What Is To Be Done
It’s been about two weeks since I’ve written anything. Well, besides the two essays I’ve had to turn in (who knew you had to do academic work on a school trip?). I could write off the slack in written production due to those essays, the wifi that hasn’t been working in our dorm for three days (some construction guys cut the fiberoptic cable yay), the trip I took to Bath last weekend (more on that to come), the trips to the homes of some of the richest men in 18th century England (good ol’ Houghton Hall and Sir John Soane’s house), or hell, the stomach bug I randomly got Thursday (yayyyyyy). All those things definitely played a role. But, honestly, those things are marginal and surmountable. I found that what kept me from writing was my struggle to find hope in the world. Because when I write, I hope for the words to come together and mean something. That’s been missing.
At the funeral of the police officers slain in Dallas, President Obama said that he felt his words were inadequate. You’re not the only one, Mr. President. With all the brutality that has plagued the world in Ankara, Baghdad, Dhaka, Nice, and Orlando, the killing of unarmed black people–#blacklivesmatter (period), the shooting of policemen patrolling a protest and policemen responding to an armed man on the highway, violence has been a horrifying constant, as if it’s become the world’s dominant language now. Maybe it always has; this is supposed to be the most peaceful time in human history.
Words feel pretty inadequate compared to a (insert caliber) bullet from a sniper rifle. That’s what commentating now feels like: useless. What is there that I can say that hasn’t been said by much smarter, passionate, informed people? And what have their words done to stop these things from happening?
If the words of the President of the United States cannot stop these events from happening, what words can? We all say the same things when these tragedies happen, spout our positions and beliefs to assert our certainty when uncertainty runs amok and unravels any feelings of security and comfort we have. I know I have to try to rouse myself out of this gross numb complacency covering my psyche that almost just goes along with the world being like this. And whenever I talk to my friends/family or read through the Internet (oh boy), I either see a quick word of condolence, followed by a swallowing silence, or a universal human tragedy gets sorted into a polarized binary. Immediately. Trump gives his condolences to Nice, someone says he was probably the reason guys have joined ISIS. Hillary givers her condolences on Dallas, someone says she’s a crook and had the whole thing arranged. Now, those are extreme examples (admittedly without any hard evidence here), but you know what I’m talking about. It’s like these events happen, and there is some sort of machine that immediately make a narrative for one side and another machine makes an opposing narrative. And the Internet perpetuates it, but I’m not so sure it causes or produces this mass division. I think the anonymity and scope of the web has now brought these voices to light.
There are two very separate camps for all the answers, causes, something/one to blame, and what does it do? Make people feel better, like only they know the answers and the problem is with everybody else who just doesn’t get it? Make some people miss any sort of grieving period for the mass loss of life? Make us feel closer to or part of something when community, hope, and humanity all feel like they’re decaying? I don’t know. I’m not saying politics doesn’t influence these horrible things. Faulty policies and a broken (campaign, prison, and horribly racial) system has everything to do with them. But, what about the people who aren’t elected officials, people who hardly have the time in the day to watch a movie let alone be covering the bizarre, cynical carousel of following politics, people who don’t know what to do? What are we all supposed to do? I wish I could give a too oft used answer like other people have: unite together as people through love and grace. I want it to be that. But, I don’t know. Wasn’t that supposed to happen a long time ago? I just really don’t know.
Here are two songs that might echo my sentiments:
“Early” by Run the Jewels – a harrowing tale of police brutality and living in our current surveillance state by rappers Killer Mike and El-P
“Le Cygne (The Swan)” by Camille Saint-Saens: A classical song that reminds me that there is beauty, even in a sad, violent world where the words dissipate and fade.
Inspired by this New Yorker article by Vinson Cunningham: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/obama-and-the-collapse-of-our-common-american-language