The Weekend Politics Thread Gets Personally Political in a Microcosm of Maldistribution

♬ I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they robbed me
Of my childhood souvenirs

— The things we’ve kept made us who we became

Watch for not seeing much of your otherwise occupied Weekend Politics host through the first day of this colloquy. He, joined by his brother and one sister, intend to spend the better part of an increasingly usual warm December Saturday emptying their father’s storage unit.

Uvurdaddy1 will supervise, so no one jump to offering condolences. And, truth to tell, that corrugated steel and cinder block shed sitting in a row in a long-forgotten farmer’s field contains the contents of a family life dating back to the early 1960s. The Suspects kids call the collection of curios and contraptions “Dad’s” to give them psychic and emotional distance from deeming and ditching nearly all of it as debris and detritus.

Michael Stipe describes “Life and How to Live It2 as a song about an instructional manual written by a Georgia hermit whose hovel the R.E.M. coterie cleaned out after the author’s death. The writer lived two separate lives, right down to dividing his household in half with completely different wardrobes, appliances and all other accoutrements of daily existence.

The storage unit occupies such mirror plane of reality in many ways. Children’s dressers. Desktop computers that passed their date of obsolescence before leaving a Radio Shack’s shelves a quarter-century ago. Love letters meant for the eyes of a person no longer around to read the heart’s words. Trash? Yes, but also much treasure that will go from cherished to out of sight and out of mind to the landfill.

This way-of-all-flesh progression takes on the trappings of politics by raising a cloud of large irresolvable issues which Uvular can only list, thusly:

  • How the atomization of the nuclear family coinciding with the decline in marriage and birth rates rendered placed the very concept of keepsakes and heirlooms somewhere on the continuum of quaint to risible.
  • How consumer culture compelled Americans, in particular, to acquire much more just plain stuff than anyone could ever need or, inevitably, want.
  • How planned obsolescence ran headlong into the proliferation of plastics, forever chemicals and toxic e-waste.
  • How semirural land uses shifted from light industrial and family farming to storage sheds and townhouses.
  • How letting go of things once held dear alters a person’s perspective on and position in the world.

Going galaxy brain on that final poser regarding handbags and gladrags that your poor old grandad had to sweat to buy you,3 what sort of country does the United States become when six Supreme Court justices dedicate themselves to stripping citizens of rights? Who decides what to save and pass down when rummaging around the attic of civil society? Which rubrics apply when something one person would rather do without means more than anything else in the word to someone else? If morality factors in, whose morals and to what degree? And so on, spiraling ever into the vortex of vetting voluminous vestiges of a life no longer accessible except through a conscious choice to retain “this” but not “that.”

Heavy. Not as physically heavy as that 1950s-era department store clothing bin Uvular and his siblings will have to wrestle into the bed of a pickup truck at some point, but much mental lifting to do in the comments below. Have at.