I wouldn’t say I’m the best at communicating anguish when I hear about something terrible happening to someone. I certainly feel the pain. But when I try to express how horrified I am, or how sorry I am, it all comes out in this stilted and young vocabulary. By ‘young’ I mean, the words I use are ones that two year olds have mastery of, like bad, sorry, hug, wow, feel sick.
Some people have the gift of immediate and profound responses, or can at least show how deeply they feel something by crying right along with the person.
Not me. I have trouble finishing my sentences. And, I can’t even reveal my sympathy with tears. I’m on anti-anxiety medicine and while it has made me more human, in some respects, it’s also made me more robotic in that I rarely cry. The tears are in there, just waiting behind the eyelids for release, but it’s like they’re jammed. No matter how much I’m feeling.
So, that being said, when I think about Orlando and everything that’s happened there in the past week, I’m at a loss to communicate. This is the fourth version of a blog post I’ve started, and not one has adequately said what I feel.
I’ve tried to write about other things this week, but that isn’t working out either.
To not write about Orlando feels like trying to unsuccessfully squeeze past something that fills up the whole, entire room. And yet, writing about it feels impossible, too.
Each day there were new people to mourn, new motives to consider, and new aspects of hate that emerged. And, so much pain. My mind keeps taking shifts with the pain of those who loved Christina Grimme, the pain of all the people killed or injured at Pulse, the pain of everyone who loved them, and now the pain of those parents whose two year old was killed by the alligator in Florida.
That last one is hitting me the hardest, I must admit. It’s probably because I’m a first time mother and just experiencing the caliber of love that you feel for your child. It’s unique and boundless, really. I now understand what my mom means when she says she’s “only as happy as her least happy child.”
The idea that these people had to watch their baby be attacked and dragged out of sight by an alligator is almost too much to think about. How do you survive something like that, emotionally? How?
In some effort of self-torture, I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of those parents and imagine, minute by minute, what they’re going through and how I would feel in each of these unfolding moments if it was Laken. I’ll say this–I don’t think I could survive it. I’d have grabbed on to that alligator and not let go until it took me down, too.
I don’t think that type of agony is communicable for anyone. Not even for the very best outward sympathizers.
As I went through Facebook this week, there were all kinds of videos and temporary profile pictures showing solidarity with Orlando. There were inspirational photos, quotes, debates, links to news articles, and impassioned status updates in reaction to everything that happened.
As someone born in the 1970’s who didn’t even have an email account or regular use of the Internet until college, it still fascinates me that we can have an immediate dialogue with just about everyone we’ve ever met about current issues as they unfold. It’s neat, actually.
So, I’d like to share two things that were posted this week that stuck with me. They seem to be linked in terms of their message.
The first is a video clip of Stephen Colbert reacting to the massacre at Pulse. (I’ve included it at the end of this post, just in case you haven’t seen it.)
In a way, I feel like he gave me permission to not attempt a direct response about what happened. As he says, we can all imagine the script. We’ve heard it before, many times now, all eloquent and heartfelt. We can imagine what a president would say, what a newscaster would say, and maybe even what a blogger might say in response to all the news coming out of Orlando.
So maybe there’s no real need for me to stutter about my grief in this post. I’m sure we all know and share it, already.
Perhaps it’s less about what we say and more how we carry on from here. I’m not even necessarily referring to gun control, or the bigger ‘issues.’ The question is–how will these events shape our attitude? The way we view and interact with each other and our surroundings?
Colbert’s message stresses the importance of love combating hate. One of my favorite lines is when he says that love is a verb, and that it requires us to act.
The second post I’d like to share is a picture that one of my best friends posted. For homework, her son had to write sentences using the vocabulary words he’s learning and here’s what he wrote;
I think, if given ‘world’ as a vocabulary word–most adults would write a very different sentence right now, especially after this week. Depending on your stance, your homework sentence may be something like;
This world is messed up.
I can’t imagine what will happen to the world if Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton becomes president.
There’s something wrong with a world where people are able to get their hands on weapons designed for the military that are capable of killing mass amounts of people.
I should not have to go through the world defenseless, without weapons and unable to protect myself.
People around the world find the United States scary. (Sadly, I’ve spoken to several German friends this week who said this exact thing. They’re increasingly viewing the U.S.A. as a place where the potential to be shot, for any reason at all, is high.)
Some Americans would like to keep out people from other areas of the world, especially Mexicans, refugees, and Muslims.
What in the world were those parents thinking when they let their child wade into that water, despite the ‘No Swimming’ signs?
What in the world is wrong with people who would criticize parents going through such a horrific thing? Is there any parent in the world who hasn’t looked away for one second? Accidentally let their kid do something potentially dangerous?
So when my friend posted this sentence her little boy came up with at the end of a horrific week in American history, it just about knocked me over with its beautiful, open-hearted simplicity. The irony is jarring, obviously. After a week like this one, that sentence seems to be in stark contrast to anything else a person would write at this moment in time. Maybe that’s what makes it so powerful.
It’s a sentence that made me yearn, that’s for sure.
My friend’s son is living in a world that isn’t yet filled up with the topics that have come out swinging as a result of all this recent tragedy. It’s a world that isn’t crushed at the center of sentences about pain, death, guns, fear of where your country is headed, homophobia and rage.
He’s too young to be called ignorant. But, even so, it’s bliss; it’s what he’s known of the world so far.
So, what have these two posts convinced me of?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure. I’ve come back to this part of the post repeatedly today, trying to articulate why I found Colbert’s video and the sentence my friend’s son wrote this week so touching.
All I can come up with is that tragedy incites emotions that seem to be in direct opposition to each other. On one hand, we hold our family members tighter. We cry (or, in my case, wish our anti-anxiety meds would let us cry) about strangers. Airlines offer to fly family members to Florida. Candlelight vigils take place all over the world. People donate to GoFundMe. Pay for the funerals of people they’ll never know.
But, conversely, tragedy fills us with grief, anger, confusion, and debate. It makes us feel uneasy about and intolerant of each other. It makes us point fingers.
I think I saw what my friend’s son wrote and, for me, it drove home Colbert’s message.
If we allow ourselves to believe the sentence that little boy wrote is only a temporary state of being that will eventually be wiped out by the awful truth–then, as Colbert said, it’s a victory for hate.
And we can’t have that.