As we slip closer to becoming the dystopian world we used to chuckle over while reading the fantastical novels of our youth, I now wonder about ever leaving the house. Even then paranoia creeps in while watching/listening/reading the news. It’s melting ice caps and fire storms. It’s waring tweets from men plenty old enough to know not to taunt but daily they do. There’s corruption in Facebook, phone apps listening, and Amazon with one-day deliveries causing insurmountable mountains of cardboard. Gun violence passing epidemic proportions that not even George Orwell would have imagined. Rational stuff gone daft too, like the inability to debate issues in Congress or use Science as a base for fact. Everyone is distrustful of any branch of government. People are retreating, especially the L.G.B.T., unsure if our marriages or jobs or civil rights will stand this latest round of Supreme Court discussions.
While most Americans are reeling in disbelief over the most recent mass shootings, I can only wonder how these senseless murders will ever end. “A trio of new reports by the Small Arms Survey finds that 85% of the world’s one billion guns are in the hands of its citizens who far outgun the militaries and police responsible for their protection” (Big Think, Berman). I just want to hear everyone say it: guns are the problem. Loudly. Anyone who thinks they’re not has forgotten the world before Columbine, before April 20, 1999, when two boys killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others before turning their guns on themselves and committing suicide, and even thought that horrific event became a tipping point in our country, “The Columbine shooting was, at the time, the worst high school shooting in U.S. history and prompted a national debate on gun control and school safety” that conversation has stalled time and time again, year after year, mass shooting after mass shooting, stalled to a faint whisper while politicians send good thoughts (History). Can we remember when Congress took the lead to solving this gun violence epidemic? Not even after Sandy Hook when 20 children between six and seven years old were gunned down by a white American male did they do anything. As in nothing. Not even then.
Flying from east to west over this mighty landmass reveals how expansive and diverse our country is, with all the complexity that mountain chains and sandy deserts and bustling metropolises add to our rainbow lifestyles. Down here, we are all in our own here. Doing our own thing. Working and paying bills. Mothering and fathering and building community in whatever community we find for ourselves. We dream of climbing higher or soaring longer or diving deeper while we commute to our day in and day out jobs. We frequent the same markets and barbers and stadiums and bars and churches and schools and beaches while we live out all the days in all our years.
Only now we are frightened because we might die in any one of those places. Because we are not straight or not white or actually nowadays for any reason whatsoever. Die by an American male with a gun. A gun that has the capacity to kill the most people with the smallest effort. So, now what? Are we helpless to stop this? Yeah in my mind, we are. These white males in their 20’s are so firmly indoctrinated in hate it is difficult to imagine pulling them back to a civil reality.
Maybe they would have just been labeled assholes a few decades ago, spouting off at the family barbecue about their latest beef with someone, but now they can creep into the dark web, or even hit up the 8chan message boards right in the light, and suddenly, these former assholes become sufficiently empowered to carry out their evil manifestos. Allow for easy access to military style weapons and you have a home-grown terrorist in your backyard. Your basement. Your mall. Your America. Take a look down from 35,000. Can you spot the guy with the arsenal to kill more of us? They are here. Residing among us. Proceeding with a rising trajectory that should alarm everyone of us, yet, those alarm bells are being silenced.
I want to believe that we can turn the gun violence epidemic around. That people will say, yes, it is the guns that are killing us. That we, in our respective communities declare collectively that we have had enough, that no amount of weapontry in the hands of civilians will prevent another disgruntled asshole from gunning us down, that we decide instead to recreate this land of the free without guns but with safety for citizens. I can hardly even write these words, for they are so naive, even outlandish.
While we might have had the nerve to tell that one asshole at the barbecue to pipe down when he started with his racist rant, those guys just banded together and elected Trump. They fiddled with the voting act and manipulated districts to flood Washington with complicit politicians beholden to special interests, from the NRA to pharmaceutical and insurance companies pouring billions of dollars into said pockets, so that you and I don’t stand a chance to change any of that hate. Our kids might, if they still have an earth to inhabit. Oh man, this is a dismal view, one that could use a ray of hope if only we had leadership that espoused inspiration instead of division. If only…
This week, I’m getting lost with the ghosts. Those who marched arm in arm between walls of hate speech and absolute peril, yet did so regardless. Those who fill my memory as I try to untangle the horrific news of more mass murders. What would they make of our united states now? What would they demand from our impotent politicians? How would they right this stalled course?
It is too easy to blame, to name call, to call out. Easy because there is blame to be made. Instead, I say we echo the words crying out from from Ohio and Texas, that collectively we do something. We fucking do something.
I interrupt my highly anticipated summer post of brilliant flowers and ocean sunsets and smiling family to bring forth a matter of the highest importance. Not sure if y’all caught the words quietly yet forcefully uttered by Mueller last week; either way, please read on.
The whole world is Twitter mad once again, and even though I hold the platform at arm’s length, it is hard not to be obsessively scrolling over the tweets bouncing back and forth like discordant sound. Even if you try not to get embroiled, headlines and soundbites echo the 280 characters driving a wedge between us all. Thanks to these Twitter tantrums, hate talk replaces straight talk with the ease of a click. Perhaps that was not always the intent of social media.
“At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with “Twitter uprising” or “Facebook revolution”, as global media tried to make sense of what was going on.
But despite western media’s love affair with the idea, the uprisings didn’t happen because of social media. Instead, the platforms provided opportunities for organization and protest that traditional methods couldn’t.
In the words of one protester, Fawaz Rashed: “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”” (Maeves Shearlaw).
But over the past two years we have witnessed the lack of ‘coordinating’ in these minute messages, in fact, dialogue across spectrums has sunk to the worst form of discourse thanks to a lack of social norms in social media posts. Or just some new allowance that we can’t back away from perhaps.
Today I had a colleague call me out for an error, which was fine, but they then threw me under the bus by highlighting the mistake to my boss. Yeah, whatevs, thankfully I have no real concerns there. I mean, I know my value and all that, but who needs more crap, right? So much bad news streaming through our stream. Always more fear. More despair. More bad shit for us all to endure. We search for that one light flickering in the shadows, desperate for one bright second in the dark. What to do? Head to the pool to shake it off the best way I know. Diving into the green and stroke after stroke letting all that cool water slide over my stream till I’m smoothed over again.
Not sure why specifically but I guess it’s the whole stinking pot of shit news that’s got me remembering icons. The great ones, who touch down for short snippets of time to do good for the planet. You know the type, those who cure, not infect. Not as almighty as the Christ or as grandiose as an übermensch, but ordinary folks who strive and march and work tirelessly for the betterment of other ordinary folks. I don’t know if those people just don’t make the headlines anymore or can’t yell over the frenzied hype, but I am desperate for their comfort, their strength and their vision. Desperate for those who can lead us out of the status quo state of collusion, corruption and chaos.
One of Vermont’s biggest strengths, in my view, is that it’s a place of tradition and a place of change: from legendary apple pies to snappy hard cider. A place with morals that allow for an expanse on the definition: Christian ministers perform same-sex marriage here. A state with an elected Republican Governor, Democratic Senators and Independents sprinkled throughout. People vote for people here, not party. People listen to debates or town hall meetings or their neighbors to get a full picture of the candidates. Political advertisements are a rarity, because Vermonters aren’t dazzled by sound bites. Maybe you feel the same about your community?