Loving in Violent Times

We are drowning in death. Mexico executes its own teachers in Oaxaca. A homophobe opens fire in an Orlando nightclub; a racist does the same in a Charleston church. Another indigenous environmental activist is gunned down in Honduras less than four months after the murders of two other prominent organizers. Bombings and shootings in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, and an attack at Medina in the final days of Ramadan, akin to invading the Vatican at Christmas. So many deaths in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Lebanon, Lybia, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen that we stop paying attention. Every 28 hours in the U.S., a Black man, woman or child is shot by police. The onslaught never stops. We alternately witness, express outrage, march, curl inwards around our own pain, and resign ourselves to more of the same.

Those of us lucky enough to be alive tend to fall into two major camps: Identifying with each loss (or as many as hit the news) and wracking our hearts and minds for solutions; or miniziming the deaths, justifying and trying to explain them away.

It’s easy to shut down in the face of violence, to hide under the blankets, distracted by our passtimes or political convictions. But always pretending that the pain is not real because it hurts too much.

A few decades ago, the phrase “going postal” signaled serious danger and the acknowledgement that such an act of violence was rooted in mental illness. It constrasted with rhetoric about “drivebys” as a social pathology of violence brutalizing inner cities.

We’ve witnessed a sit-in for gun control in the U.S. House of Representatives, but no real changes are on the horizon.

I am in mourning for all lives lost all over the world, yesterday, this year and over the centuries. I’ve been dreaming about genocide, present and historical, for over a month. Shortly after Orlando, I awoke to visions of mushroom clouds, heard the cries of all those lost at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I felt the pain lives lost in acts of colonization and genocide: Wounded Knee, Tenochtitlan, Tulsa, the Holocaust, turn of the century pogroms, Rwanda, Vietnam, Yugoslavia.

Basta ya — enough is enough. Wishing there was greater international compassion for Muslim communities reeling from recent bombings and shootings. Wishing more folks cared about teachers massacred in Oaxaca last month. I understand the political-economics of targeted media/social media silence but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Eid Mubarak to those in mourning while they should be celebrating the end of Ramadan. Que Viva la Gente to those struggling to survive governments hostile to their own people. Prayers that the rest of us find compassion for other’s suffering even as we continue to mourn Orlando and the accumulated losses of our own communities.

Racism is real. Hatred is real. Violence is real. Oppression is real. And yet so is love, so is love, so is love.