“Welcome to America, the land of blue jeans, rock and roll, and sporadic meaningless mass murder.” ~ Ben DreyFuss, Mother Jones

 

| Sun Apr. 20, 2014 2:31 PM PDT

On April 20, 1999, two teenagers walked into a suburban high school outside of Denver and shot 13 people to death. The massacre at Columbine was not the first mass shooting in America. It was not the first mass shooting at an American school. Indeed, Peter Jennings began the news that night, “The reaction of so many people today was ‘Oh no, not again.’” But Columbine was different. It became a national trauma in a way the others hadn’t. Yes, it was the deadliest American school shooting on record at the time—though it is no longer—but what really amplified its significance was the fact it was the first mass shooting that played out in real time on television. The shootings began at 11:19 a.m. By noon, local television stations had broken into regular programming with uninterrupted media coverage. Millions of people across the country turned on CNN and watched the story develop.

Here’s how America watched the chaos of Columbine: There were reports of a shooting and it was at a school and the body count began going up and witnesses said they were two shooters with shotguns and rifles and pistols and there had been an explosion across town and it had been a diversion maybe and pipe bombs, something about pipe bombs, and the body count kept rising, and booby traps, and then Clinton gave a speech and then the shooters were in a mafia that wore trench coats and maybe there were more than two and then, no, there were only two and they were dead and the bomb squad finished the initial sweep of the building at 4:45 p.m. and it was over, but not really because then there was the CCTV footage, the witness interviews, the search for motive, they had been bowling, they had been bullied, they had said something about Hitler and they listened to Marilyn Manson and they wanted to one up Timothy McVeigh and What Does It All Mean?

After Columbine there was a general sense that something had to be done. That kids getting killed at school was a thing we weren’t going to be okay with. “Never again,” as they say.

It wasn’t some fanciful impossibility. The British did it after Dunblane. And so we did that. Everyone got together and passed sweeping gun control legislation and there was never another mass shooting in America.

Except not really. Because the “never again” response—though shared by many—was not shared by all.

We seem to have accepted that the occasional mass murder is the cost of America.

On May 1, Charlton Heston came to Denver and made a much-discussed speech where he said, “We have work to do, hearts to heal, evil to defeat, and a country to unite. We may have differences, yes, and we will again suffer tragedy almost beyond description. But when the sun sets on Denver tonight, and forever more, let it always set on we the people, secure in our land of the free and the home of the brave.” Say what you will about that speech, but as far as predictions go it was spot on. It’s a fait accompli. There were more shootings. We mourned and then did nothing because we seem to have accepted that occasional mass murder is the cost of America.

Both responses, “never again” and “don’t bother trying,” offer statements about the USA. The former says “America is the greatest country on Earth. We went to the moon. Surely, we can stop kids from getting shot to death at school! If the Brits can do it, so can we. ” The latter says, “No, we can’t. We’re America. The greatest country on Earth and the cost of the liberty that makes us so is that our kids may get shot to death at school.”

Every time there is another mass shooting and nothing happens it becomes a little easier to believe that the “don’t bother” crowd is right.

Nothing changed after 13 people were killed at Columbine, or 33 at Virginia Tech, or 26 at Sandy Hook. Each of those tragedies came with the same breaking-news urgency as Columbine, but none generated the same sense of expected action because fewer and fewer people actually believed things could change. The last 15 years have been a lesson in how “never again” can be cowed into “I need a drink.”

And that’s insane.

Fifteen years after Columbine rattled America to its core, people still get shot while they’re at school. People get shot while they’re at work. People get shot eating. People get shot drinking. People get shot watching movies, shopping, driving, swimming, skipping, and playing baseball. It’s 2014 and in America people get shot doing basically any goddamn thing you can think of.

They don’t have to.

 

Ben Dreyfuss

Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones.

 

“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark.” ~ Ursula Le Guin, from The Unreal and the Real, Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin Volume 2: Outer Space, Inner Lands

                     

Today when I begin writing I’m aware: something that I don’t understand drives this engine.” ~ Donald Hall, from The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 43

Wednesday afternoon, windy and cold, 47 degrees.

Two days ago it was in the mid 70′s, now this. My body is so confused, and everything hurts, right down to the cells.

I’ve spent the last two days trying to do taxes, the operative word being trying. Even with the online program, I realized two very important things: First, I did last year’s taxes wrong, and second, the people who write the tax codes went to the La Sade school of pain.

Evald Kallstenius Fir in Moonlight c1930 oil on canvas

“Fir in Moonlight” (c1930, oil on canvas)
by Evald Kallstenius

In between doing taxes, I have allowed myself to go on an art hunt for image of the moon, and I have come across some lovely new ones, so many that I will perhaps have to divide them among two posts.

Ah, me. So much to do still, and so very little of the wherewithal to do it. Yes, I am hovering somewhere near the bottom of the lowest lows, for far too many reasons to elucidate, so I decided that I will do a random thoughts post, mostly because I haven’t done one in a while, and also, I have a lot of random thoughts jostling for space in my brain, and if I don’t put them down, either my brain will explode, or it will reset itself, and I will have nothing but a reformatted hard drive of a brain, which, if you don’t know, means I will be completely empty.

“If I am not central to the world, then it fails
to make any difference whatever I feel.
The universe is large: to be eccentric is to be
nothing. It is not worth speaking of.” ~ William Bronk, from “Of the All With Which We Coexist”

To begin . . . what do I love?

  • Storms. Yesterday when the rain rolled in, and I heard the wind whipping the wind chimes, I found the sound to be completely soothing, so much so that I paused in my tax-induced catatonia, and took a shower, and then later, I took another shower once it was dark.

    Eugène Jansson Riddarfjarden in Stockholm c1898

    “Riddarfjarden in Stockholm” (c1898)
    by Eugène Fredrik Jansson

  • Bathing in the dark. I have always loved to do this, and with our glass block window in the bathroom, I have nothing but moonlight as my backdrop. It calms me in a strange way. Freudians would surely say that it is a desire to return to the womb, or some such blather.
  • Fog. Living near the ocean and the bay, we get wonderful fog, but not nearly enough. I know that fog is supposed to be one of those things in nature that can have an adverse effect on moods, but not for me. I love fog, the denser, the better.
  • Lightning. Not the same as storms. Storms can have no lightning, but when they do, it intensifies my desire to just sit, listen, and watch. Odd that I am calmest during nature’s furies.

“It isn’t given to us to know those rare moments when people are wide open and the lightest touch can wither or heal. A moment too late and we can never reach them any more in this world. They will not be cured by our most efficacious drugs or slain with our sharpest swords.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “The Freshest Boy”

What do I hate?

  • Sanctioned bigotry. You know, the kind at work in organizations such as police forces and religions, the kind that perpetuates the whole concept of us and them.

    Charles Guilloux Acqua-di-fiori

    “Acqua-di-fiori” (nd)
    by Charles Guilloux

  • Condescension. When a man talks to me as if I don’t know the difference between a spark plug and a radiator. Really? Still?
  • First impressions. These are almost never accurate, and what I hate most is that I do this all of the time. I make snap judgments even though I know better.
  • Weak handshakes. See condescension. I don’t need my metacarpal to be crushed, but don’t give me a limp fish.
  • Greed. When is enough too much?
  • Emptiness. I can be alone without being lonely, but what slays me every time is when I feel empty, hollow.

“We move so easily from light to shade
and always in pursuit of something else:”— John Burnside, from “Vi Knonos”

Color my world:

  • Purple, in all of its hues. Reminds me of fields of lavender, something I have yet to see in real life, and one of the reasons I so wish to go to Provence.

    Maurice Prendergast The Ocean Palace c1895

    “The Ocean Palace” (c1895)
    by Maurice Prendergast

  • Blue. I find that I am inexorably drawn to a work of art that is predominantly blue, everything from van Gogh to Rothko. Again, psychoanalysts would have no problem equating this fascination with my state of mind, but it goes beyond that: consider how many variations of blue exist, not just in art, but in nature.
  • Yellow. I used to abhor this color, mostly because somewhere in the recesses of my mind someone had once called my skin yellow, and I allowed that ignorance to affect me. Now, though, I find it to be one of my favorite colors in a work of art. I couldn’t tell you why, exactly; it’s just one of those things.
  • Black/white. Not color and all colors. It’s the extremes of both that draw me in. Truly, have you ever noticed how many ways black can be depicted in a work of art? My fondness for white tops—sweaters, blouses, t-shirts—is completely ill-advised, what with the dog hair and my tendency to spill, but I probably have more white tops than any other color. Again, what would Freud say, that old misogynist . . .

“Rhythm is just this oscilloscope of the soul. We come from a place that has always been inside us. Our words migrate helplessly. The world reflects only itself. Which is why we have to create our own memories . . . Why do we think our metaphors will save us? The world is only itself. Time is just our way of imagining it.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “About This Poem”

Things that bother me too much:

  • Bad grammar. I’m not perfect, and I really hate it when I mess up because I have no excuse, but I need to bear in mind that not everyone has English degrees.

    Oscar Hullgren Moonlight nd

    “Moonlight” (nd)
    by Oscar Hullgren

  • Bad driving. At least go the speed limit, for god’s sake. Yes, I’m always in a hurry, and I’m an aggressive rather than defensive driver, but I’m careful, and I’m safe, and some days I feel as if I’m driving an invisible car.
  • Lack of compassion. Some of the things that I read on my tumblr dash really get to me, like the young people who cut themselves because they are hurting so much, or the girl who was spit at because she was overweight. Who are these people who really feel that they are so much better than everyone else?
  • The NRA. Look, they have a right to exist. I don’t question that. They also have a right to protest or to gather or to speak out. Again, not a problem. What I have a huge problem with is their power with Congress. How many more mass shootings, or random killings of targeted groups are we going to have before anything changes? Will anything change? I fear that it won’t.
  • Congress. At one point in my life, I seriously considered going into politics, running for state senate. I’m so glad that I didn’t. Politicians in this country are the scum of the earth, as far as I’m concerned (see three and four above).

“Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.” ~ Richard Siken, from A Primer For Small Weird Loves

What I’m feeling lately:

  • I never truly realized just how hard it would be when my mother died. I think that I believed because our relationship was so hard, that it wouldn’t bother me, but it bothers me, every second of every minute of every day.
Edvard Munch Moonlight

“Moonlight”
by Edvard Munch

  • What bothers me the most is how much I feel I failed her.
  • I grieve too keenly, too intensely, for far too long. This, I know, yet I am completely unable to do anything about it. I still have dreams about my father that I awaken from completely shaken.
  • I have wasted my life. I never got my PhD, even though I always, always wanted one, always told myself that I would do it someday, and now someday is here, and I have done nothing, and it’s too late.
  • Time is passing much too quickly. It’s the bottom end of April, and still, here I sit, paralyzed by my own fear and loathing. How did I get to this point?
  • I am far too old to have another child, and in this, I have failed Corey. When we first got together, I had absolutely no fears that I would be able to get pregnant again, and then there was that tumor on my ovary, and then all hopes of that were dashed, and this vital young man was stuck with an older woman who could not give him the one thing he would give anything to have: his own child. Do not think that this does not creep into my mind at least once a day, that it does not hover around the periphery of every cross word between us, that I do not fear that one day, it will all be too much for him.

“I should like this sky, this quiet water, to think themselves within me, that it might be I whom they express in flesh and bone, and I remain at a distance. But it is also by this distance that the sky and the water exist before me.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, from “The Ethics of Ambiguity”

What I am not good at:

Winslow Homer Easter Point Light 1880

“Easter Point Light” (1880)
by Winslow Homer

  • Living in the moment
  • Letting go
  • Moving on
  • Forgiving myself
  • Figuring out who my friends are, if any
  • Keeping up with my obligations
  • Following through
  • Stepping aside at the right time
  • Staying neutral
  • Not reacting
  • Not overreacting
  • Handling stress

“I am not good. I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense passionate feeling. I feel—everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire.” ~ Mary MacLane, from I Await the Devil’s Coming

Etcetera:

Emil Nolde Moonlit Night 1914

“Moonlit Night” (1914)
by Emil Nolde

Look, I know that I’m not a bad person, but I’m not the best person that I could be. I give when I can, but not enough. I do some things, but not others. I don’t go far enough with my writing. I love my family too fiercely, so that sometimes it’s smothering. I treat my dogs like children. I berate myself constantly for not following through, with my publishing degree, with postgraduate work, with writing workshops, with writing projects. But I stop just short of moving on. I harbor deep resentment, and I hold grudges, if only in my mind. I awaken from these nightmares, and I wonder how I got here, how I can go on, how I can do the right thing, whatever that is. I judge the actions of others when I have far too many foibles of my own.

Isaac Levitan Fog over Water c1895 oil on canvas

“Fog over Water” (c1895, oil on canvas)
by Isaac Levitan

I should be happy with what I have, my spouse, my kids, my granddaughter, but I cannot still this unrest in my heart, this feeling that I am not doing something that I need to do, that I am not going to the place that I need to be, but do not ask me what or where or when. If I had any answers, do you think I would do this day in and day out? The only thing that I know for certain is that I know less and less with each passing hour, and it leaves me feeling left behind. I am fallow and hollow, and my soul is the color of coffee dregs. And no matter how much I try to brighten my face or paint my nails, there is a hardness beneath, and yet that hardness is but a veneer, and below that is quicksilver, a mercurial being that is willful in one moment and utterly fragile in the next.

Enough. The floodgates must be closed. I knew that this wasn’t a good idea.

More later. Peace.

Music by Janel Drewis, “In the Pines (Where Did You Sleep Last Night)”

                   

The Other Day

1

The other day my wristwatch
came apart – not the time
but the band, not the beginning
but the end. The sun did not
shine, but it had not shown
itself for a handful of days.
Night came on early, but it is
that part of the year, at least
here, where night does that.
One friend says
“you can take my word
for the sun,”
misunderstood this as:
some sentences are like
sun and the moon,
some moon or sun,
some night only but
near night or far
night – consolation
in either case.

2

Wish friend had said
“take my friendship
for the sun”

Am missing the sun – but the
orbit or a human closeness
over time begins to resemble
the misshapen stand of a watchband,

or the case of moonlight
held only in the hands of
illusion / accompaniment -
the moon is moving a few
feet (or is it inches)
away from the earth every
year – whether “it” collided
with us (thus forming)

is beside the point. The
moon moves away like
our lives from ourselves.

~ Michael Burkard

 

Because I needed to weep some more . . . once again . . .

This is a repeat of a blog that I posted in 2013. The video showed up on my tumblr dash today, and it still hit me as hard as it did the first time, and since I am mired in forms and calculations and percentages, this is probably far better than anything I could come up with my own. I suggest watching the video as large as allowable.

The Encounter Collection by Stephen Kenn explores the significant act of passing an object on from one generation to the next. It is in this exchange, accompanied by words of wisdom, that a boy is often called to a life of courage. While aware that everyone’s life experience is unique, and often painful, this film focuses on the experience of a boy losing his father and yet retaining the love and passion that was intended for him.

Stephenkenn.com
ProcessCreative.tv

DISCIPLINES
Creative Development: Process Creative and Stephen Kenn
Ideation
Direction
Production
Cinematography
Editorial

Music Curation: Ryan Taubert
Sound Design: White Noise Lab
Color: Matt Fezz
Letter and Voice Over: James Watson
Young Boy: Bradley Aiello
Boy: Lucas Aiello

Stephen Kenn // Process Creative // The Encounter Collection

(Transcript as best as I can decipher it, * indicates unknown. Corrections welcomed)

20 October 1944
US Army/Air Force Base
Spinazzola, Italy

Dear Son,

I hoped I would never write this to you. In a little less than an hour I’ll be strapping myself into my old plane and pointing it nose westward. I’ve seen the orders . . . I think it’ll be for the last time.

And so suddenly I find my life stripped away, like the branches of an old, black tree. All that matters is that I write this to you. I know you won’t remember me, not really. When I spent three days with you last year when you were six months old, and, though you can’t yet understand it, I . . . loved you more then than you might imagine loving anybody right now.

Now listen to me. This uh life, know that it is precious. You’ve gotta grasp at every little whiff of it that passes by you. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be certain. Not now, and not in your unimaginable future. Don’t be surprised, no. Embrace the stiff winds, and the lonely heights.

Remember your name. Never turn away from the bright course because it is hard. But above all, love. Scrape out the bottom of your soul and love for all your worth.

And when you find her, risk everything. Die a thousand deaths to get her. Don’t look back. When you grow older, older than I’ll ever be, blow on the embers of that first heroic choice. And you’ll be warmed, sustained.

Someday you’ll have a son. Remember he is your greatest gift. Tell him these things. Make a man of him. Love him.

Don’t live to get money. Have a few things, but make them good things. Take care of them, learn how they work. There is beauty in the smell of good machines and old leather.

When you walk, alone, in the autumn. Down roads at night, with the trees tossing in the sunset, know that I would give everything to walk with you, and tell you their names. But I am there, in the light through the branches. And I am loving you where I see you.

I must go now.

All my love, forever and ever,
Dad.