Monday, June 13, 2016

Pinning a Ribbon to My Soul

That numb spot in the middle of my soul today...

I was fairly worried about it.

It's the place I usually go to visit my horror and outrage and overwhelming sadness over evil in the world. It's that crack inside my "go along/get along" vessel that allows me to feel compassion and broken-heartedness when other people suffer. It's what I often write about here - the things I find when I sit with my soul.

But today...I felt locked out of that place. I was there, knocking at the door, but there was just no answer. No sounds of life inside, either. It was as if the tenderness that lives in that deepest part of me had put out a DO NOT DISTURB sign and gone to hide under the covers.

I was there, of course, looking for some authentic feelings about what happened in the wee hours of yesterday inside a busy night club in Orlando, Florida. Forty-nine happy, Saturday fun-seekers were slaughtered while they danced, flirted, and drank their last drink of the evening. Fifty-three others were wounded. Who knows how many more were completely ruined by the terror that ran through their veins for three horrible hostage hours...

I began the day by trying to write about the gun - the AR-15. That designer weapon of choice for America's mass shooters. The guns feature prominently in a novel I wrote about snipers and war. I went back to my research today, scoured a website called for statistics, and even tried to figure out how a regular person living in the suburbs of Austin would buy a weapon of mass destruction like an AR-15. I discovered it's entirely too easy. I can get my hands on an AR-15 much quicker than I can find an ounce of weed in my neighborhood...I'm fairly certain of that. It's easier than buying two boxes of Twitter reminded us months ago. response from inside the depths of me. The statistics (138 dead in mass killings in the US over the first 165 days of the year) fell flat. The charts and graphs comparing gun deaths from country to country (the USA is definitely a strong #1 in this category), just made my head hurt. Friends and family urging me to join Moms Demand Action (I joined months ago) produced a smile. But a sad one.

And so, here at the end of the day, I have done what I've known all along I must do. I have looked at the names and pictures of every victim of yesterday's unbelievable massacre. In the process, I have managed to superimpose my own son onto the handsome face of Eddie Justice, who was texting his mother from the bathroom where he had hoped to escape death. He didn't.

I have imagined my own niece, videoing the last dance of the night and inadvertently recording the last dance of her life, in the face of Amanda Alvear.

I have studied every wonderful, full-of-life face that culled from the internet. I have sighed deep sighs and written these words.

It's not the fact that the people killed so violently Sunday morning might have been gay that gets me...although I do have dear, dear people in my life who are gay and they now have reason to feel more afraid. It is the very presence of these beautiful human faces on my computer screen that has finally propelled me to the heart-brokeness that every American should be feeling today.

These are the faces of our own sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers. Their lives mattered. You can see that when you look at the photos.

But we live in a country where one sick bastard can buy an $800 military weapon and shoot these people down while they dance.

My soul is tired and frightened. But it has let me in to cry tonight.

In our rush to join a cause, carry a candle, blame a system...I hope we will be still long enough to look into these faces and simply begin to pray for a kinder, gentler world.