What’s going on here? Like so many people I had to stop to ponder the vicious attacks on humanity at the Hollywood MAX station. As I read about the reactions to the violence, things just keep getting more complicated. Grief, anger, nobility, politics, factions, unity, exploitation…the sparks fly into like consciousness like a spinning pinwheel on the 4th of July.
While there was terror on that train, I am not sure what happened was terrorism. Someone seems to be trying to make a point when you put the ism on terror. I am not convinced there was a point to this violence. The perpetrator is clearly mentally ill. He organized his mental illness around a vile ideology. With 8 years in a maximum security penitentiary he had plenty of white power mentors. He also learned that with a blade the best way to kill was to slash throats not stab. Useful knowledge in a prison. Devastating on the streets.
What Trump responsible? Maybe. In any society there are evil forces lurking just below the thin layer of order. History is replete with the repeated stories of seemingly happy neighbors turning on each other. Rwanda, Germany, Yugoslavia. The beast is always lurking. Trump came to power by lifting the lid on some of America’s most mutated genes. Given the freedom to act out, the power of the mob takes hold. And in every mob there are damaged people who don’t know the difference between being played for power and empowering their personal evils.
I was struck by the compassion at the first memorial. A memorial is a sacred ritual. From the family of one of the victims we received a benediction that flowed like their tears. Who are these folks who are so fluent in the language of compassion? How did they create a son whose last words were a blessing?
Unfortunately, even that moment became too Portland. Narrow factions used the moment to attack leaders. Justifiable anger, an emotion for after the ritual, poured forth. Even in a brief moment where unity seemed possible, our culture of unrestrained narcissism had its moment.
For days I have tried to boil down this tragedy to an essence. I need a touchstone beyond myself and the inevitable momentum of entanglement in a thousand agendas. Sitting in my backyard yesterday, I wrote at sentence in the margins of a book. For me, it comes down to this:
People confronted evil and practiced compassion.