We belong to one another
and we can do so much better
You may have noticed I didn’t send something this morning, as per my usual. I had something scheduled, but it didn’t feel right after yesterday’s headlines (this week’s headlines, this month’s headlines, this year’s headlines, the last 2 years of headlines…).
I dropped my kids off at school today for their last days of kindergarten and 2nd grade. In a couple of hours, I will go back for a little kindergarten promotion ceremony and party for our Stella. She wore a hand-me-down dress with a suit vest over it—her own transcendent definition of “looking fancy.”
Maya is beyond excited because we are having a playdate this afternoon with her two best friends—Layla and Misgana. They have dubbed themselves the MALS and written an original song, choreographed an original dance, and of course, created the requisite secret handshake. This is a layered expression of their devotion for one another, a sentiment I remember so well from being that age and falling madly in love with my friends and the feeling of belonging to a few people.
The 21 people who were murdered yesterday by someone carrying an AK-47 belonged to so many people. The 10 people murdered last Saturday belonged to so many people.
As I oscillate in and out of being able to think and feel this morning, I keep reminding myself: the 19 children murdered yesterday are no less real than my two girls. Their caregivers are no less real than me. Their teachers—two now dead—are no less real than Ms. Galvin and Ms. Price and all the other teachers I have come to respect so much.
If I sit with that—our equal and shared realness—I feel like a Redwood, burned out from the inside, like I’m here, but there is nothing left inside of me that can be solid in the face of that level of real loss. I imagine what it would be like if I were the mother of one of the murdered children. I can only imagine I would be in a coma—spontaneously or by some kind of medical intervention. I know people survive profound loss, and yet, I am incapable of imagining myself opening my eyes ever again if one of my daughters was murdered, much less my heart or my mouth.
And then I think of the parents of the Sandy Hook victims—how they did, somehow, manage to open their hearts and mouths again. And how this day must feel to them.
I think of the teachers—the trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma they have been shouldering. The absence and outburst and tears they have been meeting with resilience and unconditional love and an eternal commitment to learning.
I think of the first responders who had to walk into that school and witness those little bodies, into that supermarket and witness those innocent victims. What will they do with those images burned into their minds?
I’ve been trying to do my work this morning, which I can justify has some linkage with building a better world, a better country, but part of me just feels like we should all be lying in the streets right now, refusing to move one more muscle, toast one more waffle, tweet one more tweet, until our kids can expect to live through a day at school and our aunties and uncles to pick up groceries without fearing for their lives.
Some people in this country, as I understand it, are preparing for a kind of war. A race war. Maybe a war for their own sense of superiority in a country with a changing demographic, their sense of control in a season of so little of it, their sense of invincibility when we are all objectively so vulnerable.
I am preparing for a long-awaited after school play date between three girls whose families come from different countries, speak different languages, and yet their love for one another is evident in hand slaps and coordinated spins. I am preparing to hear 25 five-year-olds sing this song, which may, in fact, prove too tender on a day where I am so excruciatingly tender already.
Which is to say, I am preparing for love and care and a fierce resistance to anybody who tries to normalize this level of loss. Death comes for all of us. We have a lot of work to do in acknowledging that vulnerability.
But death by AK-47 need not come for any of us. We have a moral mandate, long neglected, to make that truth undeniable. If it takes donation, walk-out, laying down in the street to make that clear, whatever it takes, I’m there, beside you, tender as hell.
Take care of yourself today. Gather with others. Rely on your rituals or make them up. We belong to each other.