Today, we may be facing that same crisis, a different kind of sudden death. I feel both too old, at thirty-four, and not old enough to see history repeat itself.
There was no way I could have known when I went to Germany to interview the descendants of perpetrators of the Holocaust for my film Afterward that this journey would take the form of a personal analysis. On the surface, I wanted to rid myself of my hatred for these Germans, who had done nothing wrong but whose ancestors tried to kill my people. I wanted to stop the cycle of hate
and othering before I passed it on to my own sons, to the next generation.
If the usual formula is that the negative affects hide in positive speech, overtly racist discourse flips the polarity, but the possibility that a racist discourse might hide a forbidden love, sexuality, or attachment is all too often ignored in clinical treatments that have been published.
Psychoanalysis—the word hung in my mind like a revelation. People could tune in to one another, literally the other (“al otro”), like a frequency. And when we’re on the same frequency, understanding can happen. And just like that, on a patio resting under the shadow of a great mango tree, psychoanalysis was born in Puerto Rico. At least, as far as my eight-year-old mind was concerned.
The term “analytic action” assumes new complexity when we use it to enhance meaningful discourse about our unsettling and turbulent political reality. It opens doors to the possibility of kindling a deeper connection to parts of our psychoanalytic heritage, such as Freud’s free clinic movement. It brings to mind concerns expressed by early psychoanalysts Otto Fenichel, Wilhelm Reich, and Erich Fromm about the way sick societies produce troubled minds. Most importantly, it introduces two pressing questions. First, what issues occurring outside the consulting room demand analytic action? Second, what renders “action” outside the consulting room “analytic”?
Think back, if you will, to the halcyon days of the Reagan regime, with the Great Communicator’s elaborate economic agenda he called “trickle-down economics.” The alleged benefits never trickled down to most of us, and we know now that the whole thing was little more than a hoax disguising further wealth distribution upward. (We’ll put aside, for now, the fact that the current administration has once again duped the nation and resurrected this bogus plan with its recent tax cuts and other deep discounts for the wealthy and superwealthy.)
Well, it has been a little over a year, and he’s still here. I have stopped binge-watching TV, but he is still infecting my life. How can I ignore the Greenland saga or tune out the furious tears in response to the caged children or the empty chair at the G7 climate session?
I remember my first time being at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (Bro/Sis) and participating in their writing program, The Lyrical Circle. It was held in the space where we would be sharing and creating art for years to come. We met in a small room on the second floor of a beautiful brownstone in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem. The walls were radiant with bright yellows, and beautiful West African art decorated the room.
All of us work at the boundary. In fact, we work and live at multiple boundaries. We belong to numerous systems and relational networks. The idea of boundary is a metaphor for where and when we come into contact with each other as human subjects and objects —what Thomas Ogden calls “the primitive edge of experience.”
From 1999 through 2010, I lived in Caracas, Venezuela. I arrived just after Hugo Chávez began his presidency, so I saw a rather vibrant Venezuela for several years before its subsequent deterioration under Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution. As an immigrant, I saw Venezuela as an outsider, and at the same time, I could reflect on the United States from outside its borders.