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Social Commentary

What We Had

By J.X.

You may have seen it, @420Doggface280 cruising down the road on his skateboard, swigging Oceanspray before joining Stevie Nicks and lip-syncing that high verse of “Dreams”.

“It's only right that you should play the way you feel it.”

The world watched. Ten point four million people clicked on the love heart icon. We all felt good. We all felt some kind of free. We all felt something.

What was it about this 23 second TikTok video? @420Doggface280, AKA Nathan Apodaca, has many other short videos with him lip-syncing and skate boarding. But something about this was different and launched it into viral status. Apodaca was not even alive when that Fleetwood Mac song was on the charts in 1977; he was born in 1983.  And yet this Arapaho/Chicano cholo dude, riding a skateboard to work because his truck broke down, connected to something deep in our psyche.

There are converging histories, and stories, and experiences and this thing called “anemoia” - a nostalgia for a time you’ve never known or that never existed - that lead to this current moment in American history. There is a distance between when that song came out and where we are today. America has changed. Some things for the better and many things for the worse. Can we ever go back to the good ‘ol days? Can we ever quench the desire of a fabricated memory or of a time we never experienced? There has been loss. We all feel it. The world is not what we were promised, it is not what we hoped to experience, and it has changed drastically from what we imagined it would become.


Credit: Nathan Apodaca, still image from TikTok video

I think about the song and the band and the time.  Fleetwood Mac, a pop symbol of the post-anti-war liberal left, released from the burden of responsibility to struggle for civil rights, recognition, freedom, justice, and peace fought and won through Freedom Riders, Panthers, Farmworkers, Stonewallers and Lordes. Fleetwood Mac, an image of drugs, free love, and near hedonistic, pleasure seeking rejection of the industrial, post WW2 suburban family life and structure. The band, riding through a period of silly disco during the collapse of liberal politics, stagflation, Jimmy Carter, hostage crisis, and a brewing counter-revolution war being implemented on the heels of Barry Goldwater, Nixon and his domestic law and order politic at home, and his globalist aspirations in China and the Heritage Foundation’s conservative activism. The end of the seventies would see the rise of Thatcher and an actor who became president and believed in the free-market and other neo-liberal acts to liquidate and privatize national assets. Reaganomics and the trickle down.


Illustration by Michelle Weidman, 2020

The ‘80s witnessed the coalescing of ideals and the coming out and coming together of the Evangelical and the Right. Falwell and the Moral Majority. The Gulf War and a thousand points that twinkled neocon red, while the neoliberal trade policies spread like IMF loans and global capitalist schemes that crushed U.S. manufacturing and gutted unions.

And the ’90s fared no better where the Contract for America was the back drop for the hit jobs that Newt would levy at others across the aisle. The attack - less on policy, more on the person - in a destructive manner that tore at whatever foundations of decency that were within the federal government. And yet, even through impeachment, Clinton marched forward the battle cry of globalism that both parties embraced. And together they built a bonfire and named it NAFTA; many of the remaining plants still in operation were consumed by the flames. Surplus workers, Crime Bill, and 245 new prisons built and opened to galvanize the progress.

The 2000s brought us tech boom and bust, two towers, endless war against a terror that we commit, TSA and Palin, and a dumbing down of what we want in a leader. War upon war - an axis of self-destruction - and weapons of mass distraction. And then there was a hope of hope, and a following deep disillusion when the hope continued the work of his predecessors. Tea Parties, and the poor turned to heroin to numb the pain while the rust belt rusted and white despair was sharpened into weapons as dying coal turned to diamond hard xenophobic jewels and racist treasure. Drone strikes, Dreamers’ deported mothers, and Tamir and Trayvon and Eric and Mike and Sandra and others were not enough to comfort self-called patriots who unleashed the spring water of a Nationalism, colored in white. “Make it Great Again” and #45; President Trope. Three years of rapid burn, planetary climatic collision with a timeline who’s #timesup. 

Out of the shadows, hate arrives by the light of tiki-torched lines of vile men, and wildfires rage, flood waters rise, and a chaotic script of horror inducing rollbacks erode the small progress made. He grabs them, bans them, cages them and calls them terrorists. Promises paved by opportunists; a senate in the smoke screen of an American Carnage, and decency and justice are snuffed by a pressing knee and a loaded, issued gun. And the virus. The virus. The grinding, isolating virus where meat cutters, lettuce pickers, hospital workers, and potato packers were deemed essential and offered as expendable sacrifice to the faltering gods of capital. Where Black and Brown and elderly become fodder for hungry aspirations of power and domination.

Which brings us to this time and the chasm of change that we have endured. 

This time ripe with longing, with sadness, with anger, with division and tension. Terrorist militia plots to overthrow America from America. A wanna-be authoritarian running for the oligarchy. And still the wildfires burn. The rent is still due. The kids want to be in school, and the virus is waiting to harvest the unbeliever, the weary and innocent. We buy our food, and if we can, we work from home. If not, we ride the bus, or drive to work, except when our cars break down, and you have potatoes to pack, so you ride your skateboard.

Which leads us back to a guy in a grey hoody, a pair of tattooed eagle feathers on the back of his shaved head, cruising down the road on a skateboard while Stevie Nicks’ smokey voice acknowledges our desire for freedom. “Well who am I to keep you down?”

Surely, Apodaca is not thinking about all of the history between the time that song was released and that current moment, recording himself on the way to work. But he is weathered and shaped by it, as are we. I have watched the video several times, and recognizing that we all reflect and project what we feel into others, there is something in his eyes that speaks to the moment. There are signals, and there are stories of our collective experience in the nano seconds.

The video opens. We hear the spaciness and measured tempo of “Dreams” as Stevie Nicks is conjuring her spell. Apodaca gives us a slight smile, breaking the fourth wall, acknowledging that we are with him on this journey. He navigates a curb and intersection, and then his eyes look out to the horizon, his face grim. There is a weariness about him. He swigs from his half-empty, capless bottle of juice, of sugar and water. He looks around, he looks at us and clownishly lip-syncs the line, “It’s only right that you should play the way you feel it.” The clash of the feminine vocals and the masculine cholo surprises us, entertains us. He knows it is silly, and his smile is sheepish as he turns away from the camera and extends his arms in a gesture of expanse and freedom. His smile fades, and, right before the video ends, his eyes look forward again and the grimness and weariness return as he plunges into the unseen future. And we are left with our own feelings and our own experience. 

And maybe, if you know them, the next lines of the song are what the video is all about. Maybe they speak to our existential longings within the current state of our Nation State. Our crises.  We continue to be pulled forward by forces unseen, like gravity, coasting and gliding on wheels, with an ache and grimness and weariness and hope for freedom and desire to be whole again.

The spell is cast, the song continues, and Stevie pries open our souls:

“But listen carefully, to the sound
Of your loneliness, 
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad

In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost
And what you had
And what you lost.”

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