lot of times that worldview just seems so white to me, because I’m just like, listen, a lot of like, global south places figure out how to have field hospitals, right, in really dire and low-resource situations. So I’m sorry….

**Margaret ** 40:40
I mean, only Europoe’s ever figured out surgery. No one else has done surgery until Europe showed up. [Said sarcastically implying the opposite]

**Leah ** 40:45
Yeah, not fucking ever. [Also said sarcastically]

**Margaret ** 40:46
Said the people who are like, "bite down stick and I’ll saw your arm off."

**Leah ** 40:49
Yeah, so I mean, I guess one thing I would just say is like, I would say that and I would say like, you know, really…I want to like lift up and encourage people to look at–and they can be hard to find–but look at cultures, look at organizing initiatives where people were like, "We can have our own ambulance, we can have our own like…" And when that’s not there, to think about what it would mean to have medical care after the apocalypse, right? What would it mean to make hormones, make drugs, synthesize chemicals, and it’s not impossible. I think that we’re still in the in between of like, okay, we gotta figure out how to do that. But, um, you know, I’m thinking about, Ejeris Dixon, who’s my friend and comrade, and, you know, we co-edited "Beyond Survival" together, which is a book we wrote that came out right at the beginning of the pandemic about stories and strategies from how people are actually trying to create safety without the cops. Ejeris always talks about how they were like, "Yeah, like, in Louisiana, you know, in the South, you know, like in the 50s, and 60s, and before I believe, there were all kinds of Black run ambulance and 911 services," because regular 911 wouldn’t come to Black communities. Right? And they, I mean, something that I’ve heard them say a lot over the years is like, "We don’t have the people’s ambulance yet. But we could." And then it makes me also jump to some friends of mine who were in Seattle who were really active as street medic crew during the rebellions after George George Floyd was murdered by the police in, you know, 2020 in the summer, and specifically in, as some people remember, Seattle managed to have 16 square blocks break off from the city for a while, CHOP, Capitol Hill Organized Front. And so what people don’t know is that the cops were like, "Okay, fuck you. We’re not going to…If there’s any 911 ambulance calls, we’re not going to fucking let anyone go in there." So the street medic crew had to deal with a lot of really intense situations. And then after that, like a lot of us folks, like some folks were already nurses or EMTs and a lot of folks who were involved went to nursing school or EMT school and we’re like–and I don’t know where it’s at now–but they were like, "We want to create,"–because right now in Seattle, there’s, if somebody is having a crisis on the street, like a medical or a mental health crisis or an altered state crisis, there’s no non-911 crisis response that you can call. There’s either you go down the stairs to talk to somebody or there’s the cops, right. And they were like, "We can get a van. We can get medical equipment from eBay." And you know, I don’t know where they’re at with that, but they were really organizing around like, "Yeah, we could get a defibrillator. We could get oxygen. We could get blood pressure cuffs. We could get fucking…" you know? And I think that that shit gets complicated in terms of insurance and regulation and the State and the medical industrial complex, but I want us to keep thinking about that. I also, and then I’ll wrap up because we have other questions to get to, but it also makes me think about, I mean, I don’t know if folks are familiar with Gretchen Felker Martin’s amazing science fiction book "Manhunt," right, which is about….

**Margaret ** 43:50
I haven’t read it yet.

**Leah ** 43:52
It’s so fucking good. Okay, so I won’t give it away. But just for people who don’t know, I’d say it’s the one kind of gender sci-fi book where "Oh, a virus, you know, affects people with certain chromosomes or certain that dih-dah-dug that’s not TERFy because it’s a book that, you know, she’s trans, and it’s a book that centers trans women and nonbinary communities and there’s like one or two trans masculine characters. But the two main trans femme, like trans women characters in the book, they’re like, they have to, they’re like, "Yeah, like, we’re going on raids to get, you know, hormones, and, you know, different, like chemical drugs we need. And we’re also figuring out how to synthesize them from herbs and different substances." And it’s not easy. It’s a struggle. But there are organized communities of trans women and allies that are fighting to do it. And I’m just like, yeah, and I mean, it’s an amazingly well written book, and she’s incredible, and I fucking loved it. And it’s just beautifully written and really just–sorry, I won’t gush too much but go read it, it’s incredible–I just really also appreciated it because she was like, "Yeah, of course we’re gonna get our hormones after the end of the world. Like of course it’s possible." And I will also…. I have some criticisms of the ableism in it, but M.E. O’Brien and–fuck I’m forgetting the second author’s name, but every you know, "Everything For Everyone," that book. I appreciated how in the good future society, they’re like, "Our priority is making sure that insulin and chemical drugs and hormones are accessible and free to everybody." And I was like, I guess I would just push people towards there are ways of imagining the future where we can defeat capitalism but still have medical care of all kinds. We can have Reiki and acupuncture and we can also hormone surgery and transplants. And we might be doing it better because it’s not controlled by fucking corporations and assholes. Sorry, that’s my soapbox. Um, okay. I will say in terms of people being like, "That’s really nice. But what about me?" I would be like, you know, I mean, right now in the war on trans America, there are so many people already who are like, "Yeah, I’m stockpiling meds. I like doing meds trading." I would say it goes back to what we started about, which is like, "Okay, what are your needs? What are the things that you’re worried will not be there if the world ends?" Right? And we also need to recognize that the world’s already ending and it’s ended for some of us a bunch of times already. But I would be like, make that list and then really be like, "Alright, how do I get it?" You know, and if I can’t specifically get it, are there like backups that I can get? And it may be stuff that you can research on your own. It also might be stuff where it’s like, "Okay, are there trans [untranslatable], disability justice organizations, nationally, globally, locally, that you can hit up and be like, "What are folks thoughts about this? Are there ways that we can resource share?" Because I think it’s about pills. I think it’s also about durable medical equipment. So in terms of stuff that requires power to live, I think about generators and I think about generator shares. And I think about things like…there’s a story when Hurricane Sandy hit New York 10 years ago, there were a whole bunch of us where…there’s a guy Nick who’s in community who, physically disabled guy, 13th floor, accessible apartment, you know, the lights went out, you know, really dependent on electricity to change out the batteries on his ventilator. There’s a whole crew of disabled folks, like people walked up and down those fucking stairs every eight hours to take the spent batteries, figured out, "Hey, you know, what still has power, the fucking fire department." People were walking down recharging the batteries every eight hours. And it was allies, it was ambulatory, it was disabled people who could walk. It was fucking hard. But people were like, we’re not…. Nick and his friends were like, "We’re not just going to die. We’re needed." So I wanna shoutout that and just for possibility modeling, I really want to, one other place I want to shout out, is an org that used to be known as Portlight but was now known as the Center for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, which is a disabled-led organization that is about like, yeah, when there’s a climate or other disaster, they figure out ways of getting like accessible fucking evacuation methods to places because they know…we know, there’s millions of examples of people who are just left to die in nursing homes or like, "Oops, the bus doesn’t have a ramp," or, you know, I really want to name that during Katrina, some people might know about, you know, the situation with the nursing home that was there were a lot of folks who were wheelchair users or had high care needs were fucking killed by medical staff because the medical staff were like, "We’re gonna actually euthanize these folks without their knowledge or consent." [Margaret exclaims] Yeah, no, there was actually a movie on HBO about it I think semi recently. Because "that’s easier than figuring out how to fucking get people in the medivac ," right? Yeah, and so the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, I’m still getting to know them, but I have friends who are involved and they’re like, "Yeah, we’re aware this is an issue." So yeah, let’s work with the fucking Cajun fucking Navy to like make sure that you can get folks with different bodies onto evac boats. Like let’s figure out what disabled survival looks like. And I will just say, and this is the last thing I swear, for me, I mean, we all know water is important. Like, I can’t lift 54 pounds. Guess what? So can’t–which is, you know, a seven gallon right, like a five or seven gallon whatever–I’m just like, yeah, so I can actually have smaller jugs of water that I can lift. So yeah, I have a bug out plan, but I also have a real Shelter in Place plan because I’m just like, yeah, my apartment’s accessible for me. So yeah, I got a shit ton of water right here and I’ll be good for a while. And I also have a plan B for…. Okay, there’s…I’ve got my filtration equipment, so when that runs out, I’m close to some water sources where I can go and I can filter that shit. And that’s me thinking about what works for my body. Think about what works for yours and then plan out from that. Okay, I’ll really stop talking now.

**Margaret ** 49:44
No, no, but there’s so much there. Even just like to go to the weight of water, right? The thing that I ran across that I’m like–I’m reasonably able-bodied and such like that, right–but I live alone and so obviously there’s this specific thing where like…. Well, one, I mean, abledness is always a temporary position….

**Leah ** 50:04
Yeah, you’re going to get disabled, you’re gonna get sick and disabled.

**Margaret ** 50:07
Like it literally happens to–unless you, I don’t know, die very quickly, very suddenly, probably violently, you’re gonna go through a period of disability in your life, you know? And so my argument is that machismo is anti-prepping. And one of the ways that I would say is that like, there’s now, I think…. Okay, so cement bags, they come in 50 pound bags traditionally, right? But now there’s more and more, I think, there seems to be more and more 30 pound bags, right? And I used to be like, "Oh, whatever, I can lift a 50 pound bag. So I should carry the 50 pound bag." And then I’m like, well, it was not a helpful way to look at it. It is far better for me to just have 30 pound bags of cement because they’re easier to carry and I’ll get tired less. And I, you know, at the time that I was pouring these bags, I lived up a hill about probably the equivalent of a seven storey walk up to this cabin that I was building, right. And so I had to carry each and every one. It was way nicer that I carry 30 pound bags. And if your preparedness doesn’t include the fact that your level of ability will change in different situations, then it’s not very good preparedness. And and so like, I don’t know, I mean, like most of my water jugs are four or five gallon jugs. I use jerry cans. I think most of them are five gallon. And I hate the six gallon ones and the seven gallon ones. They’re just heavy and annoying. And it’s like I can give lift them but there’s no reason why I should. Unless I’m specifically working on lifting weights. And then the other thing that you talked about that I really think about a lot, you know, is this idea, of does your version of disaster mean that every doctor dies? Or like, does your version of disaster mean everyone who’s ever made insulin dies? Like, it’s possible. Sure, you could have 90…if almost everyone on Earth dies, then everything is a little different. But most disasters don’t actually….. Most disasters destroy ways of living and large numbers of people, but not the majority of people write. Most people survive most disasters. And, people are like, "Well, our organizational systems are what produce insulin," and like, no, people produce insulin and they use organizational systems with which to do it. But different organizational systems can also produce insulin. Like different organizational systems can use the same infrastructure sometimes and make the things that we rely on. And it came up with this like whole thing where people on the internet were like, "Ah, if you’re an anarchist, you hate disabled people because in anarchy, you can’t have insulin,"

**Leah ** 50:28
That’s gross.

**Margaret ** 52:40
It is a complete misunderstanding of anarchism. It is not a lack of organization, it is a different type of organization.

**Leah ** 52:46
Anarchy is responsibility.

**Margaret ** 52:48
Yes, totally.

**Leah ** 52:50
Sorry, sorry.

**Margaret ** 52:52
That’s why people don’t like it. People are afraid of it because they actually have to…. It’s the accepting no one is coming to save us except us. You know? No, I love that way of framing and it also annoys anarchists when you tell them this too.

**Leah ** 53:07
Okay, well, I mean, you know, so I worked at Modern Times books, which was, you know, is no longer around, but was a long time anarchists and anti authoritarian radical bookstore in the Bay. And we had the only public toilet in all of the Mission because everybody else was like, "No, you gotta buy something." and in my interview, they’re like, "How will you make the store better?" And I was like, "I will make the bathroom not smell horrible." Because, you know, it was just like a bust, everyone was pissing in there. And so I taped up a sign that said "Anarchy is responsibility. If you spray the fucking toilet with urine, please wipe it up. Together we can have a toilet." And somebody called me out and was like, "That’s capitalist." And I was like, "No, just wipe your piss up or we’re not gonna make the revolution. Like, come on." But yeah, they got pissed at me about that. [Both laugh] But yeah, I mean, I think that’s a really good point. And it’s like, you know, I mean, I think that it does point to, you know, I think a structural problem in a lot of our movements, which is like, yeah, we don’t we need more people who know some basics of chemistry and can synthesize stuff. Like, that’s, you know, we need more people who’ve gone to some kind of science or engineering school who can figure out how sewage works and how you synthesize insulin and how you synthesize hormones and like, basic surgery. And I think there’s a lot of hopefulness because I–maybe it’s just the folks I hang out with–but I have a fair number of friends who are like, "Yeah, I’m gonna be a nurse practitioner. I can give you an abortion. I can sew up your wound. I can help you figure out this thing." And I’d love for there to be more of us who can go to PA school or know more than that. And I also think, yeah, we need to…. I mean, of course it’s a longer range strategy but it’s like yeah, some chemistry school would be great. And, you know, recruiting folks who know some STEM stuff and who are like, "Yep, we can build it. We have the technology," I think is super important. And also but I really…thank you for saying like "What in your idea of disaster do all the doctors die? because, no, they’re not going to fucking all die. It is a problem that, you know, under capitalism and ableist, racist, white supremacist, sexist, cis sexist society, you know, medical school is really expensive and hard to get through and will fucking make you half dead. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t some progressive PAs and doctors out there who are like, "Yeah, like we can figure it out." And it does not mean that the entire national medical stock is going to disappear overnight. It’s not. Like it’s really not. There’s a lot of insulin out there. It may not seem like it because it’s hard to get because it’s expensive, right? There’s a shit ton of meds out there. And it’s not all going to run out right away.

**Margaret ** 55:37
And it does have a impressive shelf life overall. The dosages will change as it gets older because it becomes less effective, but it is hard to get, but it’s actually more stockpile-able level than most disposable, or consumable [replacing the word disposable], goods. So there’s one more big topic that I really want to talk to you about. Originally we’re gonna do the whole first half about it. And basically, I want to talk about the state of Covid and how it ties into disability and preparedness and I want to talk about how we as both as society and then also as movements are and are not handling Covid in responsible ways and where we’re at with it now.

**Leah ** 56:20
Yeah, well, sometimes I think it’s the crips that are gonna inherit the Carth because, you know, I mean, part of the "anarchy is responsibility," thing is, you know what’s responsibility and anarchy? Public fucking health. You know, and it’s the irony where, you know…. So, you know, as of this recording, the CDC and a ASIP [American Society for Investigative Pathology] just authorized the newest variation of the boosters and the Missouri–let me find this because it was just so fucking horrible–and I was like, "Is this real?" and they were like, "Yeah." So yeah, Triangle Mask Brigade [Bloc], which is like a Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill mask, you know, just masc disto and Covid activist group, they had posted…. Hold on, the Missouri Department of Health, their Instagram literally posted a thing that was like "Covid vaccines will be available in Missouri soon." And then they say, I shit you now, "If you’re into that sort of thing. If not, just keep scrolling." And I was like, "This can’t be real." And they were like, "No it’s fucking real. It’s literal." And they’re like…. I was screaming at the person who’s listerally an epidemiologist, but who’s, you know, a eugenisist and fascy. And, okay, so what do I mean by this? What I mean is, is that anarchy’s responsibility and that everyone I know who’s involved in disabled organizing, like Covid safety organizing, that’s like…. I’m like, shit, I hate to look like a tin hatter. But I’m just like, ‘The CDC has abandoned us," you know. It sucks. They’re just like, "Oh, what Covid?" What Surge? What data? We’ve made it so there is none. Oh, everyone’s sick. But oh, what could that be?" It is the rest of us who are like, it sucks that we’ve had to become citizen scientists and public health people with no budget to be like, "Wear a mask. Use, you know, nasal spray. Use, you know, use CPC mouthwash. Here’s what you do when you get sick, like, here’s…" you know, all of that. But we are the ones who are working towards collective safety and keeping ourselves and each other safe. I don’t know if I’m answering your question. I just basically I’m just like, TLDR, those of us who are Covid conscious and who are not just continuing to keep ourselves safe individually but who are like putting out tools, are going to be the ones that save all of us that end up getting saved, as much as possible. And I guess something else say is, I was just talking to my friend Gabe, who’s a musician, and he’s got an album release in a week or two in Seattle and I’m actually going to be there because I was really excited to go and celebrate him because it’s his first album in a while and I was like, "Hey, what’s your Covid safety plan." and he’s like, "I’m so glad to talk about this." He’s like, you know, "It’s in a bar. So I can make it mass required. But then people will take them off to eat or drink. So I don’t know what to do." And I was like, "Great, but if you actually really model it and if you have masks that people can have at the door and if we get some air purifiers–cuz he was like, there’s just not good ventilation–I was like, "That will do a huge amount of risk reduction. And like, I just have to keep reminding people and being like, ‘Hey, yeah, take it off briefly to fucking drink your drink, but put it back on.’" And he was like, "God, I’m so glad to talk to you about this," because he’s like, you know, "The last two times I got Covid were when I was performing at a show and I don’t want anyone to get Covid and I don’t want to get it for the fourth time or whatever." And so then I was like, "Hey, there’s this group Clean Air Club," which some people might know that’s out of Chicago that’s a really amazing–I don’t even know if their a collective, like it might just be one person–but they started out being like, "Hey," for musicians and people who are trying to do in person events, "We will loan you air purifiers."

**Margaret ** 57:10
That’s cool.

**Leah ** 57:12
Right? And they’re just like, "And we’ll talk you through how many do you need for X number of square feet and here’s the things you can do. And then they also, I think I first ran into them because they put out a really good safety guide for like, "Are you flying? Like, here’s some ways to reduce myth and reduce risks." So like N95 vs KN95. But they’re also the first place that was like, "Hey, people don’t talk enough about nasal sprays, or they only know about Enovid," which is very effective, but is Israeli and it’s expensive. So between those two things, a lot of people won’t buy it. But they’re like, "Here’s all these different kinds that actually form a barrier in your nose so if you do get exposed to COVID, it can’t really stick to your….

**Margaret ** 1:00:25
I’ve never even heard of this before.

**Leah ** 1:00:26
I will send you the link. I just had a direct exposure three weeks ago. I mean, I think we were talking because I still don’t know if I had Covid or not, because…. But I was in Philly and I was just like, yep, you know, I know it’s dense. I know, there’s a lot of people around. I hung out with a friend outside. I sprayed myself beforehand. I sprayed myself after. I went and hung out with a friend for 24 hours. And then the day after that, my friend who I hung out with outside was like, "I’m so sorry, I tested negative right before I saw you, but I just tested positive," and I was having symptoms. And I was like–anyway, I don’t want to go too much into my own story–but like, Clean Air…. I guess why I was bringing this up is that Clean Air Club is one of many examples I know where they’re sharing knowledge of like, "Here’s how we do harm reduction. Here’s how we create safer spaces. Here’s how we use layers of protection," which is the terminology People’s CDC has put out there, which is like masking, air purifiers, CPC mouthwash after exposures, nasal sprays, antivirals, opening the windows. And then I think it’s also the conversations we have because like, when I talked to Gabe, I was…he was like, "I really wanted to do it, but I was just stuck." And he needed the conversation we had, where I was like, "Hey, what about we try this? What about we try that? It’s not going to be like 100% no one will have Covid situation, but we can reduce the risk so much and we can still together." It’s not either, "We all never leave our houses or see anyone ever again," or, you know, we just raw dog the air and cough all over each other. There’s a lot of shit we can do in the middle to reduce risk. And I think that that’s going to be stuff…that’s part of my prep. And like, I feel like for a lot of us, I use the term the Great Forgetting, which is what I feel like, you know, the State and governments and, you know, the medical Industrial complex has pushed under Capitalism, especially in the last year to be like, "What Covid? There’s no Covid Let’s take away data. Oh, all you have is wastewater and what’s that even? Like, no one has Covid." There’s just been such an encouragement of like, "See no evil, smell, no Covid, everyone go back to work." And then there’s all the rest of us who are like, "No, it’s still here. We’re tracking surges. Here’s how we’re going to keep ourselves safe as communities." I feel like I’m rambling a little bit, but I guess the point I’m getting to is that a lot of us in disabled and Covid activist community have been like, eventually, I would love to believe that there’s like effective vaccines that actually prevent the virus, not just, you know, make it suck less. I really hope for Covid PrEP, like a PrEP equivalent or like a protease inhibitor equivalent for HIV. I hope for, you know, like post-exposure stuff where you can just spray shit in your nostrils and it kills on 100%. Until then, we’re going to have to keep creating harm reduction, layer protection strategies. And a lot of us, I feel like I keep almost saying this and then it feels like, tricky to say it, but I’m like a lot of us are like, "Yeah, it’s kind of a forever pandemic. It’s not, ‘It’s over.’" It’s like it’s not over yet. So part of the apocalypse of now is like, yeah, we’re living in a pandemic in a plague that continues. How do we figure out how to socialize with each other, not get Covid, not give ourselves Covid for the first or the fifth time, and build strong communities that are about not dying, and not getting exposed to a disease that can have such disabling effects, right? And it is about community safety versus individualism.

**Margaret ** 1:03:47
No, I really like this because one of the things that I’ve been thinking about more and more is, I saw it somewhere I don’t remember exactly, but it was that we need to mourn a world that doesn’t exist anymore. [Leah affirms] The pre-covid world does not exist. And it’s kind of a "grow the fuck up," to the people who are like, "Well, I want to just go back to doing these things." And I’m like, well, you just can’t. And I’m sorry. Now there’s other things…. I’m gonna be like, "No more live music." Like, I think that what you’re talking about, this risk management structure is what to do. It’s like, well, if you want to go back to doing these things, we need to be learning HVAC, like speaking of learning….

**Leah ** 1:04:28
Seriously, like, one of my best friend’s is like a radical Palestinian HVAC trans engineer. They’re not a nurse practitioner, but they were like, "I went into HVAC," and I was like, "Great, we’re gonna need you. We need you right now. I’m so happy you have those skills."

**Margaret ** 1:04:42
Because it’s like, this is just going to keep happening. And one of the things I think about is like, I was thinking about how like, you know, I travel a lot and I go to a lot of different scenes and some scenes I see a larger number of people who are like visibly–I don’t know the right way to phrase this–wheelchair users and things like that, like people who have mobility needs.

**Leah ** 1:04:59

**Margaret ** 1:05:01
Well, I mean specifically people who are disabled in ways that physical access to space requires certain tool things. And I see a greater percentage of people in some scenes and some other scenes and then I’m like, oh, because you only see someone who needs a wheelchair when you’re in a punk venue that’s wheelchair accessible. And it’s not because there aren’t punks who use wheelchairs. But if you think that there’s no punks who use wheelchairs, it’s because you’re going to punk venues that are not wheelchair accessible.

**Leah ** 1:05:32
The self-fulfilling prophecy of access, where it’s like, "Well I don’t see any disabled people. So we don’t need access. And I’m like, we’re not here because [emphasis on this word] your space isn’t accessible, you right jackass, right?

**Margaret ** 1:05:44
And I’m seeing this increasingly also around mask use. And like, you know, because if you’re like, "Oh, none of me and my friends, like everyone who comes to this thing, like, we don’t care about masks," and it’s like, that’s because there’s other people in your community who do want to come but can’t because they showed up and no one was wearing a mask and so they left because they don’t want to die. Or like, you know, they don’t want to….

**Leah ** 1:06:07
And it’s fascinating, because like this…. Sorry, I don’t want to cut you off.

**Margaret ** 1:06:10
No, no, I’m basically done. It’s just like, we just need to accept responsibility and fix shit. And that’s, and that’s the preparedness thing that you’ve been talking about is like, you look at your list of problems, and then you figure out how to do it, and you become really inventive about how to do it. And our problem is that Covid is around and so our solution can’t be, "no more live music," because that is a part of living that we should appreciate. Right? But it also can’t be "Pretend it doesn’t exist." Sorry. What were you gonna say?

**Leah ** 1:06:37
No, now, because you don’t lay down and die on the hill.

**Leah ** 1:06:37
I was gonna say that, like, I mean, what you said about like, the self fulfilling prophecy of like, "Well, we don’t mask, so nobody needs an mask." And it’s like, well everyone who needs to mask is home. The thing is, I mean, that was so dead on and also it was like, yeah, I mean, that’s also not new. Like that’s been like a disabled dynamic for a really long time. And what I mean by this–there’s a bunch of examples–but I mean, I’m thinking about in chronic illness and like multiple chemical sensitivities/injury community, something I was involved in was creating more materials around fragrance free and chemical free stuff. Some people might know this document I made years ago now called Fragrance Free Femme of Color Genius. That was just a list of here’s different products that are fragrance free and affordable, that aren’t just like ye oldie whitey vegan crap that sucks and that doesn’t work for curly or textured or kinky hair. But like, you know, we would fight a lot because something that people in MCS and environmental illness and the chronically ill community have faced for years was people when they’d be like, "Hey, can you make it fragrance free?" is people be [exasperated gasp]. I mean, it would just be like, you’re asking them to, like serve Christ’s head on a platter or something. And they’d be like, "Could you just not wear perfume just for the one fucking time." Yeah. And then the response would often be like, "You just, you can be fragrance free in your house. Like, why do I have to make it fragrance free?" And it’s because, and it’s like, actually, under the Americans with Disability Act, but also in terms of justice, like we deserve to be in the world, not just in our houses. And yeah, and that thing of like, "I don’t know anyone else with this problem." And like, it’s because we all had to leave because we were throwing up or we don’t even come because we’re afraid we’re gonna get sick or we know we’re gonna get sick of all the chemicals. Right? So it’s a real paradigm shift. And like, it necessitates a lot of talking to move from this kind of individualist ableism of like, "Well, you can do whatever weird disabled shit that you want in the privacy of your own home. But I don’t have to, because I’m American," to like, oh, actually, we need to make it for everybody. And actually, it benefits everybody. And I remember after like eight years of fighting it out in the Bay, Stacy called me crying because she was like, "Oh my god," like it was like 2016-2017 and it was like a Save DACA rally and she was like, "There were these 15 year old undocumented queer brown youth who are like," because it was indigenous and undocumented lead and she’s like, "They have chairs for people to sit in at the front of the rally. And they’re like, ‘We’re gonna hold up the sage and the cedar but not light it because we know that some people have asthma and MCS and if the revolution is not accessible at the revolution,’" and she was like, "I’m crying." Because for years ,especially in BIPOC community, it was a struggle because people would be like, "Wait, these are our medicines," and we’d be like, "We know. We use them too." And I just have friends who are indigenous who are like, "If there’s so much sage in a tiny room, I’m going to have an asthma attack and like it means I don’t go to events." or like, you know, Copal or different medicine, are there ways we can have the medicine present and do it accessible for everybody? So more access gets more access. If you make more for everybody, everyone will be there. Blah, blah, blah. I will die on this fucking hill, but….

**Leah ** 1:06:49
Yeah, I’m surviving on the hill. I’m surviving on the flat, accessible space. Shout out to disabled punks. Because there’s, you know, we’ve been here for forever and, you know, especially in the past 15 years, like I feel like that is one place of hope where, you know, I’m like a semi-punk but like yeah, like I’m punk. I mean, I still have green hair or whatever. I think I’m a punk.

**Margaret ** 1:10:04
You’re a punk. I’m looking at you right now. You are as punk as I am.

**Leah ** 1:10:10
Totally. I mean, I also have, you know my feet in different subcultures too. But I just hear there’s a lot of different spaces. I think about like Gilman’s still, last I checked, you know, had a bunch of disabled folks on the collective and they’re like, "Yeah, we’re still. Everyone masks," or like Vera project, which is a very loved, all ages venue in Seattle, where I’m not…I haven’t checked recently, but I know that for a long time, they were like, they were one of the first places in Seattle that opened back up to live music and are like an all ages, anarchist queer space and they were like, "No, everyone masks and we have HVAC, or I’m blanking on the name of it, but a friend of mine, who is you know, really…. Biani, who taught me so much about masking as somebody with like severe MCS and other disabilities, they’ve posted a lot about how they’re like, "I live in Albuquerque now. And there’s a monthly burlesque/drag night that requires masking." And they’re all these performers who are wearing the really good, hard mask. Like it’s a really great respirator and also looks sexy as hell. And you can breathe in it. And they’re just like, "Yeah, like, we can actually have a slutty drag, burlesque punk night and no one dies." How about that, y’all? Yeah, I mean, this is the thing…. I do want to shout out, if I can toot my own horn for a second, um, you know, I sent to you, there’s a document that me and my friend Tina Zavitsanos put together earlier this year, "The Long Winter Covid Survival Guide." And we did it because we were just like…. Look, I mean, you know, the first year or two of the pandemic, I was in Seattle, and we really did have a bunker mentality of like, okay…. Yeah, we were like, eventually the vaccines will come, and at the time we were like, and they will just eliminate Covid. And great. So we just have to survive till then and not get COVID. So I was very much just in my house with the people I live with or by myself for like, you know, a year or two years. Yeah. And then, right around 2022, we were like, actually, no, it’s not, it’s not panning out that way. And we really are really, really struggling in isolation. So Tina is a friend of mine. We work together and they’re on immune suppressants for their disabilities. So they were like, "I didn’t really leave my house more than eight times to go into public spaces in two years," cause they were living in Brooklyn, and they were just like, "I don’t have an immune system. And if I go to the hospital, like, it’s just gonna be all bad. Like I cannot…I really cannot put myself at risk." And then they moved to lower Manhattan. They’re living in an apartment in Chinatown now. And so, and they’re also a sepsis survivor. And you know, sepsis, if you survive it, your immune system is altered for two years after that, or if you get like, cold, you can die. So they were just like, "I can’t let anyone in my apartment but my partner, period." So I was just like, "Well, I want to see you." And they were like, "Well, there’s a park across the street from my house." And we just call it Tina Park now amongst her friends. And they were like, we figured it on all this stuff. Like they were like, yeah, like we’re living in Manhattan, but like, we have a portable gas generator that heats up. And we got sheepskins from IKEA. And we have hot pockets and like hot packs that we put all of our bodies in our shoes and like we’re gonna order pho and eat it.

**Margaret ** 1:13:22
But now I’m imagining Hot Pockets, like the food, and you’re just putting microwaved Hot Pockets in your clothes.

**Leah ** 1:13:33
But so basically out of that, I was just like, "Tina, I know so many people who are really…like this is a grim winter because everyone’s just like ‘fuck, like I have survived in isolation. But I haven’t seen anybody in person, haven’t been touched for years. And I don’t want to get COVID What do I do?’" So we put it together. And we put it out there as a like, "Yeah, if you are in cold areas, like here are ways that we can gather more safely outside as disabled people, including disabled people…like I have disabilities where I’m like, yo, if I sit in the cold too long, like I get really fucked up. I will be in a flare for a week. And I think that’s another example of what we’re talking about. It’s not about either total denial of Covid, throwing ourselves off the cliff, or just lying down and dying in isolation, but about let’s have live music, let’s have burlesque, let’s hang out in the park with our fucking portable heater, and our fucking sheepskins, and our layers and, you know, be able to be with each other safely.

**Margaret ** 1:14:28

**Leah ** 1:14:29
And not be abandoned.

**Margaret ** 1:14:32
Yeah. Well, that’s most of what we wanted to talk about. Do you have anything you want to plug? I mean, there’s obviously, there’s the stuff you’ve plugged all along, and we’re gonna put…we’re going to compile all that and put it at the top of the show notes at the top of the transcript. But, um, is there anything in particular, other things that you want to plug, how people can follow you, or you’ve written a couple of books?

**Leah ** 1:14:57
Oh, just a few. Yeah. I’ve written or co-edited ten books, which is wild. My most recent came out, it’s going to be a year in a couple weeks. And it’s called "The Future Is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes, and Mourning Songs." And we sold the first printing in nine months. We sold 10,000 copies, which is really good because my mom died last December and I did no promotion for six months, because I was just like, "I’m going into my cave. I cannot be In public." Yes, seriously. So the second printing is coming out soon. And I’m really excited because I, you know, it was kind of like a writing the plane as I flew it thing where I was trying to write down like, "Here’s what how Covid’s is looking." And then like, things kept getting out of date so fast. And so I added, there’s a new afterword and also includes an article I wrote last fall for Truth Out, which is now called Against the Great Forgetting. And it’s about like able bodied leftists can’t abandon Covid safety if we’re going to win. So that’s both in there. And I am really excited because my friend Sandy Ho, who is a really incredible, queer, disabled, Asian organizer is writing a reading guide for it, which we’re going to launch for free around the same time. So keep an eye out for that. And it’s print book, ebook audiobook. It’s in a lot of libraries. You can ask your library to order it. Have reading groups! Think about your own disabled survival and your own disabled future and how you’re making it. That’s one thing I want to shout out. I also really want to shout out, I Want to Be With you Everywhere, which is disabled arts collective that a bunch of my friends organize. And I want to shout it out because we had our first gathering since Covid started, this summer on the summer solstice in New York. And if you look us up, and I can give you the link, I mean, it was just an amazing day of performance. But I guess the reason I’m shouting out is that the people organized it. We were like, I’m gonna include myself in it because I was an artist and I created a disabled grief portal altar, so I’m like, yeah, I’m like, the Hair Club for Men. I’m a member and also the president because we all are. We were really, and people were really, like, we need to be together. And so it was a combination all outdoor like 95% masked in person. They were calling, it’s like IRL in URL. So like, we had that. And then we had full Zoom, and it was 12 hours of gathering. And I know a lot of people are like, "Ah, it feels like either in person or Zoom, but not both." And it was like an example of like, we did both and we did it so that folks who are there in person could interact with folks on Zoom. And we had screens on stage. So like I could turn and like talk to the folks on Zoom and see them and like they can see me and we can interact. And we also just had like really…. I’m always about expanding access beyond the bare minimum that we’re taught is the best we can get, so we’re like, we have a travel plan. If you need money to get a wheelchair accessible cab, we got. We have, not just ASL interpretation on stage, but interpreters moving through the space because we know that otherwise deaf folks often are like, "Oh, I guess I’ll just stay glued to deaf seating and not actually get to like hang out with people and like interact unless my interpreter is with me." I just want to shut out there is an example of a really creative way that we gathered together that was really life giving. And what is other stuff? I think that’s all I can think of right now. I’ll keep you posted. Places people can follow me are–I am a social media slacker and a hermit but is my I-need-to-update-it website. I’m leaving Twitter because fuck that guy and fuck some harassment off and on. And also just like, I mean it’s all been bad, but then like the latest like, "Oh, we get the steal off your shit forever." I’m just like, no, I’m not giving you my intellectual property. But I am on Blue Sky at….

**Margaret ** 1:18:46
I bet people just put your name and they’ll come up with it, right?

**Leah ** 1:18:51
Yeah, it is I’m migrating over there. So yeah, like there’s not a lot up there yet. But this could motivate me. You know, I’m gonna have to get back to you on my public Instagram because I can’t find it right now. You can Google my name and stuff comes up. And also one thing I do want to shout out is like so last year, I kicked off this disabled centering queer and trans BIPOC disabled folk like writing and creative organization Living Altars. And then my mom died. So like this year has been like really much like chrysalis research, whatever, but um, keep an eye out for Living Altars stuff. We’re gonna start a kind of low-key kitchen table online reading series every three months for disabled majority QTBIPOC writers. And when Stacey died in 2020, one of the things that I really, that really hit me was that she was an incredible, incredible organizer and I will shout out the Stacey Taught Us Syllabus that me and Alice Wong did where you can see a lot of her writing and poetry and organizing. She wrote Bernie Sanders’ Disability Justice fucking platform. She did all kinds of shit. But I met her as a poet. You know? I met her when she was 20 online as a poet and I really saw the ways in which she struggled to find, like many of us do, accessible space to write as a queer disabled POC who had a million things going on. So I’ve been working on creating an accessible residency in her honor and one of the things that Living Altars is going to do is I’m hoping to launch that next year. So yeah, just Google Living Altars and my name and it comes up and there’ll be all kinds of shenanigans. And We’re going to also update the Long Winter Survival Guide soon, because a lot of people wrote in and had amazing things to add, especially a lot of folks who live in Canada and like more northern colder places were like, yeah, "Here’s different things you can do with like shelters, furs, heating, different things like that. So I like to think of myself as a structural engineer of disability justice along with…. I’m kind of like disabled Scotty sometimes where I’m like, "Here’s the thing. Try it." Yeah. Yeah. So these are some things. Okay.

**Margaret ** 1:21:03
Well, yeah. Thanks so much for coming on. And I hope to have you back at some point.

**Leah ** 1:21:08
Thank you so much for having me. Thank you so much for creating this podcast and being so awesome. And all the things you do.

**Margaret ** 1:21:20
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you should fight for a better world. And tell people about the podcast that encouraged you to do so. Being like get put our logo onto a flag and then carry it and be like this is the flag of the revolute. Don’t do this. Don’t do what I’m saying. But what you could do is tell people about it in more polite ways. Instead of making it a weird flag. Why would you even think that? You can also support us on Patreon because we believe in paying. We pay our transcriptionist and we pay our audio engineer. And one day, we might even pay the hosts, which would be cool. And you can do that by supporting us on Patreon. It’s and if you support us at $10 or more a month, we will send you a free zine every month, anywhere in the world. But also you can listen to that zine anywhere in the world also for free without supporting us by listening to the podcast Strangers In a Tangled Wilderness, which comes out once a month. I want to thank, and there’s some new names on this list, which makes me really excited. I want to thank Hoss the Dog and Michaiah, Chris, Kirk, Jenipher, Staro, Chelsea, Dana David, Nicole, Paige, S.J., Hunter, theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milicia, paparouna, Alu, Janice & O’dell, Funder, Anonymous, BenBen, Princess Miranda, Trixter, Lord Harken, Carson, Marm, Catgut, Julia, Buck, Perceval. Thanks for supporting us. Y’all are great, and I hope everyone does as well as they can.

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S1E100 – Report From Maui with Brooke

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Brooke gives a report on how things have been going in Maui after the fire in Lahaina this summer.

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


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S1E99 – No More Deaths on The “Disappeared” Report & Border Militarization Pt. II

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined again by Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths for part two of their talk about the militarization of the US-Mexico border, search and rescue, 911 discrimination, and medical collaboration with Border Patrol.

Guest Info

The Disappeared report can be found at No More Deaths can be found at, on Instagram @nomoredeaths_nomasmuertes, or on Twitter @nomoredeaths.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Live Like the World is Dying: No More Deaths on the “Disappeared” Report & Border Militarization Pt. II

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Inmn and today we have part two of an interview with two folks from the abuse doc working group in No More Deaths or No Más Muertes. And we’re just going to pick up right in the middle of where we left off and talk a lot about search and rescue and the newest report from No More Deaths, "Separate & Deadly," which is mostly about 911 dispatch discrimination and medical discrimination and collaboration with Border Patrol. If you haven’t listened to part one, probably not entirely necessary but it lays a lot of important groundwork and context for what we’re going to be talking about today. So go back and give part one a listen. But before we get to that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here is a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. [Singing the words like a melody]

**Inmn ** 02:14
Yeah, so it’s kind of wild to me that like, you know, Border Patrol, has these like non-responses? And it’s like, it seems like those nonresponses are on purpose, but they have every piece of technology at their disposal and like every system and like…they just have everything. And yet they purposefully don’t help find people.

**Sophie ** 02:50
Yeah, that was something we really chronicled in part three looking at their budget and just the way in which Border Patrol is absolutely a militarized enforcement agency first and foremost and 99% of their budget and personnel are dedicated to an enforcement mission, you know, that they’re kind of the search and rescue…border patrol search and rescue–so-called–wing of Border Patrol is miniscule compared in terms of staffing, and funding and so on and it’s really, you know, there to propagandize and, you know, they do take part in some of this, of course, but really looking at the way in which they are geared towards enforcement first and foremost. And we have, you know, cases of agents being asked to search for someone in south Texas and a higher up saying, "I’m not going to pull agents off of the checkpoint to go search for a person in distress," you know, so seeing those priorities play out in real time on a given case. So yeah, they have all this, you know, powerful equipment and resources, but those are really dedicated to carrying out their enforcement mission, which then compromises you know, their status as a first responder.

**Inmn ** 04:18
Yeah. And it’s like they have that like–god, what is it called–the BORSTAR helicopter that they pull out for photo shoots or something?

**Parker ** 04:27
Yeah, there’s a lot of emphasis on, you know, their high-tech capabilities of rescue. And one thing that I can’t remember if Sophie mentioned is what we found in the report, you know, when we were looking at these diminished responses and how brief some of their efforts are, is they essentially won’t do a search. You know, really in any case, they’ll do rescues that are pinpointed where they have exact coordinates. But a lot of the time, what their response will look like is going to the coordinates and if the person isn’t right there they call off the search. So what we think of is like a search where like you have a whole, you know, maybe team of people combing an area, you’re doing some investigation from like the information that you do have to try and, you know, guess where someone might be, and putting in like resources to look for someone where you don’t have their exact location but you have some information to go on. We’re not seeing those types of responses at all. So yeah, then what you see instead is these PR events where they’re like, "Look, we could rescue someone off the side of a cliff," you know, but that’s not translating to actual meaningful responses for the, you know, the situations that they’re actually being confronted with. And we definitely have a lot of cases of, you know, Border Patrol saying, you know, "Our helicopters busy right now." So helicopters are used for enforcement. You know, in the "Chase & Scatter" report, we really looked at that, at Border Patrol flying helicopters very low over people who are migrating to scatter them, intimidate them, kick up a lot of dust. It’s very intimidating and frightening for people to have a helicopter fly really low over them. And then we’re seeing these situations where they won’t respond. They won’t pull their helicopter from an enforcement mission to go search for somebody who’s lost.

**Sophie ** 06:02
And then this like, really perverse scenario in which someone who’s been chased and become lost because of the helicopter scattering them then is supposed to look to the same helicopter that put them in harm’s way to come and rescue them. I mean, it’s incredible, the notion that Border Patrol could function to respond to the search and rescue crisis in the borderlands.

**Inmn ** 06:26
Yeah, and it’s like, to put it in weird contrast, we did an episode on search and rescue specifically in a National Park, you know, from this person who does like search and rescue there. And they’re like–maybe I’m remembering this wrong and someone’s gonna be upset about that–but they’re like, "Yeah, we get a call. And then like, within an hour, we’re out and looking for people and like, usually find them very quickly." You know? And it’s like this…. It’s this other national agency with so fewer resources at their disposal. And they’re like…. Yeah, it’s like search and rescue isn’t easy, but they’re like, yeah, we find people pretty quickly because we’re professionals.

**Sophie ** 07:25
Right. We did some interviews with Pima County Search and Rescue, which we’ll talk about more, but talking with them, you know, they go out to deploy for hikers loss in the Catalinas, you know, citizens or tourists. And when they were asked, you know, what is your success rate? They’re like, "Oh, you mean in like finding someone before they’ve died? Like, preventing loss of life?" And we’re like, "No, in finding them at all." You know? And it was a confusing question, right? And they’re like, "Almost 100%. Like, what are you talking about? We’re not going to just not find someone."

**Parker ** 08:00
They’re basically just like, "Yeah, we don’t call off searches without finding someone."

**Sophie ** 08:04
Yeah, And that they really focused on preventing loss of life, like what you’re saying, getting there rapidly. And to them, a failure is finding the person in death. But what we’re seeing is this failure to even mobilize or locate someone ever at all on the border.

**Inmn ** 08:21
Yeah, and what resources or community…. Like what do community search and rescue efforts look like? In comparison, what resources do people have available?

**Parker ** 08:37
Yeah, I mean, it varies in different areas. But here in Pima County, which is, you know, the area we’ve looked at–and Pima County is, you know, most of the area that we work and do our humanitarian aid and in southern Arizona–the sheriff’s department is in charge of search and rescue. They have a lot of resources at their disposal. They have a volunteer search and rescue team that when we were researching I think we saw that they had 150 volunteers. Some recent reports that have come out in response to our report say that they have 200 to 300 volunteers. So maybe that’s increased. But they have this volunteer organization that works directly under the sheriff’s and they’re trained. Yeah, they go out and they respond to loss hikers. The sheriff’s department, you know, they have helicopters, they have drones, and infrared cameras that they’ll use. They also have volunteer canine teams that can go out–and especially if it’s suspected that someone may have died already–the canine teams can go help locate them. They have a mounted contingent, they have a search and rescue contingent on horseback. So they have, in addition to their own search and rescue deputies, which I believe at the time that we were researching they had eight deputies in the sheriff’s department that were the search and rescue coordinators who would then activate this team of hundreds of volunteers that go out to search. And like Sophie said, when, you know, we asked about their success rate, they’re like, "We just…We find everybody," you know? Like that’s what they do. And like you were saying with the rapid response, you know, we did– and I guess we’re getting a little bit into the next report now–but we listened to 911 calls that they’re responding to from lost hikers, people who are calling and speaking English and presumed to be citizens and they usually have someone responding to the area before they’re even off their first phone call. You know, you see they have dispatchers collecting the information and then they’ve already sent somebody immediately to the location that the call is coming from.

**Inmn ** 10:39
Okay, well, it’s funny, we’ve been recording for a while now and it all feels in preparation for talking about the thing that we’re here to talk about, which is the new report, which I want to introduce the new part o "Disappeared," "Separate & Deadly."

**Parker ** 11:05
Yeah, so "Separate & Deadly" is a report that kind of directly came out of the research that we were doing for "Left To Die." I left it I really just focusing on Border Patrol and their lack of response and contrasting that with, you know, they’re sort of PR of putting themselves out there as rescuers. But in doing that research, we started to also learn more about the county and the way that the county is handling 911 calls that they receive as that first point of contact before they transfer it to Border Patrol. And that research, you know, kind of was happening simultaneously with doing the research into Border Patrol’s response. We actually at that time had heard that the ACLU was, you know, considering pursuing a 14th amendment discrimination lawsuit against the Pima County Sheriff’s Department for transferring calls to Border Patrol on the basis of people’s presumed citizenship status. And they, in considering pursuing that, had received a few audio recordings of 911 calls and shared those with us. So then we put in our own records request and requested 911 calls that they received and transferred to Border Patrol within a two year period. It’s from summer 2016 to summer 2018, we put in that records request and I think we were quite surprised by the volume of calls we got back. So that’s when we got over 2000 recordings of 911 calls that were being received by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, their 911 system, before being transferred to Border Patrol. So we received those calls and we decided to listen to them and create data and document what we were hearing in those calls. And so that ended up feeling like it really was its own report, you know? Like we wanted a report that focused on Border Patrol. And then we wanted to really look at the local county and their complicity in their discriminatory response to people who are lost in the desert. So that’s what this report came out of. It’s been several years in the making. We wanted to, you know, release it as a follow up to "Left To Die," but really just focused on the county itself and its lack of response.

**Sophie ** 13:12
Yeah, and there’s kind of this story told about border counties in the context of Prevention Through Deterrence that, you know, Prevention Through Deterrence is this federal policy and it’s, you know, unduly burdening counties to respond to the emergencies that it’s creating. And these counties are all, you know, under-resourced and flailing to handle these emergencies and that, you know, that’s true in some counties on the border. Like if you look at Brooks County in South Texas, for example, it’s, you know, one of the poorest counties in the country. But when you look at Pima County, which is so critical, you know, there’s like 50% of all recovered remains on the border in Pima County, we see this other story that we’ve been talking about that there are robust search and rescue resources, you know, available in this county. And yet when you look at the emergency response system, what we see is this segregated system in which 911 dispatchers, when they’re receiving a call from someone they perceive to be undocumented and crossing the border, which they determine based on a number of different informal factors, they forego doing a missing persons intake as they would. They have historically foregone even assigning that call a case number. They forgo forwarding that call and any information with it to Pima County Search and Rescue and instead they just quickly transfer the call to a Border Patrol line and quickly hang up. So what we are seeing and what the ACLU is concerned with and now we’ve partnered with Center for Constitutional Rights to look at this is a segregated system and in which your perceived identity as having citizenship status or not determines whether you’ll receive County Emergency Services for search rescue response as robust or this really diminished, lesser Border Patrol response that we know based on part three results in these high rates of death and disappearance. So, kind of looking at the big picture of this, we just saw this really deadly form of discrimination, which, you know, gets into, on the one hand, the way in which counties, like Parker is saying, are complicit in carrying out Prevention Through Deterrence, that they actually have this active role, not just this passive role in carrying out and exacerbating the harms of this federal policy, on the one hand, and that’s sort of an important lever for thinking about how to challenge what’s happening on the border, locally. And then on the other hand, there’s this kind of larger constitutional issue, 14th amendment equal protections issue, regarding what does it mean when something separate and unequal and there’s all these Supreme Court cases, right, that have looked into that in terms of race, like Brown versus Board of Education, and seeing that those interpretations haven’t yet really been applied to cases of segregation based on citizenship status that are really in direct conflict with the mandates of the county that they have. Like, if you look at their protocol and their mandate it’s to protect the life of all people in their jurisdiction, right? There’s no language distinguishing citizenship status, and there’s actually anti-discrimination policies embedded in county protocols that we’re seeing being really flagrantly defied and the practice of having dispatchers just bump these calls to Border Patrol and away from local resources because of the identity of the caller.

**Inmn ** 16:52
What were y’all encountering through going through these call records?

**Parker ** 16:57
Yeah, I mean, I think we went into listening to these calls not knowing exactly what we would find and, you know, sort of vaguely thinking that we would find some evidence of Border Patrol not responding. But listening to these calls, what we found is that people are just being incredibly rapidly transferred to Border Patrol and then the call is, you know, ended with no record of what happened after that. There’s not really documentation of any of the outcomes of these calls. And we also just saw a lot of mishandling by the dispatchers. So what you hear basically is somebody calls and they say something in Spanish, sometimes, you know, people are transferred so quickly. It’s like, really, like they call and they say, "Habla Español?" and dispatch says, you know, "Hold on," and then transfers on to Border Patrol. So a lot of discrimination on the basis of people calling and speaking Spanish as well as they’re call plotting somewhere in like the remote wilderness of the Borderlands. So we saw that in a lot of cases, dispatch did not speak Spanish, so they weren’t able to communicate at all with the caller. We found that in 68%, of the calls we listened to dispatch didn’t have enough Spanish to be able to communicate with the caller in distress, which means that they’re missing really important information. Like you do have callers who are calling and they’re starting…they’re describing their medical condition, they’re describing their location, and dispatch, you know, is not able to communicate with them, which in a region where you have a humanitarian crisis, essentially, from a population that speaks Spanish, they’re really not equipped to respond to this humanitarian crisis or to carry out their jobs of being emergency responders if you don’t have Spanish speakers, working for the county. And then we found, you know, there were no intakes being performed. So in 99% of the calls, almost every call we listen to, dispatch did not conduct any intake. Meaning they didn’t ask any information about the caller’s name, their location, description, medical condition, do they have food or water? What do they see? You know, anything like that. And we did request 911 calls, like I said, from presumed citizens, lost hikers, things like that and in those cases, it is routine that they ask these sorts of questions. And the search and rescue deputies themselves have said, you know, "Every caller, we asked them the crucial questions because if their phone dies, something like that, then we’ve collected information that we can potentially base a search off. And that’s not happening in any of these cases. So there’s no information. So after the call is transferred to Border Patrol, you know, if that person’s phone dies, they’re not found by Border Patrol, there’s no information collected at all. We also found that in 50% of cases that we analyzed there’s no notice given to the caller at all that they’re going to be transferred. So they’re just saying like, you know, "One moment." and then they transfer it to Border Patrol. There’s no explanation of what’s happening. So that person who’s calling who’s potentially in like a life threatening emergency, they just hear a dial tone, you know, and then maybe the phone starts ringing. And so a lot of people, you know, seem to think that they’ve been hung up on or the call has been lost, which might lead color callers to, you know, hang up in order to not waste cell phone battery. Yeah, so that was in 50% of cases, there was no notice given. And then in another 13%, notice is given only in English even when the caller clearly doesn’t speak English. So yeah, they’re essentially, we’re just seeing these like really truncated responses where people are immediately profiled on the basis of the language they’re speaking. And then just immediately transferred,

**Inmn ** 20:37
Those calls are being traced, right? And so they have the ability to, like, really hone in on someone’s location if they receive a call from them just via cell phone technology?

**Parker ** 20:50
Yeah, so the dispatchers, the 911 system, like they do have access to cell phone tracing technology. And Border Patrol is relying on these GPS coordinates that are obtained by the dispatchers. But it’s kind of a faulty system. The accuracy can really vary, especially when people are calling from remote areas with not very strong cell phone service. So when they call, dispatch gets either phase one coordinates, or phase two. And what that means is phase one coordinates means that the call is only connecting to one cellphone tower. And so their exact location can’t be triangulated. So they just get the coordinates of the cell phone tower, and sometimes a general distance of thousands of meters, you know, how close that person is to the cell phone tower. But those are very inaccurate coordinates. And then if they’re able to get phase coordinates, that means that they’re connecting to two different towers and it can be triangulated and they get a much more pinpointed rescue. So they do convey these coordinates to Border Patrol, which is the primary thing that they base their search off of. Like I said, Border Patrol will often only do a rescue if they have exact coordinates. So the accuracy of the coordinates is, you know, a huge deal. It’s a matter of life and death for people whether they’re able to get phase one or phase two coordinates. And unfortunately, a lot of the calls are phase one coordinates because there’s such remote areas and there’s not a lot of cell phone towers out in the desert. So what we’re finding is that Border Patrol often won’t search in these phase one cases and will only search for phase two coordinates. And dispatch actually, you know, they can sometimes re-ping, you know, a call that they’re getting and eventually find phase two coordinates. So there are a handful of calls we heard where dispatch said, "I’m going to stay on the line while you talk to them and try and get better coordinates." And after a couple of minutes of trying, they might suddenly get phase two coordinates. So that is a huge difference that means this person might be rescued where they would not have been otherwise. But we’re finding that in most calls, dispatch is not doing that. They’re certainly not doing it as a matter of policy. It’s at the discretion of the dispatcher. And most of the time, they’re not doing it and they’re hanging up immediately after they transfer the call to Border Patrol, even though it can make a huge difference in that person’s rescue response and could potentially save their life. If they spend a few extra minutes trying to get better coordinates,

**Inmn ** 23:05
Have y’all been able to figure out if that is a matter of protocol or is it just that the person on the line just doesn’t care?

**Parker ** 23:13
You know, we do have these examples of cases in which the person does choose to do it. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of protocol. It’s just, you know, they get a lot of these calls, and they’re very, you know, bureaucratized about it, very routine. And a lot of the time, I think it doesn’t really occur to them to stay and try and get better coordinates.

**Sophie ** 23:31
With what Parker is talking about, where we’re seeing a real pattern of Border Patrol being unwilling to mobilize a search, right, like when there aren’t exact coordinates of the person, when it’s not a straight rescue, it makes that intake process even more important, right? So like a phase one call where you have 5000 meters of accuracy pinging off a single cellphone tower, well then in order to mount a search, what you really need is the narrative of the person, right, regarding exactly what they know about where they are, what they can see, what they’ve passed along the way, information about their medical condition, how far they are likely to be able to move or travel, you know? Do they have a lower extremity injury that’s preventing them from walking? How much water do they have left? Can they make a call back? All the information becomes so crucial if they’re only able to extract based on coordinates. And then I also want to add that we have cases in which even though phase two coordinates are being derived from the caller, there’s apparently no response from Border Patrol. So we had this case in March of 2018 in which a caller who’s crossing the border calls 911 in Pima County 11 times in 10 hours. He’s lost and alone and keeps calling because no one is coming and his call is transferred to Border Patrol every single time and his call has phase two coordinates within five meters of accuracy of his location and you can hear his medical condition diminishing with each call. And eventually he stops calling. And we have no record of an outcome. So there’s nothing with the phase two coordinates we can see that guarantees or mandates, you know, that says that Border Patrol is going to deploy. So within all of this, there’s like trends of what seems to work better, but there’s nothing really there as a true safety net to ensure response for someone calling 911 in distress.

**Inmn ** 25:37
That is heartbreaking in so many ways. In that like, yeah, it’s not negligence, it’s complete disregard for what’s happening. Like, I don’t know, I think that’s why I kind of like ask questions about the dispatchers where I’m like, are they aware of what they’re doing? Are they so entrenched in bureaucracy? Do they think Border Patrol is going to do something about it? Or like? And I’m like, what do they…what do these people think the outcomes of these situations are? And like with Border Patrol, it’s like, it’s clearly disregard, because if you know where someone is and you just don’t go….

**Sophie ** 26:36
I mean, I think the powers of normalization are so strong in the border crisis, like looking at Pima County, they’re receiving 1500 distress calls a year from people crossing the border, four to five calls a day. So dispatchers are fielding these calls all the time and automatically forwarding, automatically forwarding and that does something right? That creates normalization around disappearance within the culture of dispatch in a county. And we do see, you know, occasionally, bad actors, like dispatchers who are particularly abusive or hateful. We see on occasion, good actors, dispatchers who are clearly very concerned about the person and taking some extra measures. But it’s all still really constrained within this protocol that they’re not the ones actually facilitating a response, that they’re counting on Border Patrol to act. And because our data was, you know, derived for part three and from 2016 to 2018, we decided to do a records request, just a sampling of more recent calls, from June 2022, from last last summer, just to see, you know, is dispatch still doing this? And I was personally, you know, after we listened to–because we spent hours and hours listening to these 911 calls–you know, and it’s incredibly heartbreaking and discouraging. And I think I was hopeful that something had gotten better since 2018. And it was so jarring to see, you know, listening to the 2022 calls, like the same protocol being carried out. Someone calls, speaks Spanish, the dispatcher says, "Está perdido? Are you lost?" and if the person says "Si", the call is immediately forwarded and they hang up. And the rate of deriving phase two coordinates is still, you know, very partial. And in those calls, out of those 65 cases that we got notes on, 17 of those cases, the caller was never located. And so what we’re also seeing in these calls is that even when there’s clear indication, and even reporting from Border Patrol, that they’re not responding to a person in distress. The county doesn’t deploy. So it was really hard to listen to these calls where if someone’s in such distress and they get forwarded and then you see the outcome that they were never located, right, and the county has done nothing, even though they have full knowledge that there’s a person missing in the county and Border Patrol isn’t looking for them.

**Parker ** 29:28
Yeah, and what we see a lot in this case is this exactly what Sophie was saying earlier where, you know, we know from listening to the audio recordings that dispatch is not collecting information from callers and then we look at the case notes later and they say, "Well, you know, Border Patrol didn’t find them and we don’t have any information. So we can’t search." So just sort of this reinforcing loop where they, you know, they hand off responsibility to Border Patrol and then when Border Patrol doesn’t search, they don’t take up that search and they have not followed any of the normal protocols that they would have at intake for someone that they intended to search for like someone calling speaking English or a presumed citizen, you know. And so then they can just sort of wash their hands and say, "Well, we don’t have any information. So we can’t search."

**Inmn ** 30:09
Yeah. And like Border Patrol is not…if they’re like transferred, Border Patrol isn’t conducting a separate intake to get information that the dispatcher failed to get?

**Parker ** 30:26
Yeah, in the few calls, where we do have recordings of, you know, those cases where dispatch stayed on the line a little longer to try and get coordinates or for some reason we have a recording, you know, Border Patrol does seem to be doing those intakes that Pima County would normally be doing for someone they intend to search, but it doesn’t seem from any of the files we’ve seen that there’s any sort of that information sharing between Border Patrol and the county. The county is, you know, typically they hang up before Border Patrol does that intake and they don’t have any of that information on which they can base a search.

**Sophie ** 30:56
Yeah, sometimes we hear those conversations and like…what Parker’s talking about is true, that we do sometimes hear the start of an intake, but we also hear Border Patrol telling someone who’s in distress, has no water, perhaps injured, that they need to walk to a road before Border Patrol is going to go look for them. "We’ll tell them to go walk for an hour and call me back." [Border Patrol] This kind of handling, we had a case from 2022, from that batch of calls, where a caller is…the call is picked up by dispatch, the caller is frantic saying "My phone’s about to die. I’m soaking wet and cold. I’m lost." And dispatch transfers the caller to Border Patrol and the person is trying to say like, "I’m near antennas," like trying to give locational information. They’ve transferred to Border Patrol and he’s like trying desperately to talk and Border Patrol tells him in Spanish to, "Shut up." And like, so we’re hearing like, you know, hostility from Border Patrol towards reporting parties. And that was a call that only generated phase one coordinates within 5000 meters, which is like three mile radius around the cellphone tower, and the case file that we got on that said that Border Patrol never located that person and that the county took no further action on that case. So we also hear like obstruction and abuse in some of those calls with Border Patrol when we do get, you know, audio recording because the dispatcher chose to stay on the line. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 31:58
And like, you know, looking through the report, there’s some other standout quotations, whether it’s from dispatchers being like, "Actually, we’re not going to deal with that," or like a Border Patrol agent who says like….god, what is it, "They’re gonna stay lost," or something?

**Sophie ** 32:31
Mm hmm.

**Inmn ** 32:31
Yeah, that was the case with phase one coordinates.

**Inmn ** 33:04
Like, on the recording, the Border Patrol agent just like says that? Is like, like, "Well, they’re gonna stay…" like, Oh, my God.

**Parker ** 33:13
Yeah, dispatch gives them the coordinates and then the distance with the coordinates and the Border Patrol agent says, "This guy is gonna stay lost."

**Sophie ** 33:22
Yeah, I mean, you get the sense, even though this is public record, you know, anyone should be able to request these recordings, you can feel the kind of culture of impunity around Border Patrol. The agents clearly aren’t speaking in a way where they expect to be checked up on, you know. So we’re hearing those conversations and it’s something…. Yeah, it’s just this assumption of lack of oversight and impunity that’s really embedded in the culture of the agency and its relationship with the public.

**Inmn ** 33:53
Yeah. And maybe to clarify, these calls that y’all are listening to or like requesting, these are like, the dispatch calls? Like, if dispatch hangs up, is that where the recording ends? Like, y’all aren’t hearing the Border Patrol…like, once they’re transferred, you’re not hearing anything else?

**Sophie ** 34:15
Right. To get the Border Patrol end, you would have to have a successful FOIA, you know, which could take years and generally doesn’t render those kinds of recordings easily.

**Parker ** 34:27
Yeah, we submitted a FOIA request in 2818 or something and are still waiting on documents. And we’re working with a law firm who’s litigating it and we still, you know, have like, just started to get some documents. And that’s, you know, that’s beyond the capacity for most people.

**Inmn ** 34:44
Yeah, to get these like recordings of Border Patrol calls with people? Yeah, okay. Um, so there’s kind of like another side to…there’s another component to this report too, which is, I believe y’all call it "compromised care," or "EMS collaboration with border enforcement." I was wondering if y’all could talk a little bit about that?

**Parker ** 35:16
Yeah. Do you want to start with that one, Sophie?

**Sophie ** 35:18
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a part of the report that pulls on aid worker testimony more heavily. It was really inspired by experiences of our volunteers–I mean, including Parker and I–working in the field and encountering people in distress who needed, you know, emergency evacuation to the hospital, and seeing the kind of infiltration of border patrol into the emergency medical response system, you know, every step of the way. So compromised care is less about search and rescue cases and more looking at the way in which Border Patrol infiltrates and inhibits EMS. So, I think Parker and I both have stories connected to this, but I was…in one situation I was out in the desert to put out water on Christmas with other volunteers and we encountered this woman Lupe in distress who had a collapsed lung. She had been attacked in the desert and left under a blanket and she was in respiratory distress. And she had been there for, you know, overnight, like a long time since that abandonment piece, right? And no one had been down that remote road until we happened to choose to go to a water drop out there that day. And we called, you know, talked to her…. And even though she was in such distress, it actually took a while to get her consent to call 911 because she was crossing because her son was chronically ill. She needed to make money to pay for his medical procedure, and, you know, was desperate to make it. And eventually, she did consent to calling 911. And we, you know, let them know we’re in this vehicle on this road heading to the local fire station. And when we arrived, there was this armada of Border Patrol, like 10 agents, multiple trucks, surrounding the fire station essentially and in and around the ambulance. And when they were taking her from our vehicle, you know, into the ambulance before realizing they needed to call for her to be, you know, helicoptered to the emergency room because it was so desperate, the agents were getting in the way of medical workers to try to get her ID to start processing her on her criminal migration violation, you know, while she’s like receiving care. And we followed her case, and she was…she had been, you know, assaulted in the desert and was handcuffed to her hospital bed. She had a Border Patrol agent stationed in the room with her the whole time she was there. You know, which is incredibly intimidating for someone who’s a survivor of assault or anyone. And eventually, I mean, her case was interesting because she eventually qualified for a U-Visa, a protected status, because she had been the victim of a crime in the United States. And we saw sort of the interplay between the county that was treating her as the victim of a crime and Border Patrol that was treating her as a criminal. So that was a really stark example. And we saw, you know, every time that we’ve evacuated someone to the fire station to get to the emergency room, Border Patrol follows the ambulance. You know, they’re really kind of embedded every step of the way, which is a deterrent to calling 911 in the first place and also can really inhibit care. Parker, I don’t know if you wanted to talk about cases you’ve seen?

**Parker ** 39:05
Yeah, one that really stands out to me is I was volunteering at our humanitarian-aid station one time and a man came in who had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He came in and told us that he had just been bitten. So myself and another volunteer, you know, immediately wanted to call 911, but similarly, you know, for a long time was saying that he didn’t want us to call 911, he didn’t want to go to a hospital, that he thought he was fine because of course he knew that if we did call 911 and and ambulance came, that would result in him being deported. This is a man who had lived in Tucson for years before being deported. And his family was there. His young daughter was there. And she had actually recently had an accident. So he was, you know, very urgently trying to get back to his family and didn’t want to be deported. And eventually he started to show symptoms and we said "Look, we like have to call 911. Like, we’re really afraid that you might die." He agreed and was brought to the hospital. A volunteer was able to visit him in the hospital. And yeah, Border Patrol was…. He ended up being evacuated by helicopter. Border Patrol was waiting to start processing him as he was prepared to do Lifeflight to the hospital in Tucson. You know, as soon as we started driving up, to like drive him to where we were meeting the helicopter, he saw the Border Patrol vehicle and was like, "I don’t want to go," you know. So it was really…you know, there’s a huge deterrence to people to–even when they’re like in a life critical situation to call 911, because they know Border Patrol is waiting for them. They know they’re going to be deported. You know, he ended up being brought to the hospital. They were denying visitation for a long time. They had him handcuffed at the hospital. Border Patrol was stationed in his room at the hospital. And then he ended up being deported without even completing his full medical care. He still had follow up work to do, which is a thing that we also document and see pretty often is people being deported who are still in pretty unstable medical conditions.

**Sophie ** 41:08
Yeah. And just sort of violations of medical ethics every step of the way because of someone’s…simply because of their identity or status.

**Inmn ** 41:25
Are there like…are there laws that require EMS to inform on someone’s known or unknown status?

**Sophie ** 41:37
I mean, my understanding of that is it’s really less about a legal mandate and more about funding and getting bumper funding from the federal government to cover, you know, the 30% of EMS calls and transfers in border counties that are undocumented people in distress. And so like calling and filing with Border Patrol is a way to access those bumper funds. Parker, do you have thoughts about that?

**Parker ** 42:10
No, I mean, I believe the answer is, no, there is nothing that requires them to inform on someone’s medical status. It really is about funding and the fact that, you know, Border Patrol has created this humanitarian crisis that’s overwhelmed the local emergency response systems in these rural areas. So they get reinforcement, I believe, from the Department of Home…. I mean, reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security for the cost of providing the care. And that really is what has created this system.

**Inmn ** 42:39
Yeah. Dang…. That’s, you know, that’s just all really fucked up. That’s, my very…articulate opinion about all of this is it’s just really fucked up. I guess, like, what is the justification for the county to pass off all of this stuff to Border Patrol?

**Parker ** 43:09
So yeah, when we have, you know, confronted the county about this, they consistently deny making any decisions based on immigration status, which in addition to being a constitutional issue is against their own policies. And so what they’ll consistently say is that they don’t make any decisions based on immigration status but it’s purely based on a caller’s location and what resources are the closest, so saying, you know, Border Patrol is closest and that’s the only reason we transfer. It has nothing to do with them having crossed the border. But, you know, we know that this isn’t true for a number of different reasons. One is, you know, we document a lot of calls, like this one that Sophie was describing earlier, where the same person has called for hours and hours. You know, if you have the same person calling for 10 hours, he still hasn’t been rescued. You can’t say that you’re just transferring to Border Patrol because they’re gonna respond faster, you know, if you know, they’re not responding. So, yeah, what we find in the calls is that it really is, you know, the person’s spoken language and saying that they’re lost is really used as sort of like a stand in to determine that a caller is crossing the border, rather than actually being like the basis of why they’re transferring the calls.

**Sophie ** 44:22
And we have documentation of this. So there’s this case that was really kind of important to the development of this report that came in through the Missing Migrant Hotline. This was in May of 2019. The family of a 17 year old named Daniel had called the Missing Migrant Hotline because Daniel had contacted…or traveling companions of Danielle had contacted them. So he was 17. He was traveling with other people crossing the border and he fell ill, was unable to walk ,was maybe unconscious, and his traveling companions contacted his family, told them his condition, and said that they left him 10 or 15 minutes from a paved intersection and Miranda, which is a suburb of Tucson. So not remote backcountry at all. Like a named, paved intersection. And they had screenshots of the location. And so then the family called Border Patrol with this information, asking for response and Border Patrol refused to deploy. And then they called the Missing Migrant Hotline, and a volunteer who picked up the call then called–with their consent called 911–and so this volunteer was English speaking and called 911 and said, "There’s a 17 year old in distress this far from this intersection." He wasn’t asked anything about the identity of the caller. He didn’t…you know, he just said this is a person in distress. And then was told that, you know, deputies and multiple fire departments were en route to that location to the point-last-scene. And then they heard nothing for a few hours and the volunteer called back to see what was going on with the search and learned from the detective on the phone that they had called off the local response, the search and rescue deputies, the fire departments, because they discovered that Daniel was a known illegal immigrant. And that was the language in their case notes on the report, that it became apparent to them that he was a known illegal immigrant. So they’d called off local resources and instead transferred his case to Border Patrol. There was no follow up number and no one for the family to call to see what was the status of Border Patrol’s efforts to look further for him. And Border Patrol had already refused once to go out. And then three days later, his remains were recovered extremely close to the location that was provided by his traveling companions. And so that was a really outrageous case in which it was obvious that, you know, this is a suburb, this isn’t the backcountry, and that his case was, you know, forwarded, as they’re reporting themselves, because of his status to Border Patrol, who then did not prevent loss of life and the 17 year old died as a consequence. And this is incredibly normal. And even when we confronted, you know, with the family and a coalition, confronted the then Sheriff Napier about this, they still insisted that it was just location because they know that it’s a constitutional issue that it can be litigated against, if they admit, even though they’ve done it in writing, that they’re forwarding based on people’s identity. And then we have, you know, the opposite. We have cases of citizens calling for search and rescue in and around Arivaca, like in the border zone in this exact same mountains where a lot of these distress calls are coming from undocumented people, like people who went out to go hunting and got lost, and those calls aren’t transferred. They get a full intake and deputies on the way to rescue that person. So we have a lot of, you know, evidence to contradict their policy. But they seem to, you know…. And I think this is part of why we don’t hear dispatchers in these calls saying, asking directly, "Are you undocumented? Are you an immigrant? What’s your citizenship?" Because they know that that’s illegal. Instead, there’s sort of these like, kind of code words for that. Like, they’ll always ask, you know, "Are you lost?" and lost becomes, you know, a coded way of talking about someone’s status to justify transferring the call.

**Parker ** 48:31
I mean, it’s literally in their system now, They have it’s like, "Lost person," is their official designation, whereas like search and rescue calls with citizens are, you know, coded as "search and rescue." You know, even if they’re lost. But if the caller is speaking Spanish, they’re called a "lost person." It’s sort of their euphemism. And then as to dispatch, like you mentioned some of the damning quotes that we do have in the report, Inmn, you know, in these calls directly from people in distress, you’re not really hearing them, directly address their immigration status, even though that is the basis of how they’re responding to the calls. But we do have some recordings from over the years where you might happen to get like a dispatch from another county who’s transferring over a call and you hear the two, you know, county officials talking to each other. And we have a couple of cases like that. Like one where someone’s calling, I think from…I think that one’s Maricopa, and they’re saying, you know, "We have a call from this person. They’re in your jurisdiction." And the Pima County dispatch is like, "Well, you know, are they speaking Spanish?" And, you know, the other dispatch is like, "Yes." And they’re like, "Okay, so are they illegal? Because we’re not going to go search for them." You know, or like a case we had from 2018, where they said, "Actually, we’re not going to deal with that." And I myself and some other people have had experiences of trying to call 911 to get a response for someone and a dispatch, you know, maybe at that point doesn’t, you know, know that they’re not supposed to say this directly, will just say like, "Oh, is it a migrant? We don’t search for migrants." So there’s this thing where it’s very well known internally that that is their policy, but it’s also known especially amongst the higherups in the sheriff’s department that they can’t say that directly. So you just hear this sort of like, repetitive like, "Nope, it’s based on location. Nope, it’s only based on location because Border Patrol responds faster," kind of no matter what information we present them with to the country.

**Inmn ** 50:21
Yeah, that’s…I don’t know.

**Sophie ** 50:22
So it’s rife for, you know, transformation. It’s a context that’s rife for serious transformation, I would say.

**Inmn ** 50:33
I mean, is there any hope of transformation beyond the abolition of the border and Border Patrol or like the shitty hell-government that we have?

**Sophie ** 50:51
I mean, you know, part of me wants to say no. But I also know that there are serious harm reduction measures that could be put in place pretty swiftly to affect a lot of people’s lives. I mean, in the report we list a number of simple reforms that could happen within the dispatch system, such as having Spanish fluency be a requirement, right, for dispatcher hiring, such as requiring a full intake, such as requiring the county remain…maintain responsibility for these cases even if they’re calling in Border Patrol, that they’re responsible for the outcome and responding. So essentially, like, you know, there’s little granular reforms that could be made to the dispatch system. There’s a more general reform of everyone in the county should have the same response regardless of status, right? And if the county did actually have to bear the full burden of responding to these calls, they have the capacity to put pressure on the federal government, right, in a way that maybe we don’t directly do something to change policy. So there are those pieces. And, you know, I think a lot of that requires further investigation into this issue. More litigation. So suing them, you know, and trying to increase accountability and equity, you know. A more robust response is totally possible. Yeah. And trying to….I think part of what’s empowering about looking at the county versus looking at border patrol directly, like this report versus the others, is when we’re looking at Border Patrol directly. It’s like this, you know, totally opaque, powerful federal agency, that’s getting all this war on terror funding, you know. It’s like really hermetic and, you know, the goliath when thinking about trying to get any wins. But when you’re talking about the county, it’s like, there is more leverage, you know, for local people to demand accountability. They’re more vulnerable to litigation. So there is kind of…I see it as something that can be more effectively pressured if you’re thinking in those kinds of terms, you know. Will it end the border crisis? You know, not unto itself. But certainly it’s an angle from which to try to squeeze the policy of Prevention Through Deterrence, you know. So we’re hopeful that, you know, further investigation and exposure can put more pressure from this direction. I don’t know if Parker has thoughts about that, but I found it more encouraging to actually have names and faces of people to challenge, you know, to answer for these policies, for example.

**Parker ** 53:48
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it’s…. You know, search and rescue, no matter how well funded, is not the solution to the border crisis in that sense. You know, we gotta abolish border patrol for that. You know, definitely try and really center that we want this border crisis to end. We don’t want solely just more humane responses to it. But, yeah, I mean, I guess I’ll just say that working on these reports, especially "Left To Die," you know, it is obviously really fucked up heavy content, but there’s a lot of inspiration there in seeing how like communities respond themselves to go out and search for people and the way that families respond and just like the solidarity between people crossing the border as well as like border communities. And so, you know, I think that was sort of like a salve in sitting with all of this content is just, you know, seeing the incredible ways that people have responded…just themselves, you know, outside of these sorts of like, official response systems.

**Inmn ** 54:54
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s like, you know, it’s the question of like, "How can this be better?" it’s like, yeah, Border Patrol is the cause of the problem. So reforming it isn’t gonna provide a solution because they are the problem. They can’t…. You know? Like, they’re doing what they set out to do and it seems like they’re responses to search and rescue and things like that are just in line with what they set out to do, which is exactly what’s happening. But, yeah, do y’all have any other kind of…I guess closing things for…. I don’t know, for…. I think about this within a more direct connection to themes of the podcast, but what can people who live near border regions do to prepare for encounters that they might have with finding people who need help, regardless of their of their documentations status, or like encountering people who are lost or in need of medical care? How can people prepare for that?

**Sophie ** 56:11
Well, I think really, you know, kill the cop in your mind and know that humanitarian aid is never a crime. And that there’s…you know, there are court cases to back that up. And there’s a lot of people to back you up. I think, you know, if you live in a border region, familiarize yourself with the humanitarian groups and non-governmental groups that are working in that region. If there isn’t one, start one. I think, contact the ACLU about setting up a Know Your Rights training. There’s a lot of groundwork that can be done and you’re not reinventing the wheel to, you know, connect with others around this and lose your fears that you can act like a human person when you meet human people in trouble. So I think there’s a lot you can do. But it really starts with sort of embracing the notion that helping people out in a human way is not criminal, which is difficult when you’re living under the intimidation of checkpoints and helicopters but know that people are doing this on their own every day.

**Inmn ** 57:20

**Sophie ** 57:24
The other thing I want to say is just that I think right now we’re seeing this…. You know, we’re recording this November 22 or more than 40 days into the Israeli bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza and a lot of people kind of power mapping, you know, how is it that the US is delivering 70% of its military aid to Israel? You know, and what are the kind of the direct links between US border militarization and the militarism that’s, you know, killed at least 14,000 people in Gaza, and through that power mapping there’s a lot of revelations about weapons contractors that are, you know, there’s shared contracting between the militarization of the border and the militarization of the occupied territories. And, you know, people targeting Elbit Systems, for example, an Israeli company that has a multi-billion dollar contract for surveillance systems on the border that have super deadly consequences and putting pressure on them because they’re also a contractor advancing, you know, this moment of really genocidal violence in in Gaza and the West Bank. And so I think really, you know, supporting those campaigns and connecting those dots, because these are…. There’s sort of one industry that supports both of these border regimes, you know. And when we’re talking about segregation, we’re talking about forms of apartheid, you know. It is an apartheid system if you have separate laws and separate classifications applying to people based on identity and we certainly see that living in the border zone when we’re looking at something like the 911 system. So that you know, these struggles are interlocking and I think it’s really powerful and important to bring that solidarity in so that we don’t feel so alone, you know, when we’re fighting these goliaths.

**Inmn ** 59:38
And it’s like the…I don’t know if it’s weird to…or whatever it’s not weird. It’s just how information processes but like to…. I remember like 10 years ago when I first got involved with border aid stuff like getting this like tore of the desert and seeing these virtual towers, or listening posts or whatever they’re called, and like having the person who was facilitating that training talk about them like "Yeah, they’re like made by this Israeli company Elbit…the same company that builds these systems of surveillance in Palestine." And that’s happening to people in Palestine is essentially testing equipment and shit to use other places. And yeah, it’s wild to see a lot of that coming out now. But how like these different border regions have been connected for a very long time. And I don’t know, that’s not very articulate. But it’s all just bad. This is my burnout brain from talking about this for two hours being like, I don’t know, shit’s fucked.

**Sophie ** 1:01:23
But we must fight. Go to the protest. Such an important and powerful time to be getting together on this.

**Inmn ** 1:01:34
Yeah, and it’s like, like we see with stuff in the US-Mexico so-called, like region that, a huge thing that people can do is to just form community-aid organizations or groups and have these conversations with your community to build preparedness for how to deal with finding people who are lost, how to deal with the–it’s hard to say lacking because it’s purposeful–but the conditions that Border Patrol or like the US government or any government has created that are in these humanitarian crises.

**Parker ** 1:02:20
Yeah, and I, you know, I mean, obviously, this work is also connected to any migrant justice work happening away from the border. And, you know, I think just having this awareness of knowing anyone who’s deported from anywhere in the United States, this is what they face if they try and like return to their families. Like I said, a lot of people we run into in the desert, they’re from Tucson or, you know, they’ve lived in the United States for a long time. And I think also just sort of like an awareness of the impact. I think there’s less of an awareness of what the border is like, what the crossing is like, when you’re away from it. Even though, you know, there’s so many people everywhere in our country who have been, you know, affected by the trauma of crossing through the desert or are, you know, threatened with, you know, having to do that, again if they are deported or go visit their family in Mexico or something, you know, it creates such a huge barrier of like trauma between south of the border north of the border. So I think a lot of people, you know, when I give presentations are like, "What can we do to support No More Deaths?" And it’s, you know, probably something in your own community.

**Inmn ** 1:03:31
Yeah. Cool. Well, that seems like a good place to kind of leave it. Unless, I don’t know, do you either of y’all have anything else you’d like to say or are there questions that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you?

**Sophie ** 1:03:49
No, we just appreciate you so much.

**Inmn ** 1:03:53
Aww, I appreciate y’all.

**Sophie ** 1:03:56
It’s really nice to talk through it.

**Inmn ** 1:03:58
Yeah. And I don’t know, that’s one of the big reasons I wanted to have y’all come on is that these conversations are so embedded in southern Arizona in like these places and I’ve had funny moments of going other places and trying to talk about this stuff and realizing that like nobody has any clue what I’m talking about. And I get really confused. I’m like, what do you mean? It’s so obvious that all this stuff is happening? And it’s…I don’t know. Yeah. But they’re just very embedded in our lives and our communities and I don’t know…. So thank you all for coming on and telling more people about this. And if people want to learn more about it, where can people find the report or any of the reports that No More Deaths has put out?

**Parker ** 1:04:55
We have a website it’s And if you forget that, you can just go to the No More Deaths website and find the link on there if you click on the Abuse Documentation tab. But yeah, that’ll have all of our past reports as well as we have summaries and fact sheets for them as well, as well as some really beautifully done animated videos showing the findings of the different reports. Not the last one but the first three.

**Inmn ** 1:05:20
And there’s a pretty cool article that someone wrote about it whose name I’m forgetting.

**Parker ** 1:05:27
Tanvi Misra at High Country News.

**Inmn ** 1:05:33
Okay, well, thanks y’all for coming on and talking about grim stuff and providing some little nuggets of hope.

**Sophie ** 1:05:45
Thank you, Inmn. Take care.

**Inmn ** 1:05:51
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoy this podcast then abolish the border? Abolish Border Patrol? If you could figure that out, a lot of people would be really grateful. And, you know, you can also tell people about the podcast. It’s the main way that people hear about the show. And honestly, one of the better ways to support it. You could also like and subscribe or rate and review or whatever these words are. I don’t really know how the internet works. And, you know, boost it in the algorithm. I don’t…I don’t really know about that. But if you want to support us in other sillier ways–sillier to me because, you know, all things are silly. Well, not all things. Wow, Inmn’s in a ranting mood….. Another way to support the show is by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, and you can support strangers by going to and buying books and zines and games. We have a lot of fun stuff coming out, you know, soon and next year including the TTRPG that we’ve been working on for an incredibly long time, Penumbra City. It is currently out for preorder and it’s going to be starting shipping in February. And you can also support Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness by finding us on Patreon at On Patreon, if you support us at $10 a month then you can join the Zine of the Month Club where we’ll mail you a zine which is a feature that we put out every month. A lot of our…a lot of the features come from listeners and followers of the show and other podcasts that we put out. So find us at And in particular, we would like to thank these Patreon subscribers who have joined another club. And clubs are cool. I think. I don’t know. I don’t know if clubs are cool. But these people are cool and they are Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the dog. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve helped us with. And we hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on. And we’ll talk to you next time. Okay, bye.

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