I’ve been trying for five days to write something about the shooting of the Arizona congresswoman on Saturday. I gather from I’ve been hearing and reading that I am not the only person who put their face in their hands and sobbed when they heard the news. Then I braced myself for the onslaught of self-righteous blaming that I knew would wash over the shock.
I wanted to write about the sport of self-righteous blaming. Actually I did write about that. I came up with about 800 words about all the self-righteous blaming that goes on in our social discourse but no matter how I tried to couch it, I ended up sounding self-righteous and blaming. So that was frustrating.
My friend, Nancy, who teaches college-level English and can point out every time I have deconstructed a thought, might say that my preaching about people who are self-righteous is a deconstruction of the concept of self-righteousness. I think. Nancy told me she was afraid that one day she would show up in my blog as my friend who doesn’t take adequate cash to yard sales because she forgets she can’t use her credit card. She can stop worrying. She’s Nancy, the friend who can point out every time I have deconstructed a thought.
I deleted the preachy blog. Then I twiddled my thumbs and played free-cell solitaire. Not at the same time.
I wished my cats would do something outrageous or one of my students would say something funny or vice versa. I wished I would run into another loud phone talker so I could pick a fight and write about that.
The only thing that has disturbed the cats recently was the fact of there being snow outside both doors of the house, but I commented on that last time it snowed and I don’t want to repeat myself on top of sounding self-righteous and blaming.
My students are pre-occupied with upcoming finals so they aren’t saying interesting things; they just come in looking stunned.
The only loud phone talker I’ve encountered recently was walking in the neighborhood and was shortly out of ear-shot so it might have been mistaken for harassment for me to follow her down the street complaining that I didn’t want to hear about her hemorrhoids.
I watched that internet video of the cats playing pat-a-cake 23 times while I wrestled with how to not sound preachy and grandiose.
Then I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and couldn’t put it down. That was a huge distraction.
I still want to say something about the incident in Arizona but it’s been hard to think about. Every time I put down The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was there, gnawing at me. So for what they are worth, here are some thoughts that had a bit of traction before they hit dead-ends, strayed into frustration, or disintegrated into self-righteous blaming:
I keep hearing the phrase “senseless crime.” When someone says a crime is senseless, that seems to excuse their throwing up their hands as though to say, “This one isn’t “normal” so I don’t have to think about it. The next one that’s not so egregious–or that doesn’t involve a “mentally imbalanced” person– that one I’ll think about.” Just because meaning is obscure or complex doesn’t make something senseless.
I might add here that I think it’s insulting to mentally ill people to treat this shooting as though it’s no more than we expect from them. There are hundreds of thousands of mentally ill in this country who don’t shoot people. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Issac Newton, Robert Schumann, and John Keats were all “mentally ill.”
After an incident such as the one last weekend, someone always whines, “Where are the Role Models?” Leaving aside how limited I think this concept is, isn’t it interesting that whenever people decry the absence of good role models, they always seem to be suggesting that it is people other than themselves that aren’t setting the good example.
Though it’s a pretty low threshold for Role Model, most of us don’t shoot other people. But my self-righteousness today has temporary amnesia about how badly I behaved yesterday. We all do ugly things and we all declare ourselves to be somehow superior to people who do the same ugly things on the days we don’t. Even though most of us don’t shoot people, we all contribute something to the aggregate of love or fear in the world by our own generosity of spirit or lack of it.
Tragedy and our reactions to it are not senseless. There’s a kind of logic that ushers us around and around the hall of mirrors that is our humanity. We can never know for sure which is another body and which a reflection of our own thoughts.