Stakes is High Part 1: The Real Life Horror of America
In Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot a small Maine town is slowly taken over by a master vampire named Barlow. At first a few people disappear, then others begin acting strangely, for the most part however, most people go on about their lives, ignorant of what’s coming. Only a few people in the town know the truth about the vampire, they know what’s really at stake. Some in the town choose to fight, others choose to flee and most end up succumbing to the vampire sickness. I gotta say, the United States is starting to resemble Mr. King’s book an awful amount lately.
2016 was the year of WTF and it’s looking like 2017 is setting itself up to be a banner year too. With the election of our current President Elect, with the revelation of foreign hacking and influence, with the rise of hate and fascism, everything seems crazy. It’s almost like we’re living in a bad movie that won’t end. When life gets topsy turvy, I try to make sense of everything by using movies and metaphors to help define and clarify the world around me. Using this method, I have concluded that our current President-elect isn’t just a puppet of a hostile foreign government; he’s also a vampire. And I’m using vampire as a metaphor for this racist piece of rapist garbage elevated into the highest executive position of power in the U.S. by those determined to undermine a free society’s inevitable march towards progress and light. Drumpf, the majority of the GOP, Wikileaks, Putin, all of them, vampires. The world is in a vampire movie. Maybe it always has been.
So after the horrifying results of the Presidential election many Americans, including me, have and still are going through a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts. A few days after the election my sister in arms Amber Ruffin wrote and performed a poignant skit on Late Night with Seth Meyers in which Seth invited her to help Americans deal with the pain of having a racist misogynist win the presidency. Amber, the embodiment of joy and cheerfulness, came out on stage, looked into the camera and told “White America” to “Join the fun!” Amber continued, “That feeling you’re feeling right now, Black people have been feeling this way FOREVER...join the fun! Whoo!” It’s one of the most hilarious Seth Meyers segments and Amber nails not only the comedy she also drives home a very real reality for those who felt the world turned upside down. If you’re Black, if you’re a woman, if you’re a Black woman, you’ve seen this country’s mask slip countless times. You’ve known all along that it's dark hateful nature was all too real and never too far away. Indigenous people know this reality too; they were the first to experience it. After a damn near genocide and theft of their lands, the indigenous peoples of this country know the beast is real. Despite countless attempts to tell us otherwise, this country is responsible for monstrous acts of violence and bloodshed. And many Americans had the privilege to ignore, deny, placate the monster that hid in plain sight.
This election cycle the monster got real tired of hiding. It didn’t care that the sun was up, it was going to show its vampire ass in the light of day. Too many outspoken women, POC, LGBTQ, Muslim and Mexican immigrants changing the natural order of things. “They’re not supposed to be in charge, hell they’re not even supposed to be seen.” That’s a sentiment many on the other side of the human divide feel. Sure, not all, but you know what? Whether you personally hate me or not but then vote for someone who wishes my enslavement or eradication… it doesn’t make a difference to me. Which brings me to those telling us to feel sympathy with those vampire Nazi types who voted for the President Elect. I should warn you from this point on I’m going to refer to the racist and systematically repressive regime built on the backs of Black women and men as “vampirism” and those who defend, support, benefit and thrive from it as “vampires.” I will refer to those who are on the receiving end of such horrors—as well as those who actively work against the vampires-- as “humans” or “us”.
Watching the final results of the election was like watching a horror movie unfold. We’re trapped, there’s nowhere to go that’s safe and instead of fighting back or coming up with a smart plan, people are passively saying, “Everything will be just fine, stop overreacting.” Or “How bad can it be?” Some of the worst things I’ve seen are the numerous think pieces – mostly by white men – for LA Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, Salon and Mother Jones telling us (and by us I’m talking about the groups of people in fear for their lives right now) --in some form or another --to calm down and stop victimizing those on the other side. They tell us in what they think are measured, calm and logical voices that we only make things worse when we call those on the other side racists. Whether they actually are racist or have endorsed racist ideology is beside the point; calling one a racist is apparently more offensive and less humane than the actual act of racism itself.
To make matters worse, major publishers like Simon & Schuster are giving big money book deals to Nazi Vampires like Milo Yiannopoulos. Unfortunate dealings like this take human viruses like Milo legitimate. With the financial backing of Simon & Schuster, Vampire Milo can now spread his infection to millions of readers who would have never known who he was if not for the platform he has just been given. Whether the Publishing company believes in what Milo writes or not doesn’t matter, they’re already giving him what he wants; legitimacy. Fascism, like racism share the common goal in eroding societies immunity for what was/is considered taboo and or unethical, like a virus. If we can no longer determine or draw a line against ideas that are at their core literally dangerous, we risk a complete moral collapse and an attrition of public trust. These vampiric illnesses can only thrive in an environment that allows them access - a vampire can only harm you if you let him into your house. Once invited you’ve basically said “dinner is served.” How many Black writers writing about their culture, their experience have been and continue to be turned away by major publishing houses? Like in a game of Whack-A-Mole, stories of Vampires getting passes keep popping up post election.
Yeah, we’re definitely in a horror movie. We always have been, it’s just now we’re in the part of the plot where the curtain falls and the monster doesn’t feel like hiding anymore. Also just like in a horror movie, it also seems all of our favorites died (Prince, Bowie, George Michael, Gene Wilder, Ali, and now Princess Leia herself Carrie Fisher). As for whole curtain falling, “It’s really a cookbook!” trope, there are plenty of horror movies that have pulled this trick in many different sub genres. It’s a go-to in the alien invasion/infiltration sub genre; The Thing, The Hidden, They Live, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc. have used this trope beautifully. It’s also a definite fave in horror films that are more supernatural and demonically themed. People never believe the dude is really the devil until it’s too late. The Omen I, II, and III, The Devil’s Advocate, Mister Frost, Crazy as Hell, etc. The reality we find ourselves in currently, however, is closer to another sub genre (although I do admit someone could very easily write a piece about how Trump is the devil or how the media functions the same way as in They Live. Maybe I should have written that article.)
For argument’s sake, let’s imagine that we’re waking up everyday to a world in the vampire sub genre. I recently remembered the 2009 vampire movie Daybreakers starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe.
"In the year 2019, a plague has transformed almost every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vamps on a way to save humankind."I saw this movie in the theaters (Yeah, I’m that dude) and I didn’t really enjoy the film, but I did come away thinking that the film had a brilliant premise. I thought the film would be much better served as a television series than a two hour movie because there are so many places to explore in a world where the majority of people are vampires feeding on and battling with an underground collection of humans desperate to survive. Then I remembered, “Wait, I don’t need a television series to show that. That’s what it's like to grow up Black in America, JOIN THE FUN!” I was born one of the humans desperate to survive, desperate not to be eaten or shot by the cops, infected with the virus, jailed, or turned. This term actually still applies, America invests a lot of energy into turning Black men into New Black vampire lords. Look at OJ, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson...etc.
Now I can hear the liberal/conservative, so called thoughtful White men already humming and hawing at my premise. “Tarik? Are you comparing the majority of White Americans to vampires?” Yes. Yes I am. I’m also saying that until I can call a vampire a vampire, in the light of day, until I can show a vampire the reality his or her reflection – without said vampire turning to dust – then and only then can we begin to cure the vampire plague. My assertion that we live in a vampire society and White people are vampires is a response to all the celebrities, pundits, journalists and think pieces telling those who are afraid for our lives to be nice, bridge the divide and not bring up the fact that a large portion of the people in this country have fangs.
Now, let me make it clear when I say “whiteness” I’m referring to the construct that was created, sold and bought into for the specific purpose of ruling at the top of a racial caste system. A white person’s “Vampireness” is dependent upon just how much they buy into the white supremacy construct. Some White people are not intentionally evil vampires; some aren’t even aware they’re vampires. Others—also not intentionally evil—are aware of their vampireness. Let’s call these “Awoken Vampires.” These are vampires that recognize their privileged station in the order of things and they try their best to not support the vampire empire and they opt for True Blood instead of murder. In other words, they know white supremacy is a horrible lie that actually kills and they want no part of it. It’s a small percentage of vampires, let’s say 1% of the total number of vampires (oblivious, awoken, and evil) who hold all the power and money and do not want the vampire empire to end. They know they’re on top of the food chain and they like it. They have spent centuries duping poor humans to fight their wars, worship them, convincing them through propaganda that one day they’ll be just like them...all they have to do is help oppress the rest of the human race.
So with that I’m going to attempt to use this analogy of vampirism and racism to put a mirror to the national monster before us. I’m not arrogant to believe I’m the first person to attempt this. Many have done this very thing before I was even a thought. America has been shown it’s reflection before, countless times, hell so many Black women have been holding a mirror to America this past year and the result was the same. America, the monster, saw nothing in the mirror. What does that mean? This is something I hope I can try to answer. Stakes Is High is one of my favorite De La Soul albums. The running theme of the album primarily was focused towards a concern for the state of Hip Hop. My concern is the state of our nation and it’s people under the leadership of a bloodsucking parasite. I want to use the vampire = racism equation to ask:
What exactly are we facing?
What really are a vampires vulnerabilities?
How do we fight back?
In this series of coming articles, I will display the similarities and connections between vampirism and racism. I will illustrate how President Barack Obama is Blade (from the 1998 Marvel movie Blade) and Trump is Deacon Frost and how the media act like Trump’s Vampire familiars. I will argue that we all have monster tendencies in America, specifically, how Black men who act like Fauxteps are nothing but dry storms of wind and sand like The Mummy. And finally, I hope to conclude my argument with hopeful solutions to not only help us cope but to help us defeat the darkness ahead.
Thanks for taking this bizarre journey with me for these are bizarre times. Stay strong and resist.
Tarik Davis has a long history performing and writing comedy. He strives to cross-pollinate performance styles and audiences in all his work. Past experience includes performing for The Upright Citizens Brigade in NY, Boom Chicago in Amsterdam and The Second City in Chicago. Now based in NYC, Tarik currently teaches improv to children & adults. He writes and self-produces his own video projects, appears in commercial spots, and occasionally doodles. He can currently be seen on the hit BRIC TV web series Brooklynification and on recent sketches on Late Night with Seth Meyers (@tarikrdavis)