18 years ago this date became etched in something stronger than stone. In blood and horror, in loss and destruction, in fear and retaliation. But something brighter too. I would venture to say there is a tenacious streak, a solve it any way possible bit, that place where survival for all takes over and lending hands come from every direction while individual needs take a back seat. It pulls together unlikely alliances during the worst of times to change the tragic trajectory. This is what we understand to be wholly American. From our small towns to urban neighborhoods you can feel the ripple reshaping torn communities into something unified, something that makes us proud.
“Don’t listen to anyone who says “Nothing happened after #SandyHook”– WE happened! #GunSense”
Memories abound where my mother is concerned, but I do have a favorite. Although it is a singular experience, when we attended Alexander McQueen’s retrospective, “Savage Beauty,” that summer day in 2011 exemplifies noteworthy traits that my mother had in droves. Although the Metropolitan Museum of Art allowed its members to skip the monster line or attend on Mondays, there “closed” day, just to be part of the fun, my mother (who was a member) and I, stood on the 2 hour line with the masses. This curated event of a hundred ensembles and seventy accessories was unprecedented and there was no way my mother would not be part of the crowded excitement; “By the time the exhibit closed, over 650,000 people had seen it, making it one of the most popular exhibits in the museum’s history, and its most popular fashion exhibit ever” (Savage Beauty Exhibition). #1: My mother loved a well-dressed party.
Last week while still in Louisville I had the good fortune to hear Richard Blanco retell his story: from immigrant to inaugural poet for Obama in 2013. The story he shared is fabulous, filled with colorful elaboration, detailing his parents’ bold move from Cuba to Miami, recalling his fascinating childhood to his own journey as a poet. He moved his audience to tears and laughter, from the nostalgia of the past to the shared hope for the future. His story touched us all as pieces of it became our own. How he was picked by the White House is a mystery, even to him, but once we all heard his voice ring out over the capital on that cold January day, that no longer mattered. Richard Blanco is all of us.
Writers avoid writing. There is always something more pressing or entertaining or distracting than sitting in the stillness to pound out the words racing inside one’s head. Always. That is until those words get so thick and fanciful or loud and obnoxious, growing exponentially inside your head, until you feel, in the most visceral way, that unless you pound them onto your screen you will know no peace.
Today is that day. Racing words are forcing me to write because ever since August 28th there has been too many to ignore. Why August 28th? Well, that date is remembered as the greatest March on Washington; on the recent anniversary, President Obama stood on the same steps as Martin Luther King, Jr. and reminded us that 50 years ago King “gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike.”
Pride comes in a myriad of forms for multiple occasions and in June particularly there are countless reasons to feel that swell in your chest. A month of wonderful graduations, grand weddings, and my sons would remind me, nail-biting NBA and NHL championships! As pride hits we in pews or stadium-seats cheer and clap and are caught in emotion. Gay Pride struts along our avenues in full technicolor during June too, causing us all to remember what is so easy to forget, that for many Americans who they love not only defines them, it targets them. Although the Supreme Court overturned section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), there are still many places where fear and ignorance shape our youth, dominate our lives, and restrict our liberty.
Wedding Invites… Have at least one or two lying on your desk or stuck on your fridge? June through Labor Day weekends are awash with scanning gift registries, making travel plans, coordinating hotel stays, all for the sole purpose of being present for the lucky couple’s vows: Because that’s the whole point, right? To stand together, in churches or synagogues, on hilltops or beaches, to join in the public acknowledgement of the marriage, and inherent in that standing together, to support and celebrate this fragile union.