the emperor

in 2003, when i was a senior in high school, i started to memorize allen ginsberg’s “America”. the poem is filled with great lines (like one of my favorites, “When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks”) but the one that i keep returning to most these days is probably the opening: “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.”

i wish it weren’t. i wish it were the last line: “America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.” but lately “I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing” feels more accurate to my mood.

i have loved america, it’s true, though it’s always been a complicated love. some part of me loves america even now, even two years after an election which felt like the country sneering at me, saying, there is no place for you here. (the fact that i did not feel that every day, even being a queer woman, is a privilege bought for me by whiteness.)

let me pause here and just say: this may not be what you signed up for with this newsletter. it’s not a beauty of any kind, small or otherwise. but when i drew this week’s card on july fourth, i knew this was what i had to write about.

america was founded on a lot of ugliness, none of which we have truly grappled with as a country. but there is beauty, too, i believe. not just natural beauty, though we do have that, but also in the ideal of the country. (speaking of american ideals, please enjoy these panels of a captain america comic! i know i do!) the fact is that neither the ugliness nor the beauty is the whole story; we have to look at both.

the emperor, to me, can represent both the card’s ideal (someone like, say, captain america) and its frequent reality (someone like the president). it’s a hard card, in a lot of ways, especially in decks that depict people - you’ll notice i tend to stick to decks without humans, and this is partially why. it’s easier to let the emperor stand for things like stability and foundations instead of authority and fathers when there isn’t a man on a throne getting in the way.

no tarot card is all good or all bad - not death, not the tower, and certainly not the emperor. the cards show us only what we bring to them, after all, though they may do so in surprising ways. when we draw the emperor, we may see a tyrant or a superhero, or both, or something else entirely. the interpretation is always up to us.

for now: welcome to queer wrath month, darlings; let’s put our shoulders to the wheel and show the emperor what we’re made of.

this week’s deck: wooden tarot