By Pearl Emerson
Summer 2020 was awful, no doubt. Depending on where you lived in the United States, you were either locked down, or you worked so that the economy didn’t collapse. Because it was our job to work so that people could still buy things, and be the proud defenders of capitalism. At that time Rhode Island, now a Corona hotspot, was keeping their cases low so that they could preserve what little summer they had left, inviting tourists in with a wink and a nod. I didn’t have the shut-in summer some had in other states, every day I worked 10am-11pm at a tourist trap, selling toys and gifts to people who couldn’t consider changing their life during a pandemic, who just had to get to Rhode Island this summer. At the time, I thought we were all just doing what we had to do, but now, waist deep in Pandemic-Autumn? I have soured towards them.
It was a small store called ‘Pleasant Surprise’. Isn’t that a delightful name? We had a “Jokes About Being an Alcoholic” section for millennials, a selection of vintage toys for children and boomers (usually shopping together, always with eyes on the same products), and a wall of mirrors for the Gen Z-ers who stole things. The books we sold were artsy coffee table books, the kinds of things you buy for people who you don’t know that well, so you need something that seems personal because it’s universally funny, like a guest-book for your bathroom. What can I say? Everybody poops. The books I was obsessed with, though, were our collection of Line-a-Day-Journals. I’ve always liked the idea of writing one line a day, a lazy person’s commitment to journaling– except all of our Line-a-Day-Journals lasted FIVE YEARS. One Line-a-Day for FIVE YEARS. The selection of Line-a-Day-Journals was actually pretty impressive. Any color or aesthetic in existence, there was a Five Year Journaling commitment for you. My favorite was the fancy leather one that had the hallowed spirituality of a bible. It seemed like something waiting to become an ancient artifact from the end of days. Which is a good point– it’s Seven Years until irreversible climate damage to the planet, might as well add a couple years and commit to making it a Doomsday Journal. I would buy that. Or maybe not, because I think the people who bought these Five-Year-Line-a-Day-Doomsday-Journals actually had an optimistic outlook. They probably don’t believe in climate change.
I’m not even sure what I would write on my one-line. Especially back when I wasn’t leaving my house as much. I’m sure you’ve caught on to this by now, but I’m not very concise and I have a lot of feelings. I don’t know how I could focus everything that I go through in one day into one line.
“Today I talked to a friend for an hour, cried, then was on twitter for three hours, but I was outside. Did not wear sunscreen.”
There’s no room to elaborate! Day after day of entries like that is pretty depressing. What could I possibly write on one line that can bring me joy?
“Today I married the love of my life, the ceremony was beautiful and all of my closest friends were there.”
That is a lie. But I imagine that Pearl Five Years from now would still think it’s pretty funny that I filled a Five-Year-One-Line-a-Day-Journal with lies. I haven’t actually, I never bought one, I’m musing.
But how do I want to remember this time? I can’t lie, it’s a pretty sad time. I’m anxious on a global level, community level, and on a personal level. There seems to be countless threats coming from every direction in 2020, and yet? The whole thing seems so silly. All of it. Every piece of news comes with a nugget of irony, and it tricks me into thinking there’s something about all these disasters is poetic, but there’s not. We are just currently seeing the consequences of humanity’s stupidity all at once. And, like a guest book for the bathroom, Humanity’s Stupidity is almost always universally funny.
“Today I cried twice. Once because I cried for all the tiktok kids who accidentally got a Gen Z Nazi tattoo and then I cried because I got sad about the country in general.”
See, one line isn’t enough to examine the absurdity of 2020! And the Gen Z Nazi Tattoo Scandal is one of the events I’m worried about losing to history– so I’m documenting it here. In September, “a user called ‘smoothavocado’ told her followers “What if, now hear me out … we all got a matching tattoo, not only a symbol of unity in our generation but also as a sign of rebellion,” (Froelich). The symbol was a Z with a dash through the middle. And I agree, I see the humor in internet kids all getting matching tattoos as a result of this stupid fucking year. And people did get that tattoo. Before they saw that the ‘Z’ symbol had an eerie resemblance to the Nazi Symbol, wolfsangel.
The ‘wolfsangel’ is a German rune used to ward off wolves, traditionally drawn at the edges of towns or adorned on armor (Anti-Defamation League). “Along with many other runic symbols, Nazi Germany appropriated the Wolfsangel. It appeared as part of the divisional insignia of several Waffen-SS units, including the notorious 2nd SS “Das Reich” Panzer Division. As a result, it became a symbol of choice for neo-Nazis in Europe and the United States.” (Anti-Defamation League). This information came out after many had uploaded TikToks of their new tattoos. The user who originally posted the video later apologized, claiming that she’s always slashed her Z’s through the middle, and promised to remove all items with the symbol from her Etsy Store (Song). I’m not sure if I believe her, it seems like an insane stunt to convince young adults to unknowingly get a hate symbol tattooed on their bodies… but it worked, didn’t it? Also, don’t think I didn’t scream when I found out she had an Etsy Store. I guess I never considered that White Supremacists were even on Etsy– and now that Genie is not going back into the bottle. I wouldn’t have recognized the Symbol as a Wolfsangel, and yet it’s the insignia of choice for the U.S. neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations. I would like to be able to recognize hate symbols on sight and act accordingly in response, so this story leaves me feeling shocked and scared that I could have been someone with a defaced body who just wanted to be in on the joke of 2020. However, I would have never gotten a Gen Z tattoo, because that, though comedic, is ridiculous.
This incident wasn’t covered by any major news source, and I see why. Who cares about a bunch of stupid young adults who will probably end up covered in tattoos anyway? I do, because these idiots are me and my friends. We didn’t get the tattoo, but I saw people finding out in real time that they had made a huge mistake. They had been duped. Honestly, the whole situation is an insane addition to the conversation on why we need more education on racism, current and historical. The Aryan Nations is an active group that actively uses the Wolfsangel. And our generation is full of people who don’t know because during our conversations at school about how World War II ended, we never find the time to talk about how it didn’t, and how it hasn’t.
One-Line-a-Day isn’t enough time for me to explain how scared I am, how ashamed and angry I am. One-Line-a-Day isn’t enough space for me to muse about the irony of it, and then conclude that there isn’t much humor in human stupidity, because lives are ruined and lost. Human stupidity is only funny when you look at the action and not the consequences. That is the mistake of only writing One-Line-a-Day. When you look back at your Doomsday Journal, do you want to see all of the moments you recognized a red flag and laughed at it? Charged on day-after-day, line-after-line, until you run out of pages and realize that, yeah, you have a time capsule, but it is full of moments when you refused to see the full picture.
Perhaps, I’m not seeing the full potential of Five-Year-One-Line-a-Day-Doomsday-Journals. Maybe if I was more selective with my words I would be able to write a line that says everything I want it to.
“Today I am scared for the future, but I can’t seem to squash my curiosity for what happens next.”
“Today a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head while he said that Systematic Racism didn’t exist. It was funny, but no one asked about his financial contributions to conversion therapy.”
“Today I explored an abandoned asylum with friends, but got sad when I realized people had lobotomies there.”
“Today there were ten new confirmed coronavirus cases on campus. Not me.”
No. It’s not the whole story. Where’s the poetic justice?
Froelich, Paula. “Gullible TikTok Users Get ‘Gen Z’ Tattoo – Unaware It’s a Nazi Symbol.” New York Post, New York Post, 26 Sept. 2020, nypost.com/2020/09/26/gullible-tiktok-users-get-gen-z-tattoo-unaware-its-a-nazi-symbol/.
Song, Sandra. “’Gen Z Tattoo’ Faces Backlash For Resemblance to Nazi Symbol.” PAPER, PAPER, 22 Sept. 2020, www.papermag.com/gen-z-tattoo-2647739969.html?rebelltitem=9. “Wolfsangel.” Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Defamation League, www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/wolfsangel.