Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando shootings: things fall apart


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Given the fact that mass bloodletting has become standard fare on the daily news, this viscerally terrifying piece of literature has become eerily prescient. We've all conditioned ourselves to that reaction, the sickening gut-drop that goes along with the revelation that there has been "another one". Oh no. Where is it this time? Who got it, a school, a church, a club? How many? I no longer want to hear statistics because, to tell you the truth, I'd rather not fall into a clinical depression that I might not come out of.

Silly of me, isn't it? That I should care that much? (When I was part of the anti-nuclear crusade in the '80s, I was repeatedly told I "cared too much" and should stop.) Yes, I care that much, because I am tired of denial and playing down the facts, tired of forcing blood-soaked chaos into the comforting box of statistics - and, most of all, tired of the way I view the gun fanatics, yahooing and going "pow! pow!" on their rearing horses while brandishing semi-automatic rifles. "We have the right to bear arms!"

It is the constitutional right of Americans to legally own weapons that allow them to open fire and massacre dozens and dozens of human beings, civilians, for the simple reason that they are having the "wrong" sort of fun in the "wrong" sort of place.

Or, for that matter, for no reason at all.

I am tired of all this atrocity and feel overwhelmed and wrung-out. But I am even more tired of the thugs who claim this is all the fault of those goddamn Muslims. Keep them out of the country, they're clearly a threat! (Somebody has already gotten a lot of mileage out of that one.) No matter if the terrorists, from without or within the country, follow the most twisted, corrupted, even unrecognizable form of Islam ever invented, worse even than the "Christianity" practiced by Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. 

And I am VERY tired of reading this in the news: "Converted to Islam and joined Isis." "Converted to Islam and became radicalized/murdered/bombed/raped" - and so on, and so on. Though no one will ever listen to me about this, I think it should be "Converted to Islam, BUT joined Isis." In other words, "converted" - though not in any meaningful sense of the word - and then proceeded to violate every law and precept that Islam stands for.

I can't deal with this, so I try to push it away. It's a common strategy. I do this not just for myself, but because I don't want to present a pale, anxious face to my grandkids, who are only trying to experience a "normal" childhood. But this is a new normal, isn't it? What do we say to our children and our grandchildren about the world they are about to inherit?

Somebody keeps posting a stupid meme on Facebook, one of those "hey, folks, it's really not that bad, because people are basically decent and kind" types. In the meme, Mr. Rogers is asking his Mommy why bad things have to happen. "Don't worry, Freddie," she tells him. "You must look to the helpers. In any bad situation, there are always helpers nearby to pitch in and make everything all right again." It's not exactly a lie, but why are so many people being forced into service to mop up all the blood? Yet this is the kind of thing people eat up now, perhaps because they're terrified down to their guts, but more likely because they're just numb.

I've never had much of a gift for numbness, if gift it is. I'm reminded of the Joan Baez song I recently posted (Diamonds and Rust). To paraphrase, "I could use some of that vagueness now, because it's all so clear to me. . ." 

Do we really think that we, here in pallid, passive Canada, can do anything to stop all this? It is escalating, and that fucking asshole Trump continues to congratulate himself for being "right about the terrorists". Score another point for yourself, Donald. He could win, you know. He could. What will happen then, if Donald Trump is President of the United States? Aren't things  bad enough as they are?

I will have to leave climate change aside for now, though Trump is a full-scale denier who has the worst priorities on the planet. The one time I wrote an honest piece about climate change and how I see the future, I lost four long-time followers in the space of a few hours. This had never happened before, and it opened my eyes. For one thing, I never thought I had many steady readers - hey, listen, I do appreciate the ones I have, though I'd probably keep posting if no one read this because I enjoy doing it. I mostly keep this on the side of satire and oddity, because to be honest it makes ME feel better, releases a few particles of endorphins to get me through my long and often weary day.

So I don't write many pieces like this, because they don't really help, do they? They don't make me feel better, don't make ANYONE feel better, and do nothing to alter the situation. The same thing will happen all over again, only I can predict it will be far worse. If I seem like a party pooper and you'd rather not read this, OK, I get it, because my predictions tend to be a little dark. We don't know if these attacks on innocent civilians are organized (though Isis boasts about them whether they are or not), or the act of individual "nut cases" (as people with mental illness are sometimes called - well, it's better than "whack job", isn't it?). But they are having the desired effect of throwing everyone off-balance, especially children who are expected to grow up stable and productive in an atmosphere of wariness and chronic tension. Not just tension, but fear for their lives. The helpers may be there, to be sure, but why, in God's name, do we need so goddamn many of them?

Mina Justice was sound asleep when she received the first text from her son, Eddie Justice, who was in the gay nightclub when a gunman opened fire and slaughtered 50 and wounded more than 50 others. Here is the conversation she had over text message with her 30-year-old son.

"Mommy I love you," the first message said. It was 2:06 a.m.

"In club they shooting."

Mina Justice tried calling her 30-year-old son. No answer.

Alarmed and half awake, she tapped out a response.

"U ok"

At 2:07 a.m., he wrote: "Trapp in bathroom."

Justice asked what club, and he responded: "Pulse. Downtown. Call police."

Then at 2:08: "I'm gonna die."

Now wide awake, Justice dialed 911.

She sent a flurry of texts over the next several minutes.

"I'm calling them now.

U still in there

Answer our damn phone

Call them

Call me."

The 911 dispatcher wanted her to stay on the line. She wondered what kind of danger her son was in. He was normally a homebody who liked to eat and work out. He liked to make everyone laugh. He worked as an accountant and lived in a condo in downtown Orlando.

"Lives in a sky house, like the Jeffersons," she would say. "He lives rich."

She knew he was gay and at a club — and all the complications that might entail. Fear surged through her as she waited for his next message.

At 2:39 a.m., he responded:

"Call them mommy


He wrote that he was in the bathroom.

"He's coming

I'm gonna die."

Justice asked her son if anyone was hurt and which bathroom he was in.

"Lots. Yes," he responded at 2:42 a.m.

When he didn't text back, she sent several more messages. Was he with police?

"Text me please," she wrote.

"No," he wrote four minutes later. "Still here in bathroom. He has us. They need to come get us."

At 2:49 a.m., she told him the police were there and to let her know when he saw them.

"Hurry," he wrote. "He's in the bathroom with us."

She asked, "Is the man in the bathroom wit u?"

At 2:50 a.m.: "He's a terror."

Then, a final text from her son a minute later: "Yes."

More than 15 hours after that text, Justice still hasn't heard from her son. She and a dozen family and friends are at a hotel that has become a staging area for relatives awaiting news. Any news.

"His name has not come up yet and that's scary. It's just ..." she paused and patted hear heart. "It's just, I got this feeling. I got a bad feeling."

Updated June 13 at 12:55 p.m. It was confirmed Eddie Justice was killed in the attack.

No comments:

Post a Comment