I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
~ Marilyn Monroe
My mind spins, twists and flits. Sometimes I can’t focus on a single image or idea. So I just close my eyes and let my mind loose. I am at my best when I relax into the process.
Life is like that, too, and this past week was chockfull: Transitions in the lives of our daughters; worries about elderly parents; and friends visiting from out of town. On top of all that, I was glued to the television watching the Olympics, staying up each night until midnight and yawning my way through each workday – the experts say productivity dipped markedly in the workplace during the week as more workers than I were enamored by the games. I celebrated the American teams’ diversity. Gabby Douglas made me so proud, as did all the athletes. I felt joy and sorrow for every person who participated, no matter what country they represented.
This weekend was President Obama’s fifty-first birthday and the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. I was going to write about Miss Monroe in this post. Then another shooting occurred on Sunday at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The Sikhs, a pacifist religious order, have faced constant discrimination here in America since 9/11. Because their religion requires the men to wear turbans and not shave facial hair, some Americans perceive them as terrorists. It’s as true as the bandied about lies that President Obama is neither an American nor Christian. But the truth has little sway when haters want to justify their hatred and the actions that hatred inspires.
Seven people, including the gunman, were killed at the temple, and three are critically injured, including a police officer. The FBI has deemed the shooting domestic terrorism. The gunman has been identified as Wade Michael Page, a forty-year-old army veteran who was less than honorably discharged and who had tattoos that suggested ties to a white supremacist skinhead group.
I’ve been talking about gun control since, well, since I became an adult. But the Aurora tragedy brought it to light again. I thought these occurrences would remain rare, but already, here is another one. Is one’s right to bear arms a more important personal freedom than the right to live our lives and engage in the mundanity of every day life in relative safety, without threat of gunfire raining over our heads?
Are we going to make ourselves feel better by calling Wade Michael Page crazy? Will we feel better when we buy more guns? Will this shooting, that was placed on page 10 of my local paper, be forgotten because the victims were Sikhs, and there is a pervasive hatred among some Americans for anybody who is non-Christian and non-white? Will that hatred continue to fuel the violence that is fast becoming normalized in our society?
As fast as I can write this, arson at an Islamic mosque and community center in Joplin, Missouri, the second time in a year, is in the headlines. Domestic terrorism is here to stay in America, unless we change.
An article in last week’s local newspaper described a new video created by the city of Houston to teach people what to do during a shooting. The six-minute video recommends a “run, hide, fight” response. Danny Davis, director of a homeland security graduate program at Texas A&M University said the video was useful. “You’re not going to turn a civilian into a commando with a short video, but at the same time you can at least put in the back of their mind the possible options,” he said.
He thought the video lacked information about using a weapon and called it a “glaring shortcoming.” He suggested someone could have stopped the Aurora shooting had any of the moviegoers carried a weapon. I disagree. I wrote about that in my last post Playing with Weapons.
Who are we afraid of?
I’m afraid of the people who feel they need to arm up. I’m afraid of Americans who believe that America is only for white people. I’m afraid of the people whose hatred runs so deeply that they lie, blame God, incite and perpetrate violence against others, and feel self-righteous as they spread their hatred against President Obama, gays, women, people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, etc.
I have to think, or at least I want to think, the people spreading these lies, feeding these fears, and responding with violence, are a minority, but their message is louder and more urgent than the messages of tolerance and unity.
Tell the truth. You are afraid of change. You are afraid of people who are different than you. You are afraid of becoming irrelevant. Let’s work together to help you understand and allay your fears and to make this world safe for you and all the rest of us. Lying is not the answer. Going backward is not the answer. Violence is not the answer. Arson is not the answer. Buying guns is not the answer. Terrorism is definitely not the answer. When Americans engage in terrorist acts, they are the same as the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center on 9/11. How is it any more acceptable or right? It isn’t.
We live in a global community. Our country has open borders and invites immigrants to come work, go to school, become citizens of our country, and other countries allow us to do the same. We have to find ways to get along or at least live in proximity without killing one another.
President Obama’s birthday had briefly lifted my spirits on Saturday. I remember him at the Charlotte rally in 2008. I shook his hand. I still think about how he looked that day: relaxed, confident, presidential, intelligent, warm, and engaging. He looks older and tired now, but just as I thought on that day four years ago, he is the best hope we have for this country. He’s our best chance for all of us to recognize who makes up this country we call America – we are diverse, and that is our strength. We need to let him do his job. I wish people didn’t hate him. I can understand if they don’t agree with his policies, but it is so much more. It’s sad and frightening. I wish Marilyn Monroe could have been there at his birthday celebration to sing Happy Birthday, Mr. President as she did for President Kennedy. Maybe she would have made him smile.
Marilyn Monroe makes me smile, too. She was fearless about her femininity in a masculine world, yet she was wracked by insecurity and neediness. I wish we could have experienced her wit, intelligence, and beauty a little longer. She let the world see into her soul, as painful as it was for her. She showed us her humanity in all its imperfection and in all its beauty. I see it when I look at photographs of her, her eyes showing both vulnerability and hope that the world would accept her just as she was. I was five when she passed away, but her movies still make me laugh and cry.
Maybe in this world, where people think guns and arson are the solution, hatred is spewed in venomous tirades, and videos must be made that teach us how to react in a mass shooting; we have to cling to our humanity and the small things that make us happy, like spending time with family and friends, watching old movies, or celebrating our best athletes at the Olympics. We have to hold on to our own vulnerability and recognize everyone else’s. We have to acknowledge the worst in us so we deserve to experience the best in all of us.