Connecticut

kids in Sandy Hook

(which should be synonymous with mountains and old timey New England and all definition of quaint, but now isn’t)

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

First off, I feel lame writing – typing – this.  some stupid letter to the void that is the internet, as if I were some twelve year old, mixed with fledgling ennui and naivete, sending a message in a bottle out on the ocean…  I guess I just needed something somewhere.  still don’t know what.  no one at the moment, really, to talk to and I apparently needed something a bit more than just my own hollow thoughts.  I’m babbling…

I don’t know what I supposedly “need,” and I hate even putting it that way.  (literally, I need nothing.  I have food, shelter, basic health, so that’s it.)  I…ok, let’s start over.

There are no words.  There are no answers.  and I don’t know how to feel.  I feel too much and too little at the same time.  (thus has been my experience with grief)  I feel…gutted.  and on mute at the same time.  (on mute, on lithium, blank, apathetic…or any other analogy…)  I don’t personally know anyone in Connecticut, so I have that removal of distance and impersonality.  and even when I feel, I know it would never come close to those actual families…  maybe I have a tinge of guilt in there…as in, how dare I feel sad, I know nothing of loss, I don’t even have kids.  But I have another kind of guilt – if that’s the word – too, basically regarding routine, rather menial, tasks.

Today, one of the people I live with got in a little fit because some of her xmas lights had burnt out.  I was sour about her reaction, to say the least.  Twenty little kindergarteners were gunned to death and you’re pissed about some damn lights?  …but I didn’t say anything …(until later…which led to a long, well-intentioned, but ultimately unhelpful discussion about people’s individual reactions to grief.  with side tracks into topics of honesty and facades.  and, as any conversation with my family/family’s friends entails, gross misunderstandings abound… in this case, I felt that if people were on the verge of tears, that they should weep openly in the grocery store if they felt like it, whereas they felt that people should have a sense of restraint, not only for social acceptance and “a time and place for these things,” but also out of need for privacy and so forth, or that they choose to set aside those emotions in public places, because that’s what they need to do…I thought that this could be more repressive, and I headed down a road of, “are these cultural differences?” – in less PC terms, do WASPy people just unhealthily bury their emotions for propriety’s sake, whereas maybe it’d be healthier to sob openly in the cleaning aisle?…)

beside the point…

I feel that, even sans emotion, it would be somehow disrespectful to those families to perform basic petty tasks.  I suppose some things do need to be done.  The garbagemen (and women) need to collect the garbage, the postal workers need to deliver the mail.  in other words, poor slums, self included, have to punch in and punch out, enduring dreary pointless hours of underpaid work, regardless, because money needs to be earned. or, especially with some jobs, tasks need to be performed.  but, do all of them?  I mean, if you have some money, if you can sacrifice a day or two of work, and you only have some dumb menial job – office work or retail or something – what’s the point of showing up?  Yes, people need their mail, their garbage cleared, their pipes fixed…but do they need their shops open?

Extend this out… why wash dishes, buy groceries, take a shower…it’s all meaningless when some little six year old was gunned down.  Isn’t doing anything so petty in some way disrespectful?  How could I think about mundane tasks in light of this?

The counter view is that people need to do those things, perhaps because a sense of routine, or doing today what you did yesterday, is comforting.

Beyond personal struggles with dealing with the mundane, it all seemed exacerbated as a cashier.  I saw quite a few people today.  The same old coworkers, and many customers.  People who were assholes and idiots yesterday, were assholes and idiots today.  (not that all were, certainly)  People were cheerfully shopping for xmas baubles; people buying ordinary household items.  just like it was any other day.  and the store pumped it’s endless grating (if you work there and are constantly exposed) holiday songs…which bothered me even more because of that stark juxtaposition of all this cheeriness (forced or real).  I didn’t see one person looking bummed out, none of my coworkers talked about it.  (well, one hint.  one usually cheerful coworker, who has been dressing as Santa every weekend in the store, did not today.)

and I felt fake too, spewing the cashier script that’s basically mandated.  did everyone have a collective facade?  did many people just not hear the news?  were people pretending it didn’t happen?  Likely, people were upset, but not something I would have noticed, experiencing a snapshot of people for thirty seconds of their day.  maybe most people aren’t going to break down in a store, or even just look down.  (they’re better at mustering that than I since, curse or benefit, I wear my emotions on my sleeve)  how large an event has to transpire for everyone to react, to pause, to not go about their daily routine?  (and wasn’t this one big enough?  to me, I could maybe argue that it hit me harder than 9/11, though that doesn’t seem to be the nation’s reaction…maybe because with 9/11 there was also fear…at the time, people thought we were under attack by another country, rather than just a few extremists…maybe 9/11 was so much worse because of the image of seeing the planes crash live, because of the iconic building, because of the multiple locations, and the sheer number of people killed…of course it was horrible…but this one, this one, was not against a college campus or the random public, it specifically targeted little kids…that is an entirely worse magnitude of horror…at the risk of being trite, there was a line in The Hobbit, “beyond the count of grief,” and I think that’s apt.)

It bothered me that everyone could just go about their day.  and self included – why did I go to work, why clean dishes…  But, on a larger scale, this is existence.  Murder has happened since the dawn of time, human nature.  Jack the Ripper happens, it goes down in history, but people collectively move on and it sinks into the past.  The Holocaust happened….it’s remembered, it’s ingrained in history, and a deep scar for innumerable people personally, until the generations pass, and the next generation may think of it only as a question on a history test, while they text away on their iPhones.  The world, vast in time and space, is apathetic.  What’s the phrase, one death is a tragedy, mass death is a statistic?  either way, it will past and fade, given enough time.  Though, the human experience isn’t about eras, it’s about every minute to minute experience.

I shouldn’t be so prosaic, and rambling again.  maybe I’m trying to pin down grief, which can’t be defined, since everyone reacts differently, though perhaps generally within the confines of their culture.  That five stages thing – Denial, Depression, Anger, Bargaining, Acceptance – is actually a load of crap.  Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross essentially just made it up, and there has really been no substantial research to support it’s accuracy.  They’ve found that each person reacts differently, with a mix of emotions, rather than stages, and have not found that people, in general, all react the same way to grief in this pattern, which Kuebler-Ross describes.  and yet this five stages idea is still generally accepted by the public.

What I have found is that grief is, among other things, insidious.  You think you’re fine, and then you notice some small detail, and it cracks into you.  (you’re in the grocery store and you see a box of Mac n Cheese and you remember they liked Mac n Cheese, or you just realized you were wearing your loved one’s old T-shirt, or…a song or a smell stirs up bittersweet memories….these small but powerful mementos)  anger and even hate can be part of grief.  or you can’t make decisions.

but this one, for me, is different.  because it’s not a personal loss.  It’s a large scale national loss.  like 9/11, there’s this larger sense of shock.  and it leads people to question society.  Still, and similarly, people need to know why, when there may never be a why, and certainly not any answer that would satisfy the question.

or prevention…where do people turn from here?  is this something that’s being created by our society?  people look at gun laws or video games.  (in other events, people have blamed anything from movies to clothing)  Certainly, a rational reasonable discussion should be had about restricting military-grade automatic assault weapons (not other guns).  If only out of the logic that if shooters could shoot one bullet at a time and had to reload, then they couldn’t take out as many people, and there would be more time to stop them.  But I know America and I know nothing will be done about assault weapons.

My push, instead, would be to focus on psychiatric care.  This wouldn’t help people who are, essentially, psychopaths – intelligent serial killers/mass murderers, like Manson, able to grasp reality.  But it could address people like schizophrenics and severe forms of bipolar, and such, who don’t have a handle on reality and are prone to extreme violence.  Many of these people, no longer minors, may be wandering the streets because their families can’t legally help them – or ran out of money to do so.  Perhaps many of these people could be helped with the right treatment, and others (though I don’t like the idea) beyond help, could be institutionalized.  Beyond that, I think there is still a large stigma regarding psychiatric illness, keeping people from receiving help.

Beyond guns and psychiatric illness, is there something else?  something about society that has led to, predominantly, young white males going on shooting rampages?  (why not females, for example?  endless speculations about testosterone, females reacting inwardly – suicide – rather than externally…though I don’t know if any of that is true)  what, in society, may be causing this?  Some of these males don’t seem particularly impoverished or at a lack for acquiring a job (I’m thinking of the Colorado Holmes instance).  Perhaps being intelligent and socially withdrawn ends up causing an alienation so fierce that it can lead to lack of regard for human life.  Maybe there should be some programs to reach out to these socially withdrawn types of individuals, who may or may not have psychiatric illness, to try to incorporate them into society.  Maybe modern society is, by its nature, too alienating… and all you can do is try to limit access to certain weapons and have heightened security to decrease the death toll…

all those preventative thoughts are, perhaps, beside the point.  (I’m not going to say, like politicians do, that it’s “not the time” to talk about these things, and indefinitely postpone it – because our government excels at stalling.)  I just don’t know how to deal with this loss.  I’ve been told both extremes – not acknowledging feelings at all and feeling too much – are unhealthy.  not that there is a correct way, or that you can feel any other way than you do.

all I can say is that there are no words.  it’s a painful thing I don’t know how to deal with.  and it doesn’t make any sense to me to do all the little routine things I normally do anymore.

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Related Links

Did this really happen in my elementary school?

Our hearts are broken.

After a moment of horror, how do we talk about it?

Loss of the Innocents (NYTimes.com)

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Grief links

When a person dies.

“Wisdom of No Escape” (Buddhist thoughts, can’t say I understand it, but it sounds helpful to what I may be looking for, acknowledging pain without the facade, but without the emotions rendering me unable to function.)

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Political (gun control) links

Knives and Guns…

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Update: 12/19/12

This is still sticking with me.  Not that I thought it would go away.  Luckily, I didn’t have to go into work the past couple days (I shouldn’t have gone Saturday).  Today I did.  Almost called off, but at least it was only a short shift and no customers or coworkers gave me a hard time.  still.  I felt like I was gritting my teeth every time a customer would politely or cheerfully wish me a merry xmas.  I know they mean well.  But I’m bitter and I wonder how anybody can be in a festive holiday spirit after this?  (at least that’s the thought that flashes through my head, I’m sure they’re just trying to buck up and spread some kindness)

I found a small park the other day where I could just be alone for awhile.  I tried to cry.  I still feel in some kind of shock.  I’ll worry about the things I have to do, but then admonish myself for worrying about my piddling little problems.  sometimes I think about it specifically, specific kids I know and what if it had been them…sometimes I think about it in a general sense – this is the world I live in.  I live in a world where a grown man can gun down twenty kindergarteners (and adults).  Moreover (so I’ve read and wish I hadn’t), the next day gun sales skyrocket…and people can be very vitriolic if you even hint at discussing the possibility of assault weapon-only gun restriction.  Beyond that, a world where mass shootings are common, many little kids are killed, and sometimes it seems like the world – the general public – just acts like nothing happened.  and maybe, after a couple months, except for the immediate radius of people, everyone will be back to “normal”…the world at large doesn’t care.

I don’t live in a war zone.  But people can be shot in malls, attending a movie, even an elementary school, or just walking down the street.  kids.  for no particular reason.  no real answer.  just because…

people search for reasons: Is it institutionalized racism or vigilante laws, which were concerns in the Martin-Zimmerman case?  Was it mental illness, poor parenting, or lax gun laws in Newtown?  what about Aurora?  an isolated society?  sometimes violence happens out of poverty, sometimes mental illness, sometimes exacerbating socio-political conditions, ethnic-religious conflicts…but there have always been murders, there are always psychopaths… it’s just taking on this shooting form now, I guess…

and then the copycats.  bad enough that it happened.  and then some sicko has to go and threaten the Newtown church.  and other copycat shooting threats across the country.  why? notoriety?  I guess it’s just human nature.  which isn’t all that pretty.

anyway, I’m not naive.  I know history is littered with war, murder, serial killers, pedophiles, all nature of horrific things.  But this Newtown thing just seems beyond… to me.  Little kids were specifically targeted.  The general public rushed to buy guns the next day… doesn’t help that I had a classmate who just gave birth a few days ago, can’t imagine what she’s thinking… or that I have friends/family members with elementary-aged kids.  anyway, it’s just too much.

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Mental Health Links

All Things are Linked

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2 Responses to “Connecticut”

  1. Amen…. stay strong.

  2. Thank you so much for including me in your grief links!


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