On the 2nd day of Christmas
America gave to me 14 corpses, 21 wounded bodies, and 9 text messages asking me if I’m still alive.
Forgive me for how this is about to sound…but at some point over the past 355 mass shootings in the United States this year, I became desensitized.
Watching the world go straight to hell in a handbasket every day on CNN became procedure at some point.
The subsequent routine is all too standard. Pretend to be surprised when something catastrophic occurs. Take a few moments to share a link of the atrocity. Followed by changing my Facebook profile picture to show solidarity. Catch Barack addressing the nation on youtube. Temporary amnesia. Followed by nothing.
But yesterday, only 10 miles from where I received my college education, a city that I once called home was rocked to its core.
A city that declared bankruptcy after I graduated. A city I spent years in my fraternity working with boys and girls centers infested with neighborhood gangs.
I can’t tell you how many public schools I spoke at in this city for black history month. How many 18+ clubs I attended free on Thursday nights before 10 pm when I had Friday morning classes.
I was jumped in this city. Beaten beyond recognition. Rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. I got fired from my first job here. Took that walk of shame to HR. Had to ask my grandma to pay my phone bill that month.
I fell in love in this city. Had my first girlfriend. Went on a real date to the highest point and ordered food with financial aid money, borrowed my roommate’s car, parked in valet, found out a moment could last forever.
I have more parking tickets in this city than in Los Angeles! My car got a boot on it once. Was towed twice. I remember the public transportation. I remember the best sleep of my life was in the back of my Rav4 in the parking lot when I didn’t have enough gas to drive to my apartment.
If there is anyone who has had a love/hate relationship with this city, it’s me. I wasn’t born here, but it’s here I became a man. So when live breaking news televised the chaos, it broke me down.
Streets were blocked off. Freeways were closed. Buildings were evacuated. FINALS were cancelled. Families were terrified. Friends were devastated. I was demoralized.
Movie theaters. High schools. Elementary schools. Health centers. Army bases. Churches. College campuses. This time, the target is a developmental disability center just across the street from a swap meet I used to visit as a freshman.
I was invited to speak at my old University yesterday, but I told my mentor that my book wouldn’t be available for another week, so she rescheduled me for 7 days later.
What if I went to perform at that freshman seminar class, then decided I was in the nostalgic mood and went to revisit that swap meet on Waterman across the street from where the terrorist attack took place?
Would I have been on today’s obituary? Would my Facebook page have become a public mortuary? Would every person that I wasn’t on good terms with the last time we saw each other have been on the ABC evening news?
That’s why it’s important to hug your loved ones. Tell a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile you’re thinking of them. Remind your parental figures of your gratefulness.
Global atrocities and raging violence aren’t letting up. It’s war out here. Compassion and community aren’t mere niceties. They’re increasing necessities.
Society is purging. Safety is an illusion. Fear doesn’t have a name anymore. It could be the face of the bullied student, gang member, vengeful employee, scored lover, racist cop or terrorist group.
Is there enough wax to go around for all the candle-lit vigils happening? Is God turning us all into cynics before he makes his return? The next time a mass shooting occurs will you be a hostage?
All the trouble I have seen in this city, and yet, in one swift swoop the slate was wiped clean. People crack jokes about how dangerous San Bernardino is, but this isn’t normal. San Bernardino violence doesn’t look like this.