Stay Awake

I cannot sleep.

I am thinking about the shooting in Connecticut.

We are living in a way that is not sustainable. We are living in the sickness of violence, this incident a burst of that violence from a infection of poison simmering through our culture all the time. Guns? No need for them. Not if we were living in mutuality, compassion, and consensuality for real. I am so so sad for the children and families and well, all of us. Something is not right, more accurately something is very very wrong.

And I don’t think this has to do with needing more or less religion in schools (as Mike Huckabee so callously declared immediately after the shooting), or more or less rules about who we marry, date, have sex with, befriend, or how we manage our bodies and reproductive rights. And I’m not even sure this has anything at all to do with video games, but it does have something to do with how we are about consumption, numbing ourselves with entertainments and “happiness” instead of satisfactions and still, I think something else is going on. And I have no idea what that even is.

I don’t know, though. I just don’t know.

Or maybe I do. Maybe we all do. We know something is wrong, but we don’t know how to fix it, or have the will, or perhaps are so collectively trapped in how with think America should be that we can’t see how it is.

Like so many of us, I saw scores of posts on my FB feed from writers digging into the tragedy. Many on gun facts and the outstanding number of crimes and deaths through gun use are stunning, if only in sheer numbers, I mean over 45K deaths? How many guns do we need? But this article struck me as the most accurate, at least in terms of what I’m getting at. In terms of what’s going wrong.

It’s from the NY Times and it’s by a man, Gregory Gibson, who lost a child to a school shooting in 1992. He wrote about it, fought against the gun culture and likened what was happening to a public health threat. I’m not sure things have changed much, considering it never seems “to be the time to talk about gun control.”

This is the section that hit me in the gut as truth.

“In the wake of Galen’s murder, I wrote a book about the shooting. In it I suggested that we view gun crime as a public health issue, much the same as smoking or pesticides. I spent a number of years attending rallies, signing petitions, writing letters and making speeches, but eventually I gave up. Gun control, such a live issue in the “early” days of school shootings, inexplicably became a third-rail issue for politicians.

I came to realize that, in essence, this is the way we in America want things to be. We want our freedom, and we want our firearms, and if we have to endure the occasional school shooting, so be it. A terrible shame, but hey — didn’t some guy in China just do the same thing with a knife?”

Don’t want a few deaths (or sexual assaults) to get in the way of our lifestyle choice, right?

Not everyone is so disconnected individually, but are we as a culture, on a meta level, in that dynamic? Don’t want a little polar ice cap melting to get in the way of our use of oil? Don’t want a little animal (and human) cruelty to get in the way of our cheap burgers and bacon? Can’t let loss of privilege and discomfort get in the way of casual racism and sexism and intersectional oppression, besides we’re post-racial right? Don’t want a little ethical failures to get in the way of our stockholders having enough money. Don’t even think to protect the victims, just interview them immediately, vampirically for the best entertainment news scoop. God forbid we really create mental health, for real. Don’t want to have to share. Not really. Don’t want to have to change. Bootstraps! Individualism!

And again, I don’t think this feels true for individuals (because I and so many others are doing work to push against all those things listed above), but all of us make up the system where perhaps we are, as a group, numbed just enough to the horros to not really overthrow the system and start over, these bursts of violence over the simmering poison, like the pain from lancing a boil, wake us up for just a moment. We rage, we demand, we seek an answer, and then we are distracted by 24/7 newscasts, another scandal, another reality TV show. We go back to sleep back into a fever dream, with the infection from the boil still not healed, just released for a time, with fear deep in our heart, fear that something is wrong, deeply wrong. Something is wrong.

Whatever it is, it is indeed a public health crisis and we are all, to some extent, infected. We do not feel safe. We are so deeply afraid. And how ever we are trying to make ourselves feel safe-pharmaceuticals, alcohol, drugs, entertainment, consumption, and yes, guns.

I’ll do my best to breathe in and out today, breathing peace out into the world, and hopefully into me. I hope it works, but I’m so worried it won’t.

What will? What will it take? How do we get well? How do we stay awake?



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4 responses to “Stay Awake

  1. lesley r

    Well put. My mom used to tell me all the time to “pay attention!” Sometimes it was a command, sometimes an urgent plea. I feel the urgency today, too. I’m also feeling a little hypocritical… I went into my work to change the world for the better. Now I’m doing something more like politics, which feels very violent every day, even when we “win.” I have been beaten to hell by it this year.

    Apologies for the confessional… the systems of change are so intertwined. You have to get close to the violence to change it. That exposure comes with risks and consequences that I guess I’m also feeling today.

  2. Stephen

    Julie, I feel your frustration with culture and social priorities in the USA. I have resigned myself to the realization that the human animal is incapable of adapting itself to the innovations of its kind: Communications, Entertainments, Guns, Automobiles, Mass Food Production and Marketing. Only a small percentage of humanity is given the opportunities, via education, privilege, and social status to adapt in a meaningful way. The majority seem to enjoy the trappings of innovation without examining the unintended consequences of their complacency. I have no real answers, but I do know that we must approach the majority with full knowledge and begrudging respect for their world-views. We must make arguments that engage people to think deeper about issues of society, human rights, violence, and the environment. They must change their own minds, we cannot do it for them.

  3. Demarcus

    We have very much been “numbed into normality” with heinous crimes that have occurred such as the recent acts in China & Connecticut. I feel religion:belief plays a part but mainly because (regardless of differences) there are morals and values embedded in the history of then respectively that may or may not be a hypothetical solution for the world to be more grounded in selflessness and more appreciation for humankind and life itself.

    Though there is still significant shock value that occurs in most people that it is unrealistic, people are still sleeping. We basically render the judgement that we are powerful and cannot play a part of the solution. Something needs to be done, something can be done. But we are all looking to one another, to someone else to start that movement. Also we are shackled in the concept that if we get involved in a notion do change and we do not see immediate progress/results, we become weary in our work…our hope for better becomes diluted. And as the author… we give up. We cannot though. We have to keep fighting, voicing our vision for a better tomorrow (one that makes sense and everyone knows is capable) even if it involves us not physically being present to witness the progress of our process to do so. One question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we worth change? But the fear is if we ask that question, it cannot be a simple internalized inquiry but an asked then answered question. Do I know what it will take exactly? No. But I, we must try. We are worth it. We need to get back to believing in that.

  4. Cara

    It’s maddening and exhausting. The world doesn’t support transformation. There are so many forces that almost seem to be consciously conspiring to keep us bogged down, too tired to fight, too scattered to pay the tiny bit of attention at exactly the time it would do the most good.

    But we have to keep plugging away, like weeding a garden or cleaning a closet, and expect that one day the world will tip a bit, and be at least a little less wrong. What else are we here for?

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