62, 22, 9, 4, 32

 

“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.

Tampa Bay Times front page

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:

Mass Shootings in 2019 (Time Magazine)
“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.


A Murmuration of Starlings

Murmurations: Spectacular Starlings Signal Winter Is On Its Way

A Murmuration of Starlings arriving at Gretna in the Scottish Borders on November 1, 2011
by Owen Humphreys (PA/Landov)

by Sonia van Gilder Cooke
Time Lightbox (click through to see all images)

Click here to find out more!

A Murmuration of Starlings (4)
by Owen Humphreys (PA/Landov)

No one knows why they do it. Yet each fall, thousands of starlings dance in the twilight above Gretna, Scotland. The birds gather in magical shape-shifting flocks called murmurations, having migrated in the millions from Russia and Scandinavia to escape winter’s bite. Scientists aren’t sure how they do it, either. Even complex algorithmic models haven’t yet explained the starlings’ acrobatics, which rely on the tiny bird’s quicksilver reaction time of under 100 milliseconds to avoid aerial collisions—and predators—in the giant flock. Despite their show of force in the dusky sky, starlings have declined significantly in the UK in recent years, perhaps because of a drop in nesting sites. The birds still roost in several of Britain’s rural pastures, however, settling down to sleep (and chatter) after the evening’s ballet.

Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London Bureau.

Note: Murmuration . . . isn’t that the best word? It deserves to encircle the tongue lovingly. I love this word.

                   

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

~ Mary Oliver

“Time will reveal everything. It is a babbler and speaks even when not asked.” ~ Euripedes

Vintage Zenith Clock Sign in the Carrer de l'Espaseria, Barcelona, Spain, by Arjan Richter (FCC)

                   

“Time has no mercy. It’s there. It stays still or it moves.
And you’re there with it. Staying still or moving with it.
I think it moves. And we move with it. And keep moving.” ~ Simon J. Ortiz from “Time as Memory as Story”

Monday, late afternoon. Sunny, 68 degrees.

The ticking clock? What was I waiting for on Friday? News. A delivery. A decision.

Old Clock in Salzburg by Kitti Jakobovits (FCC)

The shipping company called Corey on Friday and said that they had an immediate opening if he had gotten his credentials back. The UPS tracking said that the package was due to be delivered that day. Should he stay or should he go? We decided that if everything worked out as far as timing, he should go.

In my heart, I knew that going back would be the only way that Corey would be able to redeem himself in his eyes. So we waited. The package was delivered around 3:45. Corey called his contact and left a message. On Sunday he got a call back: Expect to leave on Tuesday. Then he got another call: make that Monday night.

He left today at 2:54, going to Dulles, then to Copenhagen, then to Lithuania.

We checked and rechecked everything. He repacked to make his suitcase lighter. We checked again. If he didn’t have it by the time his baggage was checked at the counter, then he doesn’t have it. But we know for sure that he has his MMD, his passport, his computer and the USB, his phone and the charger . . .

“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

I’m much weepier than when he left the last time. Part of it is timing, part of it is my breakdown on Sunday, part of it is today. It’s just too much to absorb in just one day. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens in a day, and other days, everything happens, and when that’s the case, it’s just too much.

Station Clock, Cobh Heritage Centre, Ireland, by Athena's Pix (FCC)

Let me give you an example: the song “Mandolin Rain,” by Bruce Hornsby showed up on the right side of my YouTube today. I’m not sure what I was searching for that would make that song appear, but “Mandolin Rain” was the song that my ex listened to over and over after we lost Caitlin. It’s a song full of meaning, so of course, it comes blasting back at me like some kind of rocket from the past.

Time is funny that way. It can move along sequentially, and then it can seem to run parallel, and then when things really get crazy, it can seem as if tangents of time are running wildly out of control. As I stood at the airport demarcation between passengers with tickets and the rest of us, I was caught in one of those sequences. Time was moving forward, taking Corey across an ocean away from me. Time was moving backward, bringing back memories of a March afternoon on which I gave birth to my second daughter, and time was standing still as I waited for that final wave—I was static, standing in one place as people came and went all around me, some leaving, some arriving, some running to say hello, some clinging as they said goodbye.

I had all of time in one moment.

“In the yellow time of pollen near the blue time of lilacs
there was a gap in things. And here we are.” ~  Luke Davies, from “from Totem Poem [In the yellow time of pollen]”

Yesterday afternoon I collected these quotes, thinking that I might go ahead and write another post, but after I found the quotes and found the images, I couldn’t write. Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes I find the quotes and write the post but cannot find the right images, and sometimes I find the quotes, but nothing else comes.

Brighton Station Clock, UK, by Elsie esq. (FCC)

Everything happened so fast between the quotes and the telephone calls. He was going. He was going on Tuesday. He was going Monday night. He was going Monday afternoon.

Last night we lay side by side holding hands and talking—was this the right thing to do? Yes, definitely. Probably. Maybe. Finally I found a way to put what I was feeling into words: Even though I don’t have a lot of faith in this company to come through with a complete hitch for Corey, right now it’s available, and it’s good money. In the meantime he has his other applications out, and he can explore other avenues. This trip gets him back on the water, gives him some ocean time as opposed to near-coastal sea time (it makes a difference, believe me), and he can use however many days he does with this company to put towards a few more certifications, like Tanker Man.

So while the leaving is less than perfect, not nearly enough time to take in everything, the going is good. At least that’s what I keep telling myself even as my chest tightens and I begin to get watery eyes.

“A special kind of silence prevailed, a silence that figures neither in musical nor in philosophical dictionaries, as if time were coming apart and flying off in different directions simultaneously, a pure time, neither verbal nor composed of gestures and actions.” ~  Roberto Bolaño, from Amulet

So after Corey fell asleep last night, I wrote him a letter and left it on his laptop where he would find it later. I told him that I believe in him and that I believe that this is the right thing to do. I assured him that we would all be fine, and asked him to concentrate on his job and not worry about what’s going on at home.

Pocket Watch by Ludmila Vilarinhos (FCC)

Then I tried to go to sleep, unsuccessfully. I had a stomach ache. I had a pain in my chest. Nerves, all of it. Eventually I did fall asleep, even as my mind went through a checklist of things that I needed to make sure were in the suitcase.

Brett couldn’t go to the airport with us as he had a test at school, so it was just Eamonn and me seeing Corey off, telling him to be safe, telling him that we loved him. And I willed myself not to cry, to save the tears for later. Now here I am, sitting at the computer in Eamonn’s room, the afternoon sun coming through the window, Shakes snoring beneath my chair, and the house otherwise empty and silent.

And finally, my body is beginning to feel the exhaustion set in. I think that if I were to lie down, I would probably fall asleep in seconds. But not yet, not quite yet.

“5. I know that time is bound up with space. Time is the shadow of space. Space the shadow of time. I know that we live in the shadow of a shadow and that it returns to the light.” ~  Patrick Dubost, from “What I Know”

After leaving the airport I thought briefly of going to the cemetery, but I realized that such a move would probably do me in, and I would be right back where I was when I awoke yesterday. So I came home, and here I am, mulling over the concept of time and movement, and I have to wonder if a watch stops, does that mean that somewhere, time has stopped as well?

Conflicting Time, Chicago, IL, by dbking (FCC)

The old watches and clocks, the ones that we wound so carefully, cultivating time, harboring time, those time pieces—they were the keepers of the past and the present and the future. Now, the ones powered by batteries, those are merely mechanisms. There is nothing magical about them. I prefer the Roman numerals, the sweep of the second-hand to the digital display. My m-in-law had an old ship’s clock in her living room. It was made of brass, and it chimed the hours and the half hours, and that chime was, I believe, in the key of A, or at least that’s how it sounds in my memory. Eventually the spring mechanism broke, and the clock sat there idly, but its presence was a constant reminder of the hours that it had kept, and the time that had passed in that room.

I have an old watch that belonged to my father. It’s a wind-up, but it no longer works. I have considered taking it to a jeweler to see if I can get it fixed. It’s not a valuable watch, except to me. It has the imprint of my father’s wrist on the inside of the olive green leather strap, and I’m certain that it retains the memory of his DNA. Wearing it is like wearing a piece of him, like I’m sharing an afternoon with him, and he’s making me a cup of tea.

Whenever my father, for whom English was a second language—but he spoke it very well, more properly than my mother—whenever he left for one of his trips somewhere in the world, the last thing that he would say to my mother and me was “See you when I gets back.” I know that he knew that the gets wasn’t correct, but I think that somewhere in time, that must have been how he said it the first time, and saying those same words each time he left was like a talisman.

So I will see Corey when he gets back.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “Into Dust”

                   

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than 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 them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

~ Jane Hirshfield