Sunday, January 8, 2012

I’m Going To Be On TV! Or, Reflections on Mass Murder

I’ve heard better. Today’s Gershwin matinee featured lovely performances of “An American in Paris” and “Porgy & Bess,” but the syncopation in “Rhapsody in Blue” was a bit too extreme. While it emphasized the acrobatic playing of the guest pianist, the notes felt choked. The orchestra merely served the piano, the roughness smoothed out of the brass and winds so much that I almost missed the opening glissando. In fairness, I was still reeling in my seat. I hadn’t expected to perform today, no less in a piece of political theater. 

The conductor held his camera to the audience and explained that three local channels would feature the footage. The audience stood and cheered—“Keep Going, Gabby!” How can it be wrong to wish a sick woman well? 

I can’t help but pity people in pain, whether from mortal wounds or wounded dignity. But empathy alone can’t guide my actions; empathy will not respect logic. I know that because my sorrow for the injured woman has no relation whatsoever to my outraged hurt for past and future victims of her weaponized tragedy. I felt I should be silent, a tiny Anabaptist to refusal to swear political fealty--which is exactly what they asked us to do. Not in the partisan fashion, of course. (Phoenician grayhairs don’t exactly lean blue, but they cheered all the same.*) But this little show was part of the eternal political struggle of free people.

For all our professed hatred of politicians, we reflexively honor them for the power they hold. While “Gabby” filled the hall and your TV, far fewer minutes were spent on the other injured. The reeling city. The dead children. None of them matter, except for their proximity to power. Do you remember the last mass shooting in Tucson?

The gunman entered the building in the late-morning, interrupting the exam. The first shot dropped the professor. Less than a mile away, a loudspeaker interrupted my class to announce we were in lockdown. So soon after September 11, we were all still jumpy. Within minutes, we learned from our networked laptops that there was a massacre in progress at the Nursing College. Soon after, it was over. The shooter dead, three with him. 

I can name the dead and wounded from the Giffords shooting, although it has nothing to do with me and I was hundreds of miles away the morning it happened. I spent a different morning in fear for my life, and I can barely remember it. Do you? Why not?

I’ll post the footage if I find it. I’ll be the dazed-looking one vaguely mouthing with the others. Or if they use the other take, I’ll be the one looking grim. 

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*Of course they did. All good people believe that human suffering transcends partisan politics.  Everything transcends partisan politics.

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