Words cannot do justice to the pain I am feeling in my brain.
“He described feeling an aversion to other people. Not a murderous rage, but a cold, dismissive hate. He hated others, he explained, the way some people hate broccoli.” ~ a reference to Aurora, Colorado gunman james holmes in a Washington Post ARTICLE (March 15, 2018)
Tuesday afternoon, cloudy, 79 degrees
Today’s Two for Tuesday does not feature poetry. Unfortunately, it features two mass shootings in two days: El Paso, Texas (22 dead, 26 injured) and Dayton, Ohio (9 dead, 27 injured in 32 seconds). Less than a week ago, 4 people were killed and 12 injured in Gilroy, California. Nowhere else in the world do events such as these happen with this frequency. Yes, there are other mass shootings in other countries, but nothing like what happens here in the USA.
Yesterday, the Dumpster Fire in Chief actually used a medium besides Twitter to address the nation in a stilted speech in which he condemned the very racism and white nationalism that he continually stokes, in which he got the massacre locales wrong (Toledo for Dayton, and Houston for El Paso), and in which he tried to pin the blame on video games and mental illness. Consider, video games flourish all over the world. People suffer from mental health issues all over the world. But these things do not happen with this frequency anywhere except here.
Researchers do suggest that certain factors can be predictors as to whether or not someone can become a mass shooter: “a strong sense of resentment, desire for infamy, copycat study of other shooters, past domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.” However, according to criminologist Adam Lankford, a country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness; Lankford, a University of Alabama associate professor, published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries in the journal Violence and Victims.
Additionally, the attempt to link violent video games to mass shooters only perpetuates a falsehood. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, states that there is no statistical link between playing violent video games and shooting people. A 2004 report by the Secret Service and the Education Department determined that only 12 percent of perpetrators in more than three dozen school shootings showed an interest in violent video games.
Time magazine created a chart showing the number of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982; below is the section for 2019 alone (totals do not include the shooters), indicating that 62 people have been killed by mass shooting so far this year. We still have four months left in 2019, people. The statistics are grim:
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” ~ President Barack Obama (August 5, 2019)
In 2007, after the shootings at Virginia Tech, I thought that there might actually be some leveling of the gun laws in this country. Then, in 2012, I believed that surely after the Newtown shooting of school children that we would come together as a nation and actually do something. Then in 2017, when one man killed 59 people and injured 527 in Las Vegas, I thought to myself, “surely now something will happen.”
I can be incredibly naive at times.
But something feels different this time. At least, I like to hope/think so. Consider—news organizations and pundits are actually calling these heinous events what they are: DOMESTIC TERRORISM. So many of us like to sit on our sofas within the safety of our homes and decry the terrorism that may be visited upon us by Al Qaida or some other group of Muslims or Mexicans or whoever we happen to most fear and loathe in our ignorance. But we need not look to the other to find the real threat, the true enemy. We need not worry about those who worship differently, or those whose skin isn’t Caucasian, or those whose accents aren’t ‘merican.
The enemy is within. It is us. The enemy frequents 4Chan or 8Chan or whatever other forum happens to be exploding with venom shared by the disaffected or outlying or just plain evil individuals who post their screeds in the ether. And as one commentator pointed out, these are not manifestos; labeling them as such gives these rants too much credit.
These terrorists are incubated and bred right here at home. They haven’t invaded, to use the dumpster’s term for anyone who has immigrated or who seeks sanctuary. The killers come from a few states over, or a nearby city or town, or even next door. The people responsible for slaughtering scores of Americans in recent years are more often than not white males who feel that the world just isn’t fair, who may or may not have been bullied, who contend that a brown man or black woman has stolen the job meant for them, who believe the Kool-Ade that this administration spews from the sacred pulpit of Twitter or proclaims vociferously at red-hatted events. And some simply want to be famous, or infamous, as the case may be.
“America’s is not a uniquely cruel culture, but it is a culture awash in guns. While bullies exist everywhere, the United States has one of the highest gun-ownership rates in the world. That’s what makes social rejection in this country so uniquely deadly.” ~ from “Why Many Mass Shooters Are ‘Loners’” (The Atlantic, August 5, 2019)
To label these hate-filled people as being crazy or mentally ill does a great disservice to those who actually suffer from mental illness and do not go on killing rampages. I would also contend that blaming mental illness alone for their actions gives them yet another excuse that they don’t deserve. True, some may have suffered from untreated conditions such as depression or schizophrenia, but the Dumpster’s “focus on ‘mentally ill monsters’ oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the ease with which Americans can get firearms” (ABC News).
No one forced any of these individuals to acquire a gun or several guns; no one filled their arms with multiple rounds of ammunition. That being said, they were not created in vacuums. They were indoctrinated into a world of hate via online chats and inculcated via televised screeds, and for some, their mental illness may have led them to be more easily swayed. Some, but not all. We must not downplay the role of hatred in all of this.
The enemy is us, and we are him. This enemy wants us to be afraid of the other. I would prefer to be angry, not at the other, but at the system that nurtures the environment responsible for gestating such people. I would contend that righteous indignation is the best response to such ignorance. I would aver that abiding intolerance should be directed at those elected to represent and protect us, the ones who refuse to do what is needed and right, the ones who so fear a gun lobby that they remain silent, offering only the standard thoughts and prayers, as if those thoughts and prayers could actually shield us.
I’m tired of hoping that things will change. I’m past the point of being shocked at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie; they leave the lies to the selectively impotent politicians, the ones who decry loudly that the concept of healthcare for all will destroy our national way of life, but remain mute in the face of the actual death knell to a free society: unabated killing after killing after killing.
We should all be mortified that our school children are now routinely taught what to do in the case of an active shooter. We should be weary that yet another candlelight vigil for families and survivors brings no actionable change. We should be embarrassed that the rest of the world views us as little more than savage heathens who strap on our guns before going to church or out to dinner and who love our guns more than we love our citizenry. How much longer must we be strong and resilient in the aftermath of gun violence? When will we finally get off our knees and do something more concrete after offering feeble thoughts and prayers that do nothing to assuage the violence. We should do all of this and more, but I fear that we will not, at least not in my lifetime, and I fear that we shall all continue to slow dance in this quicksand.
“Because the world is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and pick the flowers that grow in the midst of hell.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Narcissus and Goldmund
Sunday afternoon, sunny, warm, 78 degrees.
Another mass shooting, this one so close to my old home, so close to my children. The world is so full of madness, and nowhere as much as in this country at this time. I won’t go on about the need for better gun laws. That is only a part of the problem. The bigger part, perhaps, is that people are essentially cruel and entitled: My life isn’t going as I want, so I will punish those I blame. I will pick up a weapon, and I will show them. I will show them how much stronger and better I am than they believe.
Strength from a gun . . . Right.
In a society so full of misplaced entitlement, one in which people buy their entrance into things—jobs, colleges, elections–it is no small wonder that violence is the method by which we conduct our lives. Violence in word. Violence in deed. The violence we bear in our hearts towards anyone deemed not as good as ourselves.
I am so sick of turning on the television to see more breaking news screaming in red letters at the bottom of the screen. I am so sick of everything. I am tired of wondering if a name that I recognize from my past will be among the list of the slaughtered. I am weary of wondering if those I love are safe. I am long past rending my heart because I can no longer protect my children through word or deed.
It’s all too much.
“Girl, all of sorrow
is this single drop
Of your blood.” ~ Juan Ramón Jiménez, from “Song” (Trans. H. R. Hays)
Truthfully, I don’t know if I have what it takes to make it here. I don’t know if I have the constitution to live on a farm, to see death up close. I just don’t know how to do it.
Yesterday I was unable to save Max from my own dogs, whose nips turned into bites. I walked outside to look for the dogs, only to see them circling Max at the bottom of the pasture. I was alone, of course, and thoughts raced through my head on how best to stop them. You see, the dogs, the pups mostly, have made a game of chasing the goats, but Ruby turns and butts them when she is tired. Max, unfortunately, does not do this. We have always thought that Max a little slow, slow but very sweet.
Normally, it’s Ruby who is chased, but a few times I have caught the pups chasing Max. Yesterday was different, though. They weren’t dogs playing a game. They were predators with prey, and my heart sank at the very idea. When they didn’t stop when I yelled at them, I thought that I could fire a gun at a tree, and the noise would startle them into inaction. But I couldn’t get the damned gun to fire. Then I got in my car and drove to the bottom of the pasture.
I found Max at the edge of the water, blood coming from his throat, and my heart sank even as I sank into the mud at the edge of the water. I still don’t know how I lifted him and climbed back up the incline, but somehow I got him to the car and put him in the back seat; he was still alive, but barely. I made the instant decision to drive to Dallas’s house to see if I could get help for Max, even though my head knew that it was a futile move. I tried to call Dallas because I knew that Corey was with him, but of course there was no answer, nor was there gas in the car.
I drove anyway, and Corey called as I made my way around what seemed like thousands of curves in the long road. By the time I made it to Dallas’s driveway and stopped the car, Max was dead. I turned around and drove home.
“We are not made whole by pain, no matter what they say. We are broken by it, taught to peel back cushion between us and the world because we have no choice but to rebuild it, again, and, again: ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “Argonaut”
Corey arrived home just a few minutes after I did, and between sobs, I explained what had happened. The pajamas that I was still wearing were covered in blood and goat hair, and the situation had caused my body to go into a full-blown asthma attack, none of which I had noticed until I stopped the car and finally made my way inside.
As Corey buried Max where the dogs couldn’t find him, I stood in the shower and sobbed some more, trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dogs had acted ferally, that they now had a taste for blood.
In trying to reconstruct everything in my mind, I couldn’t quite remember who did what, except that I had a very clear memory of Bailey still trying to attack Max even as I struggled to lift his body from the water. I remember hitting her forcefully to make her stop. The other dogs had already backed off as I am certain that they could feel the fury emanating from my body in forceful waves. But not Bailey. Not my dog, the one I found at the shelter and cradled in my lap as a pup.
Look. I know that dogs come from wolves. I know that certain breeds of dogs have more violence bred into their bloodlines, but I have always believed that it is the owners who determine just how vicious their dogs behave through how much or how little love and attention and training they bestow upon their animals. Am I completely wrong in this belief?
“this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold. We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”
And now things are fraught. Corey would very much like to give Maddy back to Dallas, take Tink to a shelter, and put down Bailey as he fears there will be a repeat with the other goats, especially the kids to come.
I cannot fathom such a thing, and that he has seriously contemplated this breaks my heart all over again. I must now deal with reconciling myself that I could not save Max, and now my spouse no longer wants some of the dogs. I contend that the dogs can be broken of this habit of chasing, but he is so full of rage over what happened that he will not hear it.
I know that he will do nothing to do the dogs if don’t agree, and I don’t, but the very idea that he harbors such feelings is tearing at my soul. Bailey is 7; she has only known us. Tink is very much my dog. To give Maddy back to Dallas would ensure that she would not be fed or cared for properly.
Can I retrain them? Can Corey forgive them? Can I forgive myself? The dogs are all cowed at the moment as they sense a change. Of course they do; how could they not?
“I want the truth of things. But there’s nowhere to find it.” ~ William Golding, from The Pyramid
I have no answers, none at all. Friday night left me reeling after the news about the shooting, and then yesterday afternoon broke me. This morning, my breathing is still hard and phlegmy, and my soul is fractured. So I am back at my original question to myself: Do I have the constitution to live this kind of life?
In your mind’s eye, achieving your dream seems so filled with possibilities. That I’ve always wanted to own land in the mountains, and then to get that land—it has been as if the fates finally aligned after so many years of hardship and loss. But the reality is that there are things you never consider, things that you will encounter that never neared the idyll that filled your dreams.
I had wanted a few goats for milk, and then Corey decided that he wanted to raise goats for an income. It seemed like a fairly straightforward move. It never occurred to me that there would be an issue with the dogs; after all, all of the dogs had been around cats and horses, and there had never been any problems. How could I foresee what would happen? Why did I not?
And now the atmosphere is filled with anger and regret and loss and pain, and I question how Corey could even contemplate such actions. It is not within me to be cruel to any creature, even when angry, and my dogs have always been part of my family. I am hoping against hope that his is just a reaction to what happened, even though he claims that it is not, that what he says is said from anger and grief and not what he truly feels.
Everything has changed, and I am wholly uncertain as to if it can be changed back.
Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “If I Go, I’m Going”
I eye the driver of the Chevrolet
pulsing beside me at a traffic light
the chrome-haired woman in the checkout line
chatting up the acned clerk
the clot of kids smoking on the sly
in the Mile-Hi Pizza parking lot
the meter reader, the roofer at work
next door, a senior citizen
stabbing the sidewalk with his three-pronged cane:
which one of you discarded in a bag
—sealed with duct tape—in the middle of the road
three puppies four or five weeks old,
who flung two kittens from a moving car
at midnight into a snowbank where
the person trailing you observed the leg
& tail of the calico one that lived,
and if not you, someone flossing her teeth
or watering his lawn across the street.
I look for you wherever I go.
~ Maxine Kumin (found on Poetry Foundation)
“—all are mingled, combined, amalgamated in Notre-Dame. This central mother church is, among the ancient churches of Paris, a sort of chimera; it has the head of one, the limbs of another, the haunches of another, something of all.” ~ Victor Hugo
Monday night, clear and cold, 39 degrees.
Rather than a regular post, I feel the need to share some key passages from Victor Hugo’s
Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), better known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.* The burning of this historical masterpiece just breaks my soul, and as news images around the world depict, countless individuals are mourning the loss. The world has lost far too many architectural wonders—to time, but more so, to the ravages of war and genocidal myopia—far too many to list here.
Fans of the Disney movie and/or the novel may be unaware that Hugo originally wrote his book because he was so dismayed by the state of disrepair in which the great cathedral sat in the 1800’s. Hugo wanted to preserve the Gothic architecture he believed was tied so directly to France’s history, rather than see it succumb to renovation or destruction in favor of Baroque buildings. Quasimodo, the hunchback, represents all of the deformities bestowed upon such architecture by subsequent generations, and Hugo bestowed in Quasimodo a pure love for the cathedral and all of its many statuary: “the cathedral was not only society for him, but the universe, and all nature beside.”
Hugo and his endearing creation helped to lead to the massive 1844 restoration of Notre-Dame. The following passages are taken from Chapter 1 of the third book:
The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last.
On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. Tempus edax, homo edacior; which I should be glad to translate thus: Time is a devourer; man, more so.
If we had leisure to examine with the reader, one by one, the diverse traces of destruction imprinted upon the old church, time’s share would be the least, the share of men the most . . .
. . . the tranquil grandeur of the whole; a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work of one man and one people, all together one and complex, like the Iliads and the Romanceros, whose sister it is; prodigious product of the grouping together of all the forces of an epoch, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a hundred fashions; a sort of human creation, in a word, powerful and fecund as the divine creation of which it seems to have stolen the double character,—variety, eternity.
. . . these hybrid constructions are not the least interesting for the artist, for the antiquarian, for the historian. They make one feel to what a degree architecture is a primitive thing, by demonstrating (what is also demonstrated by the cyclopean vestiges, the pyramids of Egypt, the gigantic Hindoo pagodas) that the greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man of genius; the deposit left by a whole people; the heaps accumulated by centuries; the residue of successive evaporations of human society,—in a word, species of formations. Each wave of time contributes its alluvium, each race deposits its layer on the monument, each individual brings his stone. Thus do the beavers, thus do the bees, thus do men. The great symbol of architecture, Babel, is a hive.
Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries. Art often undergoes a transformation while they are pending, pendent opera interrupta; they proceed quietly in accordance with the transformed art. The new art takes the monument where it finds it, incrusts itself there, assimilates it to itself, develops it according to its fancy, and finishes it if it can. The thing is accomplished without trouble, without effort, without reaction,—following a natural and tranquil law. It is a graft which shoots up, a sap which circulates, a vegetation which starts forth anew. Certainly there is matter here for many large volumes, and often the universal history of humanity in the successive engrafting of many arts at many levels, upon the same monument. The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these great masses, which lack the name of their author; human intelligence is there summed up and totalized. Time is the architect, the nation is the builder.
. . . architecture does what she pleases. Statues, stained glass, rose windows, arabesques, denticulations, capitals, bas-reliefs,—she combines all these imaginings according to the arrangement which best suits her. Hence, the prodigious exterior variety of these edifices, at whose foundation dwells so much order and unity. The trunk of a tree is immovable; the foliage is capricious.
*You can find an online copy of the complete novel here, thanks to Project Gutenberg.
Music by Gabriel Fauré, “Pie Jesu Requiem, Op. 48”
“This is the year of burning women in schoolyards
and raided homes, of tarped bodies on runways and in restaurants.” ~ Camille T. Dungy, from “Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another”
Monday evening, drizzle, 55 degrees.
Choosing love over hate: In response to the March 15 mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, NZ, a Manchester, UK man stood outside a local mosque with a sign that read, “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.” Andrew Graystone from Levenshulme, Manchester stood outside the Madina mosque holding the sign.
When I heard about this man’s gentle protest, it almost made me cry—one person’s unbelievable humanity in the face of yet another instance of man’s inhumanity to man. We—people, humans, sentient beings worldwide—need more of these small acts of kindness more than most of us even realize. They make us better bit by bit.
Music by Michael Kiwanuka, “Cold Little Heart”
Helix of pain,
then dull haze,
a dozen or so soft black t-shirts
Distrust of the night, muscled voices,
dark SUVS, the unknown. Sheets
of paper work, faxes, phone numbers,
account statements, business cards,
to-do lists: feed yourself–
for a month of his last meal.
Break down when the bowl
empties. Break bowl, skin to get at
the hunger–an arterial pull that thrums
and thrums through the spine.
write it until you think
you are writing Diseased.
Start to imagine this your truth.
A few striped collard shirts,
Size 13 shoes.
One pigtailed crying child,
who wants to be a man,
and refuses to cry.
As I was going through tumblr, I saw a section from a poem by Jane Hirshfield, “For What Binds Us.” I posted this poem years ago, but in rereading the entire poem, I recognized its pertinence to my current state of affairs, i.e., trying to grow my fingertip back. So I thought that I’d share; here is the relevant section:
And see how the flesh grows backacross a wound, with a great vehemence,more strongthan the simple, untested surface before.There’s a name for it on horses,when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,as all flesh,is proud of its wounds, wears themas honors given out after battle,small triumphs pinned to the chest—
Music by the Pixies, “Where is My Mind?” (I had to get past the creepy clown)