Hurt & Loathing in America, Colltalers
Racism. Police violence. Guns. Grief. Inequality. Americans have been desperately trying to find the words that’d lend sense to what happened last week. It’s an almost impossible task: it was not just one of its most brutal, but amid all the acrid smell of spilled blood and gunpowder, it also reeked of repetition and escalation.
When Alton Sterling, of Louisiana, and Philando Castille, of Minnesota, both black and unarmed young men, were shot and killed by cops, it ignited a visceral but expected countrywide reaction of anger and disgust. But then, a black Army vet ambushed and killed five Dallas policemen, and suddenly we landed on new territory.
America’s infected, festering wound, which in over two centuries, never quite healed, is once again bleeding, and while racism oozes, society agonizes in pain, trapped in a vicious cycle with no discerning end. Many of us commiserate, grieving either direct or indirectly, over why we’re still stuck in this, even though we know very well why.
For most of us know exactly why and what has to be done to end this madness. But just as we watch hopelessly another unjustifiable killing followed by another massacre, we remain numb and desensitized, convinced that there’s little that can be done, and what there is won’t be probably put into effect, even if hell and high water is all we see.
A self-defeating delusion, to be sure, but one that holds some logic to it, since it’d take more than the proverbial ‘little things’
often invoked by shallow policymakers, as needed to stop the bleeding. For the whole country has to be on the same page about racism, and police bias, and rampant criminality, and disfranchisement, and disconnect.
They were all or in part at full display in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas this past week. Arguably, the worst part of being hurt is to be aware that the best solution to stop it is not even an option. Like the pain of even a flesh-wound gun shot in the arm, which could easily go away if the limb were severed, but who’s ready for that?
So we endure and grieve and regress to basic feelings of anger and frustration, rather than hoping beyond hope that we’ll ever be in the same page about race and class inequality, inclusion and social justice. Thus the reason for that soldier to gave in to fake retribution and revenge, and winding up contributing to more collective misery.
The irony of America acting like a hurt teenager when facing such complex issues is the fact that we often not only lecture the world on exercising magnanimity when dealing with ethnic and social differences, but inflict and make it pay for our own contradictions. No wonder there’s little sympathy from abroad about this particular foe of ours.
Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, refugees, migrants, and a whole set of countries and regions that have been forced to host our wars, know that for every flesh wound, there’s a potential escalation into dismemberment and death; that the sound of battles is their only possible lullaby; and that help won’t be forthcoming unless it’s for our best interest.
Given that they’re bound to live with this sense of dread, this ever-present state of mortal danger, a reason for the world’s lack of empathy with our predicament may be the fact that it’s actually baffled by our impotence to heal. For isn’t this the very reason why we spend more than anyone else in defense, so to preserve peace in the homeland?
Instead, even our police departments resemble small armies, and mass killings are now as common and American as baseball and ingenuity once were. We’re searching for the right word, the correct tone, the adequate remedy to what essentially we’ve incorporated as integral to our D.N.A., our M.O.: we shoot, that’s what we do in the U.S.
We come up empty on this one. This post can’t offer comfort to the wounded and their broken social ties, without sounding itself hypocritical. Thus we share the pain. We’re hurting, we need to stop shooting, and there’s no way but down from now on. We know what needs to be done, and it must be done together. A better week to all. WC