I didn't bother reading the article, as I could see that it was regarding the tragic incident that occurred in Aurora, CO last week, and I didn't want to be totally depressed before going to bed. So I simply left a comment (which I thought was pretty hilarious) that read, "Is your face imitating your butt?"
This morning I had an indignant text from this friend, so we spent an hour arguing about whether my comment was appropriate. He wanted me to stay on topic, to give my opinion. But I honestly didn't have an opinion. The incident in Aurora happened so far from me. "Does it really make a difference to me and my community?" I asked.
He then accused me of apathy.
I suppose such an assumption might likely follow a comment like the one I made above. But there was more to what I was trying to say.
Perhaps by now I've become known for writing about tragic events. I've written poems and/or prose about the earthquake in Haiti, about the murder of a former marine by SWAT in Arizona, about police repression of folks feeding the homeless in Orlando; not to mention my many writings on Occupy Wall Street, sweatshop abuses, homelessness, the impacts of war, militarism, imperialism, racism, (hetero-)sexism and all other kinds of violence. Heck, I even have an album of Protest Songs!*
"Is your face imitating your butt?"
Yet I'm accused of apathy. So I explained:
I honestly have no opinion about what happened in Aurora other than that it is one incredibly tragic incident, the product of a deeply sick and violent society (and personally I think we need look little farther than the government, police, and military for the gunman's inspiration); and I think that all the hype and bullshit that we hear in the media about censoring art and gun control is little more than a smoke screen that will:
1) silence artists who reveal the truth about violence in society,
2) ensure that people continue to have dualistic political squabbles that
3) turn out only to have an oppressive effect, if any at all, and
4) keep us distracted and ignorant of the pain, death, destruction, poverty, and hurt in our own communities, while...
5) and most importantly of all, folks are sure to be too afraid of their neighbors to reach out and help them.
Bread. And. Circus.
Ultimately, I am totally unable to help the people of Aurora, CO in almost any viable way. I can't rescue them, I can't even console them. I'm totally broke, so I can't send money. The most I can do is send them my sympathies from behind a computer screen hundreds of miles away (done).
But there's one thing that I will not do. I refuse to engage in all the media-fueled-hyper-paranoia that always follows events like this.
Because I suspect that even while we entertain these questions regarding the pain and suffering of people who live thousands of miles away, we ignore the pain and suffering in our midst, on our streets and doorsteps, in our parks, schools, workplaces and homes. There are people in my own community who are hurt, broken, grieving, dying, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned; even crazy, violent, psychopathic. At the same time, there are plenty of folks who are friendly, beautiful, compassionate, joyful, generous. I would rather join with these people, to walk in solidarity and reconciliation, together, to benefit my own community where I live, serve, and spend my time than to pontificate about the sensibilities and inspirations of a psychopathic murderer.
Am I apathetic? I don't think so. The opposite of apathy, after all, is empathetic action. And this is precisely how I've committed my time, in my community, for the foreseeable future.
In this same vein, I encourage you to consider: what can you do today to preclude violence, resist empire, make peace, educate your neighbors? I assure you that whatever that is, it will be a thousand times more effectual than arguing about the impact of so-called violent games and media on our youth or the perils of gun ownership. You can start by asking yourself: What is the change I wish to see? Then take some practical steps to be and do that change.
Perhaps then we can move together, in community, like sunflowers pursuing the sun.
** shameless plug - Heliotropism is the title for my first full-length album, to be released in mid-September!