While I've been obsessed with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass since I first learned how to read, I never would have imagined the airplane that repatriated me to the United States in 2011 -- after a decade in Europe -- would end up being a less-benign alternate portal down into Alice's rabbit hole where the impossible is possible and the absurd becomes reality.
Just days after returning to the U.S. a story broke an hour south of where I was living in Florida, involving a naked man eating the face off another in a shocking attack of cannibalism like The Walking Dead come to life. Toto, I don't think I'm in Europe anymore.
Next, a man three hours north of me murdered an unarmed black teenager citing the controversial Stand Your Ground laws, of which Florida is a party. Another story broke that a black woman had been jailed for shooting a warning shot at her abuser, who was violating a restraining order no less, and she would spend the next several years in prison. It's almost as if the Red Queen herself was deciding in her kangaroo card court who was able to stand their ground and who wasn't.
"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."
I've found myself in a world in which a billionaire businessman manufactures charitable benevolence in a stunning public relations stunt only to find out the charity to which he donated 99% of his fortune has been founded by him, which now gives him the self-appointed authority to set social policy when he has zero expertise, and can spread his "charitable" donations to the parties he sees fit.
In this alternate universe, another billionaire businessman is building a winning presidential campaign on a platform of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, outright lies, and now actual fascism that a large segment of the American populace not only agrees with, but supports.
A gunman claiming to be pro-life opens fire on a Planned Parenthood site in order to kill women who may or may not be getting abortions. A gunman opens fire in a kindergarten. A gunman opens fire in a movie theater. A gunman opens fire on a university campus. A gunman opens fire in a church. A gunman opens fire on women because they won't have sex with him. A gunman opens fire everywhere down this rabbit hole, and now nowhere is safe.
A rabbit hole where people would rather provide bullet-proof blankets in the case of a school shooting or recommend that teachers carry guns rather than alter gun laws. A place where this an actual ban on gun violence research, one of the greatest public health issues that country is facing.
"Living backwards!" Alice repeated in great astonishment. "I never heard of such a thing."
"--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways."
"I'm sure mine only works one way," Alice remarked. "I can't remember things before they happen."
"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," the Queen remarked.
And armed white men kill and get arrested alive, while unarmed black men are shot 16 times by police. White men with guns can walk the street with impunity, and black men are criminalized for exercising the same "right."
A woman has to travel further and jump through more hoops to make her own reproductive choices -- if she's even allowed to make those choices in her state -- when more guns were sold on Black Friday 2015 than any other day on record in this country's history.
There have been more mass shootings than days in the year 2015. And yet NRA-funded politicians voted to allow people on the no-fly list to still purchase weapons.
I'm in a country where we #PrayForParis, when it was religion that contributed to the terrorist attack on the city in the first place, without even a hint of irony. In fact, irony has gone way of the Walrus and the Carpenter's meal of oysters.
A place that now has states in which it is against the law to fact-check school textbooks, and ugly portions of American history like the genocide of indigenous peoples, Japanese internment, slavery, and more have been and are being actively erased from history books.
"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock Turtle replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision."
A country where it is cheaper to buy processed and canned foods than it is to buy fresh meat and vegetables, and where fast food is a staple because it's the only "food" many can afford. Nowhere else in the world is obesity an indicator of poverty rather than wealth.
"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
Where an unqualified celebrity publicized her belief in a (since-debunked) correlation between vaccinations and autism, that has since spearheaded a viral anti-vaccination movement (pun intended) and helped bring back diseases like measles, mumps, and whooping cough, that had been eradicated from the planet for decades.
The Red Queen says: "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else you must run at least twice as fast as that."
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
And where conservatives deny the concrete science of climate change because they have coded scientific evidence as liberal media spin. Or think that fracking and the resulting poisoning of water supplies is a better option than supporting the renewable energies of wind and solar power because these politicians aren't just owned by the NRA, they are also owned by the oil industry and other corporate interests.
Where a climate change denier and gateway fundamentalist buys science-based institution National Geographic and fires the staff so he can push his own conservative agenda.
"The cause of lightning," Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite sure about this, "is the thunder -- no, no!" she hastily corrected herself. "I meant the other way."
"It's too late to correct it," said the Red Queen, "when once you've said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences."
A nation that finally took steps towards joining the rest of the developed world by providing affordable healthcare, however that right now comes under attack regularly when no supposedly pro-life politicians will challenge the lax gun laws that have caused 48,638 incidents of gun-related violence this year.
A country called the United States that couldn't be more divided if it tried.
I could keep going, but who knew how exhausting it would be to believe six impossible things before breakfast? And what's the plan for climbing out of this rabbit hole now that we're all entrenched so deep?
I peer through this American looking glass out into the world I left behind. One where an entire generation of children in Australia grew up without experiencing a mass shooting, because after the last one the government tightened gun laws.
A continent called Europe where universal healthcare is not only a right, it's basically free and even if you aren't a citizen you're eligible to receive the care you need. Places where both men and women can receive an appropriately long period of maternity and paternity leave. Places where people can actually survive on minimum wage, because it's set to living wage standards, not the lowest amount possible. Places with far less sun than the US are powering their countries with renewable solar energy.
I press my face against the looking glass with a pained heart, wondering how exactly I ended up here down this horrifying rabbit hole and how can I get back to the other side, where up actually means up and the rights of citizens doesn't take back burner to the desires of greedy politicians and the business and wealthy elite who de facto run this country.
Put down your brushes: that's enough with painting the roses red. We need to stop running in place and pretending we're legitimately getting somewhere.
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
Well, just because we're all mad here doesn't mean we have to stay that way. And from the look of the White Rabbit's pocket watch, it's high time to end this particular madness of America down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass.
"I was thinking," Alice said very politely, "which is the best way out of this wood: it's getting so dark. Would you tell me please?"
But the fat little men only looked at each other and grinned.
All quotes in italics from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.