Finding Perspective. Funeral Blues.
I don’t know how to find perspective in the wake of this most recent violence in our country; where do I even start? A school in Texas where I can’t get a little girl’s red Converse sneakers where she painted a red heart on the toe’s image out of my brain. A little boy whose parents - both of them - were killed by the sniper in Highland Park, Illinois, and no one knew who he was. His picture was on social media asking for someone to recognize him. And, the person killed in Pennsylvania who was getting a last minute birthday cake for a three year old. A dad no more. Where do we find perspective?
After 911, I had perspective. I physically witnessed both planes fly into the Towers. I knew people who lost their lives. I heard first-hand personal stories from those I held dear. It was easier then. I was part of the fray, and I was honored to feel the pain from a place of true association. I was allowed to be in the inner circle of what was happening, and from that place, you have perspective. You are entitled to feelings of anger, grief, and sorrow. But sitting outside, doing nothing, as I am doing now, I feel like I’m not entitled to perspective, or maybe things have changed so much in the last twenty years that perspective is a word that will disappear when it comes to violence in my beloved America.
A friend in Colorado sent me a picture of the garden at his house in Colorado this morning and said he loved the way it was growing. It hit me. I put up images of my garden on my Instagram account last week. And, this morning I put up my peaceful writing corner in my living room. What was I thinking? I wanted to e-mail my friend back, “I don’t give a good God damn about your garden, or mine, a seven-year-old boy is an orphan; scores of children were blown to bits while men stood outside for more than an hour and did nothing, and you and I are talking about flowers? Who are we?”
I have another friend who makes it all about her, even though she wasn’t there and knows no one who was affected. I haven’t returned her call. Perspective. Where do we Americans belong in these moments? How do we find perspective?
We are the only species that kills each other randomly for no reason. Okay, those who perpetrate these cowardly acts of terror will say there is a reason, but truth be told, there was no reason to kill any of those that are dead now. None. Why do we do that? What does it mean? It is not just about guns, and it’s unique to our culture here in America. And, I am ashamed.
I search for answers at times like these, and I know that I will not find them. Gaining perspective, or finding a place to put feelings of grief, rage, and sorrow at times like these is impossible for me. Then time passes, feelings fade, and we move on with our lives with nothing much changed or gained. I have to believe there is something more here. I have to believe that we should be able to find something that helps put these kinds of events in perspective, or better yet, give us some tools to stop the next one.
I have to say that I strongly dislike (trying to keep the bad juju out of my life by using words like hate) the religious talk we hear at times like this. “God has a reason.” “At times like these, turn to God, who will give you strength and healing.” Seriously? If I were God, I’d shake my head and say, “You are on your own on this one people. Who have you become? This has nothing to do with me.” Yesterday, a dear friend of mine, with whom I share a love/hate relationship when it comes to religion and politics, said that the moral decline of the country was because families weren’t going to church. She would say that was not her point, but I would say it was. Perspective.
I want to go to sporting and other events with a song in my heart and no fear in my belly. I don’t want to wonder who, what, where, and when when my phone is buzzing with the news that we all know is coming again. And again. And again.
Then it hit me. Auden’s Funeral Blues.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
For nothing … now … can ever come to any good. That’s my new perspective.