Episodes

Published on December 10th, 2015 | by Kevin

151

Episode #65: Notes on Aspiration

Intro music: Song For Zula – Phosphorescent

Notes on Aspiration

Kevin Gotkin

[Kevin, a man’s voice:] A few months ago I moved to a new city and into a building that had once been a factory. Coming and going in the first few days, I would sometimes smell something sharp and fetid in the air. It had notes of rotten eggs or rotten cheese that seemed familiar but still strange. Soon I discovered this was not particular to my building, that the smell would breeze by me in small invisible clouds all around my new neighborhood. On long runs through sprawling campuses of oil refineries near my new home, there I would smell it too. But contrary to my guess that the smell was a byproduct of some industrial process, I learned the smell occurs naturally. It’s in the water, supposedly deposited, as one plaque in my neighborhood says, 570 million years ago. This sulphur spring was a trading post for some of the city’s earliest residents. It was, for decades in the mid 20th century, a popular destination to bottle sulphur water, which was believed to promote longevity, cure hangovers, and repel rats. City workers stocked it in office water coolers. Even the baseball stadium was named, until only recently, the Sulphur Dell.

I learned all this only a month after I read about widespread protest in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. 20,000 tons of festering, summer-heated garbage had piled up in the streets of the city, a result of a closed landfill and the government’s inability to deliver basic city services. Fed up with the smell, but also with corruption and inefficiency, protesters took to the street wearing filter masks, chanting the two words that would spread online as fast as the stench itself: “You stink!”

[In Arabic, a man says “You stink and the smell of this country is shit.” Then, there are chants from the Beirut protests accompanied by the pangs of a drum keeping the beat. As the chants fade out, a song comes in: “Mysterieux Message” by Chapelier Fou. It has a thumping, walking beat with fluttering electronic notes that makes the narration sound curious, searching for something. It continues under the narration.]

[Kevin:] Stink, it seems to me, consumes our attention because it alerts us to fact that we’re breathing, something we know, of course, but often forget. Smelling something foul is like being told to take a deep breath by your doctor who has a cold stethoscope against your back, after which you can’t help but fixate on the fact that you’re always, constantly breathing. It’s like that game that all players are fated to lose because the only rule of the game is to avoid thinking about about the game.

[The song fades out.]

[Kevin:] The breath has become a focal point in recent mobilizations for justice in the U.S. On July 17th of 2014, New York City policer officers attempted to arrest Eric Garner, an unarmed black man they suspected of illegally selling cigarettes. One of the officers put his arms around Garner’s neck and pulled him to the ground from behind. While in the chokehold, he shouted “I can’t breathe” ten times before he lost consciousness and then died.

In the protests after Garner’s death, these words came to describe the experience of police terror and racial injustice that the #BlackLivesMatter movement was mobilizing around the country. Garner died from a literal chokehold, which came to signify larger ones: chokeholds on Black youth’s freedom to walk down a sidewalk without being assumed criminal, chokeholds on minorities’ access to education and health care, chokeholds on the mobility of America’s poor as a result of upward redistribution of wealth. Around the country, asserting “We can’t breathe” became a way of describing the struggle to keep up on a proverbial treadmill of charmed American life that, like a horizon, stays put no matter how fast you’re moving.

[A song fades up: “I Can’t Breathe” by Pussy Riot. It has harsh, metallic and electronic elements. In the background, it sounds like sirens are muted but warped and drawn out. Over them, a man re-voices the last words of Eric Garner’s life. “I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please! Please! Don’t touch me! Do not touch me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Then, the song dissolves into an electronic drone.]

[Kevin:]The breath has often been an important feature of American protest. It takes a great deal of breath to shout at the top of your lungs, a kind of cry that communicates with more than just words. Protesters shouting and marching are often out of breath. And then, sometimes, there isn’t a choice. Peaceful activists since the murder of Michael Brown in August of 2014 have known the searing pain after law enforcement sprays mace into the air, what it feels like to be betrayed by your capacity to take a breath.

[A song fades up, from a YouTube video of four men singing a song that was often heard in Black Lives Matter protests around the U.S. The men sing with an acoustic guitar playing lightly underneath. “I can hear my brother crying ‘I can’t breathe.’ So now I’m in the struggle saying ‘I can’t leave.’ We callin’ out the violence of these racist police. And we ain’t gonna stop until [clap, clap] our people are free. We ain’t gonna stop until [clap, clap] our people are free.” The song fades out.]

[Kevin:] On March 12th of 1990, disability rights activists approached the Capitol Building in Washington DC. The Americans with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation that would secure sweeping anti-ableist protections, had passed in the Senate but was having trouble getting through the House.

[Sounds from that day’s protest play. In call and response, the protester shout: “What do you want? ACCESS. When do you want it? NOW.”]

In a PBS retrospective, activist Michael Winter describes the start of what came to be an iconic action.

[Michael, a man’s voice:] The night before, they asked for volunteers to, you know, crawl up the steps, you know. And I thought – I thought – I thought it was a great idea. Some people were really against it. They thought that it would be really demeaning to see a bunch of disabled people crawling up steps, you know. But my feeling on it was that it was really demeaning the way the country was treating disabled people anyway. So why not let them see some, some reality? See what people have to do in order to get to the top of the building, you know?]

[Kevin:] A woman with dark hair in a wheelchair is wearing sunglasses and talking to a news camera.

[A woman’s voice, with cheers from the crowd underneath:] We’re gonna march until the Congress starts listening to us. They’re – they’re stalling the bill that’s gonna give us equal rights and we ju- aren’t asking for civil rights. We’re demanding them, and now!]

[Kevin:] At the foot of the 100 steps that led to the entrance of the Capitol, protesters got out of their wheelchairs and started to climb. Many worked to control their legs that would stiffen and chafe against each stair. They were flanked on all sides by people offering a steady hand and photographers capturing their grimaced faces. One woman, pulling herself backwards up each step, took a break, stretched her arms out on either side, her chest heaving.

[There are more sounds of the protests. “ADA now! ADA now! ADA now!”]

[Kevin:] At one point, the news cameras on the scene swarmed around one protester, an eight year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was ascending the stairs with a particular kind of fury. As she rested her chin on a step in between jerky advances, she became for many a symbol of the fierce commitment of the disability justice movement.

[There are ambient sounds of the footage from her crawl. One man shouts, “Come on Jennifer!” A woman says softly, “Take your time.” There are many camera clicks. Then, the girl shouts, “I’ll take all night if I have to!”]

[Kevin:] The Americans with Disabilities act passed soon after the Capitol Crawl. And what this protest displayed in ways that Congress couldn’t ignore, was how easy, how sinisterly easy it is to design the built environment such that some people are left literally at the curb. Americans with disabilities are still too often out of breath for no good reason, because they’re late to a meeting when a building’s wheelchair accessible entrance is hidden around back and rarely monitored. Because they’re struggling with a step at a shop front that could so quickly be turned into a ramp. Because they’re breathlessly explaining to people over and over again that the sea of depictions of disabled people is unjustified and untrue. These people short of breath are also short of justice.

[A song fades up. It consists of quick, plucked strings of a guitar and then soft, flowing electronic chords. It makes the narration sound curious but also a little sad. It fades out under the narration and then the sound of a person breathing in and out come in.]

[Kevin:] In the months after Eric Garner’s death, media artist Ian Alan Paul published a site that contains what he calls an “online poem.” Against a white background, to the sounds of a person inhaling and exhaling, lungs appear. In the warm, bloody hues of these lungs there are images of Eric Garner’s last moments of life. In text there are various questions.

[In between each question there is an inhale and an exhale.]

Whose breath is heard, and whose is not?

Whose breath is near, and whose is not?

Whose breath is stolen, and whose is not?

Whose breath endures, and whose does not?

[After the last question, there is a final breath and then a beat of silence.]

[Kevin:] It takes a great deal to lose awareness of the breath. An easy breath, like the smooth surface of an iPhone not yet cracked, is almost imperceptible. Until something jolts the breath out of its calm rhythm. In those moments, it’s easy to understand the breath in an ecology that links us to each other and to our surroundings. When the air we breathe gets stuffy or stinky or is in short supply, we experience something profound, something that reminds us of our shared reliance on that vital, immense store we call the sky.

[A song had faded up under the narration. It has no words, just slow and decided chords. It is both hopeful and sad.]

[Kevin:] It’s fascinating to me that the word “aspiration” has two meanings, one about breathing and one about desire. Perhaps they’re more connected than we might realize at first, because the extent to which individuals can freely aspire in and out of their bodies determines to some extent what they can aspire to. Collective desires for equity and justice begin with that simple cadence of our breaths that, if we’re lucky, we don’t notice at all.

[The song slowly fades.]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author



151 Responses to Episode #65: Notes on Aspiration

  1. Pingback: generic viagra online

  2. Pingback: buy viagra uk

  3. Pingback: viagra samples

  4. Pingback: viagra cheap

  5. Pingback: buy viagra

  6. Pingback: buy tadalafil 20mg price

  7. Pingback: generic viagra

  8. Pingback: buy viagra online usa

  9. Pingback: order viagra

  10. Pingback: buy viagra online london

  11. Pingback: best online store to buy viagra 2015

  12. Pingback: generic viagra pills

  13. Pingback: generic sildenafil

  14. Pingback: viagra

  15. Pingback: viagra

  16. Pingback: Viagra 100mg cost

  17. Pingback: Viagra 150mg canada

  18. Pingback: Viagra 130mg tablet

  19. Pingback: Viagra 200mg without a doctor prescription

  20. Pingback: order Viagra 130mg

  21. Pingback: order sildenafil

  22. Pingback: Viagra 150 mg otc

  23. Pingback: underground dumps shop

  24. Pingback: viagra online

  25. Pingback: cheapest Viagra 50 mg

  26. Pingback: lawyers in ottawa

  27. Pingback: mơ thấy con mèo đánh con gì

  28. Pingback: mơ thấy ao nước đánh con gì

  29. Pingback: mơ thấy anh em gặp nhau

  30. Pingback: mơ thấy tiền đánh con gì

  31. Pingback: how to buy Cialis 10 mg

  32. Pingback: Cialis 40 mg tablets

  33. Pingback: tadalafil

  34. Pingback: mơ thấy ba ba

  35. Pingback: mơ thấy con cá đánh đề con gì

  36. Pingback: mơ thấy xe tải

  37. Pingback: mơ mình chết đánh con gì

  38. Pingback: cheap Cialis 20 mg

  39. Pingback: Cialis 80mg medication

  40. Pingback: viagra sale

  41. Pingback: viagra

  42. Pingback: energyoutlet.com

  43. Pingback: Cialis 20 mg over the counter

  44. Pingback: Cialis 20 mg nz

  45. Pingback: canadian drugs pharmacy

  46. Pingback: tadalafil 40mg for sale

  47. Pingback: ShopGenericEd

  48. Pingback: lasix 100 mg for sale

  49. Pingback: furosemide 40 mg generic

  50. Pingback: prescription drugs without doctor approval

  51. Pingback: lexapro 10mg united states

  52. Pingback: buy cialis online

  53. Pingback: abilify 15 mg medication

  54. Pingback: pharmacie en ligne

  55. Pingback: actos 15 mg generic

  56. Pingback: aldactone 25mg no prescription

  57. Pingback: cheap allegra 180 mg

  58. Pingback: amaryl 1 mg australia

  59. Pingback: how to purchase amoxicillin 500mg

  60. Pingback: antabuse 250 mg australia

  61. Pingback: arava 10 mg purchase

  62. Pingback: viagra 100mg

  63. Pingback: cheap cialis

  64. Pingback: atarax 25 mg pills

  65. Pingback: augmentin 500/125 mg for sale

  66. Pingback: generic drugs without doctor's prescription

  67. Pingback: viagra without a doctor prescription

  68. Pingback: viagra generic

  69. Pingback: buspar 10 mg price

  70. Pingback: cardizem 180mg purchase

  71. Pingback: buy tadalafil

  72. Pingback: sildenafil citrate 100mg generic

  73. Pingback: casodex 50mg pills

  74. Pingback: where can i buy catapres 100mcg

  75. Pingback: buy ceclor

  76. Pingback: cheap viagra

  77. Pingback: where can i buy ceftin 250mg

  78. Pingback: celebrex tablet

  79. Pingback: cheap celexa

  80. Pingback: natural remedies for ed

  81. Pingback: cephalexin 500 mg canada

  82. Pingback: cialis over the counter at walmart

  83. Pingback: how to purchase cipro

  84. Pingback: how to purchase claritin

  85. Pingback: viagra

  86. Pingback: real money casino

  87. Pingback: empire city casino online

  88. Pingback: big fish casino online

  89. Pingback: slot machines

  90. Pingback: casino games

  91. Pingback: casinos

  92. Pingback: generic viagra

  93. Pingback: real money casino online

  94. Pingback: online casinos real money

  95. Pingback: online casino real money usa

  96. Pingback: slot machines

  97. Pingback: car insurance quotes for young drivers

  98. Pingback: acceptance car insurance quotes

  99. Pingback: car insurance quotes rates

  100. Pingback: triple aaa insurance

  101. Pingback: buy tadalafil

  102. Pingback: aarp car insurance

  103. Pingback: motorcycle insurance

  104. Pingback: auto home insurance

  105. Pingback: buy cialis usa

  106. Pingback: met life auto and home

  107. Pingback: commercial car insurance quotes companies

  108. Pingback: best erection pills

  109. Pingback: buy cialis brand

  110. Pingback: car insurance quotes ontario

  111. Pingback: personal loans in md

  112. Pingback: guaranteed payday loans

  113. Pingback: fast payday loans

  114. Pingback: cheap medication online

  115. Pingback: american installment loans

  116. Pingback: quick loans company

  117. Pingback: fast bad credit loan

  118. Pingback: cialis without prescriptions

  119. Pingback: payday loans near me

  120. Pingback: personal loans montgomery al

  121. Pingback: cbd oil for dogs

  122. Pingback: best cbd oil for cancer for sale

  123. Pingback: 5mg cialis

  124. Pingback: does cbd oil get you high

  125. Pingback: order amoxicillin 500mg

  126. Pingback: hemp oil vs cbd oil for pain

  127. Pingback: where can i buy viagra over the counter

  128. Pingback: benefits of cbd oil

  129. Pingback: payday loans no credit check instant approval

  130. Pingback: cbd oil online

  131. Pingback: cbd oil milford ohio

  132. Pingback: cbd oil benefits and side effects

  133. Pingback: cbd oil for sale vape

  134. Pingback: buy levitra in uk

  135. Pingback: write my paper

  136. Pingback: college application essay writing service

  137. Pingback: writer of the federalist papers

  138. Pingback: paper writers for hire

  139. Pingback: writing essays services

  140. Pingback: how to writing an essay

  141. Pingback: buy nothing day essay

  142. Pingback: online essay writers

  143. Pingback: free paper writer

  144. Pingback: should homework be abolished

  145. Pingback: cleocin 300mg over the counter

  146. Pingback: how to purchase clomid 100mg

  147. Pingback: jual cialis kaskus

  148. Pingback: clonidine medication

  149. Pingback: how to purchase clozaril 50 mg

  150. Pingback: colchicine prices

  151. Pingback: symbicort inhaler australia

Back to Top ↑