Shootings change the look of everything

What a difference a week makes. Last week I posted about binge-watching comforting TV shows to get away from the real world. I had no idea how much more frightening the world would become. Three mass shootings in eight days. Thirty-two dead, many more wounded. I’m afraid to type this for fear another shooting will happen today. I’m starting to feel like our nation is at war with itself. People are afraid to express their views for fear the people they’re talking to are on the other side of the red-blue divide. We never know where some young man with an assault rifle will start shooting random people. Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton. Where next? I’m drawn to the news reports, yet I know I need to stop listening. I can’t sleep. How about you?

While the latest shootings happened, I was at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland. It was a great chance to hang out with writer friends, buy each other’s books, and learn about writing and publishing. And wow, the pastries the Airport Sheraton puts out. We tried to stay in our writer bubble as long as possible before tuning in to the constant news reports listing the numbers of dead and wounded. On the way home, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe in my car I was safe because I was not standing in a crowd. Would I be safe if I stopped at the mall? Even as we keep praying that the shootings stop and that stronger gun laws will be passed so deluded kids can’t get assault rifles, we can’t forget the sound of the gunshots from the videos played repeatedly on the TV news.

The shooters were mentally ill, the president says. I think they have been brainwashed to believe that certain kinds of people deserve to die, that a brown mother, father or child is less deserving of life than a white one. What makes people cross the line? Social media, violent games and movies, the president’s rhetoric? I don’t know. Something makes the shooters decide it’s okay to kill people. It’s horrifying. Please God, let it stop.

I will not talk politics here. It doesn’t feel safe, and I like to keep a happy blog. Instead, I will share this poem I wrote after the Gilroy shootings a week ago. Gilroy, named after one of my ancestors, John Gilroy, is close to my heart. About 30 miles south of San Jose, it’s where I had my first full-time newspaper job, and it’s close enough to home that any of my loved ones might have been there.

THIS TIME IT’S GILROY

Little boy licking an ice cream cone,
Mom trying on a crocheted hat,
old lady fanning herself with her program.

The summer air reeks of garlic
grown in the nearby fields,
chopped, minced, bottled, sold.

Why not hold a festival,
sell garlic hats, garlic bread,
garlic cookies, garlic pie?

Everybody comes. Why not?
Something to do in late July.
Safe. They scan you coming in.

And then they hear the shots.
Firecrackers, someone says
before they see the blood, the boy

killed, ice cream melting in the dirt.
People falling, screaming, running.
Rides stilled, music stopped.

Cops take the shooter down.
We can never ask him why
he cut through the chain link fence.

News cameras, press conference:
Mayor, police chief, the haggard guy
who organized the festival.

Behind them, Christmas Hill park
waits to be cleared of litter, bullets, blood
while the stink of garlic lingers on.

Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2019

 

 

 

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Hang onto each other as the world goes nuts

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } I’m watching the Sitka spruce trees behind my house dance in the wind against a partly blue sky. It’s not quite sunny. In fact, as I write, the clouds are expanding and darkening, but it’s brighter than the twilight we have experienced the last few days. Last night’s gusts tossed my hot tub cover across the yard like a Frisbee and sent my recycle bin halfway to Seal Rock. Small branches are scattered around the yard. But I seem to have escaped major damage. That’s not true everywhere. As I was driving home from Newport yesterday, signs were sailing across Highway 101 and branches were flying. The wind threatened to toss my Honda off the Yaquina Bridge. This morning, all the major roads east are blocked by debris and fallen trees.

Tomorrow it may snow. Or just rain like crazy while we hurry to build an ark or at least stretch tarps over our leaky roofs. It’s a stormy time on the Oregon coast, but this is typical of December.
What is not typical is all the violence happening in our world. A gunman opens fire at a shopping mall in Oregon, killing two strangers plus himself. Another gunman kills 20 kids and six employees of an elementary school in Connecticut. Before he went to the school, he killed his mother. Finally he killed himself. He was only 20 years old. All of us watching on our televisions are horrified and heartbroken.
There is more violence all over the world, people getting killed more often in greater numbers, but here in the U.S., we think it won’t happen to us. My city, Newport, is even smaller than Newtown, Connecticut, but we have seen violence, too. Remember Christian Longo, who killed his wife and three children, put the wife and one child in a suitcase in Yaquina Bay and the other two kids in the water in Alsea Bay? He’s in jail now. Remember the guy who shot the cop in Lincoln City and led local law enforcement on a two-day manhunt that came up empty? They never have found him. Remember the too-many people who have died here in boating accidents or gotten swept off the jetty or taken out to sea by sneaker waves?
We’ve had plenty of natural disasters that surprise us with their power. Superstorm Sandy was the most recent, but it seems to happen more and more. One day, life is fine, and the next day it’s over.
It’s hard to find something to hang onto when you know that at anytime a gunman, a sneaker wave, a flood, or big gust of wind can take it all away. For some of us, it’s God and a life beyond this one. For all of us, it’s each other. It’s ironic that all of this is happening at Christmas time. But the holidays bring people together, and that’s exactly what we need right now. Put up the bright lights, enjoy the good food, have fun giving each other presents. If it becomes a chore, stop and just enjoy being alive and safe and together.
The blue sky is gone now, and it’s about to rain. It may snow here tomorrow. Let’s hug each other and hold on.