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