Friday, July 15, 2016

Over there, over here

I'm not quite sure how to deal with the violence of our time.

This month: Police, charged with protecting the public, seemingly shooting innocents rather than criminals. These incidents are immediately followed by a criminal individual shooting innocent police officers in Dallas. All this while the entire nation is still reeling over the Orlando nightclub shootings and the slaughter of all those innocents last month. And of course we still have the airport bombing in Turkey and the mass murders in Paris in the backs of our minds.

Then this week: A Bastille Day celebration in beautiful Nice turned into a bloodbath.

Then today: A possible military coup in Turkey, one of the only Middle Eastern countries considered a good, safe transportation hub to go through on your way to and from various points in Europe, Africa and Asia. As of this moment, the airport is closed to anyone wanting to leave and The Men With Guns are running the show. Seems like you could say that about a lot of different places.

And who knew? Who could have predicted any of these things?

I would imagine if, for example,  you're trying to get to or from somewhere in Europe or the Middle East today and ended up in Turkey, you probably are 1) scared for your life, and 2) having a horrible moment of clarity when you realize you've definitely ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It seems like a lot of people recently have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have paid with their lives. It seems like too many people have had to experience the awful realization that they are in a terrible situation, real time, and there's nothing they can do about it.

How do we process things such as this? People lucky enough to live in relatively unpopulated areas, such as myself, sometimes feel as though they are watching an alien world, all from a distance, whether they are on a homestead in Central California, a farm in the Cotswolds, or a cattle ranch in Argentina. The horror of what's going on is on the evening news or the internet, but only as long as we look at the screen. 

It's not down the street or even on the other side of town. But that doesn't mean it's not still horrifying.

Living where I do, I don't have to worry (much) about terrorists or rogue police officers or military coups. And at times like this, it feels like a huge divide between "here" and "there." Even if you're in a city apartment there is probably "here" and "there." Here, your cozy flat with the tea kettle singing, the house plants growing and a cat or two at your feet. Out there, Armageddon.

Am I the only one who feels a little guilty turning away from the news and just walking back into the comfortable routine of my normal life while others are suffering so horribly? I watch the sun set, I listen to the birds in the trees, and it seems somehow disrespectful to those who are still living in very real fear at the exact same moment. Yet there is also comfort in it. The sun will still rise tomorrow, for me anyway, and that becomes something to hold onto, something to look forward to, along with the beautiful routine of my day to day life, something I may not have appreciated as much before the sidewalk massacres started happening.

And if you think this is where I mention that time-honored cliche that we all have to get out there to public events, to airports and to foreign lands as we normally do or the terrorists and bullies of the world are winning, I do not believe that. There is no way I'd want to be in Europe right now, and I have family there. There is no way I'd want to be black in certain parts of this country. 

There's a primitive instinct that tells us to stay put when things seem to be getting chaotic "over there," (wherever "there" happens to be) and the primitive part of my brain is happy to be who I am, where I am right now. And I can't say I'm blessed, because then it implies that those less fortunate or of a different color or geographic locale are un-blessed, unwatched over somehow, and that's unacceptable. 

So I'll just say I'm lucky. Does that work?

But how do we negotiate our increasingly violent world? For me, the tendency is to pull inward.  To walk my property at sunset, watch dumb "Christmas in July" programs on television...anything that tells me there is goodness and routine still to be had within the boundaries of my blessed/lucky-so-far life.

And I guess I can be thankful for that and mournful at lives lost "over there" at the same time. But I still can't help but wonder where we all go from here; when "here" becomes a haven and a shelter from "there." One thing is for sure, and that is that we never really know the distance between the two. Because every place  is "here" until the bullets start flying and you realize you're now the one who has ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And then you find you're now "there" too. I hope you all stay safely within the bounds of "here" as we collectively attempt to figure this all out.


  1. I say it all the time but you are such a talented writer. There's nothing to say but you say something and say it well. I feel a bit out of touch and guilty going about my life and appreciating it more. It seems insensitive and wrong but I had moments like yours too. Yesterday morning I just sat outside sort of entranced by the trees, how the wind and the shifting clouds illuminated and shadowed them. I try to remind myself the only power I have is to be nice and try to create in the world rather than destroy. Just like you. Of course it's a bit easier for us because you can offer people wine and I can (hopefully) make people feel beautiful. I guess wine helps in that department too.

    1. WIne and good hair does help; I hope those sheltering in place in Turkey have both! And thank you for the compliment; writing is such a great outlet for frustrations like these! No, I guess for better or worse, you and I cannot change anything or lessen tragedy, except in local ways. But that's the way of the world, isn't it? Someone gets hit by a tornado and two hours away it's business as usual with not a cloud in sight. Perhaps global awareness is not always a good thing if we're helpless to change anything. Modern media makes us aware of others' suffering, but we're helpless to affect it in any way. Hence the need for wine. : )

  2. Beautifully written. You have expressed my thoughts exactly.

  3. Beautifully written. You have expressed my thoughts exactly.