For some reason, I form memories related to taste and smell more readily than I form visual memories; this has always been the case. My earliest memory, if I want to be honest, is of eating blueberries-and-cream baby food. Maybe this was the beginning of my intensely emotional love/hate relationship with food, but that’s a question for later.
I was eight when the September 11th attacks occurred. My memories from that day are few and vague. I remember the cinnamon raisin oatmeal I ate for breakfast, and the distinctive, acrid smell of dust that characterizes late summer in Phoenix. I remember walking down the hall, still smelling of sleep and my clean, faded pink comforter, confused about why the TV was on so early in the morning.
What I do not remember is the look on my mother’s face as she stood watching the news. In fact, I barely remember the reactions of any adults around me that day. I imagine they’d be similar to the reaction I had, reading about Orlando last Sunday morning. Anger first. Anger literally for days. I recalled the people I’d met, even at my university, who truly, wholeheartedly believed that the worst of the violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals was over. I wondered what they were thinking now, and I realized that I didn’t particularly care.
The information kept coming, and I wanted to look away but couldn’t. I didn’t want to know, but I needed to know. It took the next few days to sink in. The magnitude of this event. On Monday, I read press release after press release of foreign dignitaries offering the United States their sympathies. Countries suffering from their own tragedies were reaching out to us. I heard my mother’s voice break on the phone that night.
A few summers ago, “Same Love” came out, and I remember hearing it on the radio in the central Texas town I lived in and rejoicing. Maybe things are getting better, I thought. That moment seems so long ago, now; much longer than a few years. I carry new scars, both physical and emotional, and this world seems smaller and heavier than ever, constricted by fear and pain.
I want to remember Sunday. I want to remember more than just the scratch of the apartment carpet against my bare legs and the taste of my chocolate-covered protein bar as I scanned the news. I want to remember the anger and exhaustion that I felt so that, in the future, I can at least mean it to myself when I say Never again.
I used to read Dr. Ed Friedlander’s website a lot when I was in high school, and I still visit occasionally. Although he is a pathologist and not a politician, his thoughts on violence are some that remain close to my heart, because he has phrased them more eloquently than I ever could.
Like most other mammals, when we human beings are HURTING AND CONFUSED at the same time, we have a natural (though lamentable) tendency to lash out against (blame, physically attack) someone else, regardless of the realities of the situation. We’ve all seen individuals do this, and perhaps we’ve even done this ourselves …
As before, my best prescription is Dr. Virchow’s: reduce the hurting and confusion through real democracy, honest science, reasonable security of person and property, and access to education and rewarding work.
Nothing else can possibly work.