It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.
-Pirkie Avot 2:16
It was a hard week, friends, and with an active police investigation near G's work it's also turning into a hard day, and so I've doubled up this week's newsletter.
Last Tuesday, a man was shot and killed about a block from where I work. It was the twenty-first gun-related death in Toronto this year. That's a small number for a lot of cities, but for us, it's high. For me in particular, it meant several days of fighting shaking hands and tightening chest, of hiding and forcing myself out of hiding and collapsing back under blankets. I'm mostly recovered from my whole PTSD situation, but weeks like this don't leave a lot of space.
Of course, the weekend held the most fatal mass-shooting event in American history. As I'm writing this, the death count is 50, but with more than fifty more injured, some of them seriously, we don't yet know if it will climb.
I'm so exhausted by this, friends. It's so much. I try so hard not to fall prey to cynicism, which does nobody any good, but it's been a struggle. Obama said in his address that we have to decide if this is the kind of country we want to be, and all I can think is that we have already decided and the answer is yes. How many times has Barack Obama given this address, and how many times has the country responded "yes, yes, this is who we are"? At some point, as with any addiction, I feel like we have to acknowledge who we are right now if we're going to make any changes. Until we finally have more to offer victims past, present, and future than "thoughts and prayers," we can't get anywhere.
I watched the Tony Awards last night partly as a palate cleanser and partly because I'd have watched them anyway. We finagled the antenna to get a strong CTV signal and settled in. The performances were beautiful.
I was, of course, in it for Hamilton, and knew their performance would be worthwhile. For a few days the speculation that they'd perform The Battle of Yorktown was muttered across various channels, and then during the red carpet it was mentioned that they had modified their performance, after the news of Orlando hit, to remove the guns. At first, that seemed like a simple kindness. At the moment of "after a week of fighting, a young man in a red coat stands on a parapet," though, I got a chill. That scene performed without guns may or may not have carried an intentional message, but it spoke volumes either way. A great secret: It can be done without them.
IT CHANGED THE MEANING. DID YOU INTEND THIS?
This morning, I'm feeling less cynical, but now I'm just angry. I'm angry at voices who are amplified by nothing more or less than money, who get to say whatever they want for the rest of us. I'm angry at the distortion of history that allows the words of long-dead men to defend the right of now-living men to kill fifty people in minutes simply for daring to love in public. I'm angry that you are more likely to die by gun than in a car accident in America, and that most of those deaths are entirely, absolutely preventable by stricter legislation and regulation. I'm furious that even now I hear people, people I care about, arguing that, well, there's still violence in gun-restrictive cultures, just with fists and knives, as if one man's fists and knives have ever killed fifty people in the span of five minutes.
I'm angry that despite many, many people wanting, aching to do the hard work of changing the world, the people who have the power to get the work started simply won't. It's not that they can't, but won't. They won't because dollars are more important to them than lives. They won't because rhetoric and outdated rights language that doesn't apply to modern technology is more important than real, existing lives. They won't because they would rather blame someone else than do the work.
Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence.
-From the statement by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy on the devastating Pulse nightclub shootings
The world is wide enough for all of us, for the hummingbirds and ravens, for the wolves and kittens, for the toads and crocodiles, for the Birthday Unending, but we must do the work.
Write, call, make appointments to speak to your representatives. Pay attention to how they vote and what they say and from whom they accept money. Attend vigils. Offer money and blood and resources. Send your anger to the places it belongs. Speak loudly. Speak bravely. Stand up. Do not let yourself be silenced.
Finally, although thanks to personal experience I'm staunchly on the side of not forcing victims and mourners to address political concerns (or anything else) unless and until they actively wish to, everybody else is free to tackle it all head-on at any time. There isn't time to wait until we're not mourning because we're always mourning. So should I ever be a victim of gun violence, you hereby have my express written permission to immediately politicize my death. In the meantime, I challenge anyone who still defends low-restriction gun access to explain to me who it is they think they need to be able to kill.