Useless Words of Sorrow, Early July 2016
Very sad about the world today. Two innocent American Black men killed by White police officers the last two days, and videos of the killings posted on the internet and seen by many millions. Great rage and sadness, and fear. People try to vent their rage in mass protests, just milling in the streets and screaming out their agony, anything to deal with the pain, ages of pain fresh again. And it’s frustrating because it seems so pointless, we cycle and cycle endlessly in the same inhuman and idiotic pattern, wasting more innocent lives, damaging more fragile psyches of loved ones and children.
It’s so heartbreakingly obvious and so incredibly overdue for fixing that even our elegant president, Obama, feels compelled to address the nation at length: words of sympathy, even empathy, but so carefully crafted to soothe rather than incite, or call out explicitly for resolute action. Sometimes the best salve for a raw wound are words of raw truth. The political people always have their agendas, their legacies, and their prospects foremost in mind, and words from the heart must be filtered and second-guessed. But this is not the time for equivocation from a leader. It is time for a revolution.
And today, our collective societal dysfunction unravelled further into urban warfare, the toxic mix of belligerent ignorance, racial bias, assault rifles, and lost hope among the powerless for the liberating and protective implementation of justice. In Dallas, two snipers perched in elevated parking structures opened triangulated fire on police officers assembled at street level to manage the crowd scene of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, after the march ended as the people were dispersing. The reports at this moment list 11 police officers shot with 5 fatalities; one sniper is cornered and police are negotiating a surrender, the second sniper is unaccounted for.
To me this is all pure tragedy, pure waste, pure injustice. Whoever you are, whatever your afflictions and excuses, the only positive response to unjust deaths is the prevention of more unjust deaths. Just stop, people: new pain does not erase old pain. I could accept that America is just unable to do any better than to be a country of stupidity, guns, impatience and selfishness, if it could at least keep its brutish insensitivity within the bounds of un-bigoted non-violence. I would so much rather the knuckleheads of this country would wake up to the essential goodness of a just society as Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein envision and champion it. But, I’m a dreamer, and I’ve been that way since I listened to John Kennedy’s inaugural address (he, too, was shot in Dallas).
The events of these last three days have given me just the tiniest bit of a visceral twinge of what life and sorrow are like in places like Syria and Iraq. On July 3rd, 292 (latest count) people were killed by an ISIS truck bombing attack at a shopping center in a Shiite area of Baghdad. In subsequent days Shia, Sunni and Christian Iraqis gathered at the site to protest the outrage, and the attempt to incite civil war.
It all just goes on and on. Today’s cruelties will do nothing to assuage the legacies of yesterday’s cruelties, just as past cruelties have never had any tangible effect beyond creating more enduring sorrows, and quickly evaporate as justifiable excuses for inflicting future cruelties. It’s all so hideously wrong. Whoever you are and whatever your excuse, just stop whatever you are doing that even remotely feeds this beast. Forget about winning, forget about getting, forget about compelling, just remember to be human, that means to be part of humanity. It’s so obvious every child understands it. It’s about keeping your soul. What is your soul beyond how you relate to other people? Our individual sadnesses over the tragedies of these days is an upwelling of humanity’s soul reaching out seeking comforting reassurance of being whole, of being interconnected with itself in its multitude of human individuals.
The only real message here is: stay human. Stay human.
As I started reading your essay, Manuel, a number of things occurred to me that I might write in reply. However, by the time I finished your last paragraph and last sentence, I knew I had nothing to add. You said it all, and said it well. Thanks.
Oliver, I appreciate your graciousness.
Factual update on the Dallas shooting: It seems there was only one sniper, and 12 police officers were shot, 5 fatally. Two bystanders were somewhat injured, one being a mother using her body to shield her child. Finger-pointing to flee from responsibility, as well as parasitic politicking for exploitation are now rampant (with regard to the killings by police and the killings of police). But, there has been goodness displayed as well: people of all types hugging Dallas police officers at the scene yesterday, in a show of appreciation and shared humanity.