Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No More For Me, Thanks, I'm Driving

The events of the last five days have left me stunned. When faced with a gut-wrenching tragedy, my first response is generally an agonized empathy, but I've become good at internalizing it, because if I let it take hold, I end up a weeping puddle on the floor. My best defense has always been anger, because at least anger is energizing. It's clear and hot and it burns away the awful feeling of helplessness, the fog of despair. On the downside, it burns so hot that it must either burn itself out or it will consume me. So eventually there's only so much stoking that can go on, only so many small horrors and insults that can be banked and railed against. There comes a point when it's time to break out the extinguisher and walk away.

Today's the day for me. I've read and listened, been shocked speechless, then read and listened some more, even when I thought I couldn't stand another minute of it. As humans, we look for meaning. We get under the table and lift up the rug and look for that last piece of the jigsaw. We search and search and worry, because we want things to fit together, we want a clear picture, we want closure, we want justice. Eventually we want to make the best peace we can. Because terrible, unspeakable things happen. Every day. The best we can do is try to make things better. At the very least, we can try not to make them worse.

Again, today's the day for me, the snapping point. When I perused the news this morning, I hit the wall. I can take no more.

Regardless of the exact reason why an unbalanced individual took a gun down to a grocery store and opened fire, this event did not happen in a vacuum. Things have been heating up for while, and by the laws of physics, that energy goes somewhere. Call  it the law of unintended consequences, or sometimes the law of secretly intended consequences, call it any damn thing you want. Gabby Giffords, speaking of violent rhetoric embraced by Sarah Palin and her ilk, said herself that there are consequences, and now she lies in a hospital bed after having been shot point blank in the head.

We are currently existing in an atmosphere where the unthinkable has become possible, where the unthinkable has been tacitly encouraged. And now that the unthinkable has happened, all those who liked to talk big and hard and viciously have doubled down. Blame anyone but them. Blame the other guy. When things end badly, blame everyone who said, over and over, "This will end badly."

The big web we live in filled with sticky threads. We are bound in them. We are tied together, the good and the bad, and actions have consequences. Words have consequences. Decent people feel guilty when they wish ill and ill occurs, even if they did not directly, with their own hands, commit the ill.

To me, the most telling aspect of the immediate aftermath of the shooting was wailing of Alaska's own Lady Macbeth, wringing her hands as she scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. "Don't look at me! I had nothing to do with it. DON'T LOOK AT ME." Well, even if she doesn't have blood on her hands, there's some spatter, and those spots don't wash out.

Today, and this was the straw that finally crippled my personal camel, Palin accused someone -- the media, Democrats, whoever was handy -- of committing "blood libel" against her. This is wrong on so many levels that new levels need to be invented for it to be wrong on. This is so wrong, I can't quite get my head around it.

A generous interpretation would be that Palin saw two words she liked -- blood and libel -- and put them together without giving it a further thought. After all, she's shown herself to have a nearly unfathomable lack of knowledge about what any word means. A less generous interpretation is that she's trying to hijack history and take on a mantel of persecution that an entire people have labored under for hundreds of years and carelessly pull it on like a party frock. We'll likely never know if she read the Wikipedia definition of "Blood Libel", but it hardly matters at this point.

What is truly appalling is that she has taken a tragedy in which a child, several elderly people, a judge, and a congresswoman and others were ruthlessly gunned down and made herself the victim. It's all about poor Sarah. And for the moment it is all about Sarah, as she has somehow become the emblem of all that's wrong and obscene with public discourse at the moment. She's the icon of our lost sense of decency, of our lost powers of discernment. She's the poster girl for all that is facile and spiteful and selfish and viciously tribal in our pop culture society today. She wants us to forget about what binds us together and focus on what tears us apart. She'll be all the news is talking about today, and I've had enough.

A very fine man summed it up simply today. Via TalkingPointsMemo, Congressman James Clyburn said,"You know, Sarah Palin just can't seem to get it, on any front. I think she's an attractive person, she is articulate, but I think intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what's going on here."

Inside my head, I am a less generous person than Mr. Clyburn, but I'm letting it go. I am going to face the fact that I've used up all my righteous indignation for the moment, that I can't physically or emotionally afford to be as angry as I have been the last couple of days. I'm going to try to think good thoughts and see the positive things in life. I'm going to hug my kids and help them with their homework. I'm going to write. I'm going to cook dinner tonight and be thankful for the meal and for the fact that I'm eating it with people I love, and then I'm going to walk my dogs. For today at least, that's enough for me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that, Keri; I could feel the emotion coming off the screen at me. You really crystalized the current environment with "viciously tribal...pop culture today." I wonder if perhaps all this will make a lasting difference. At least we're having the conversation.