On tragedy in america.

“orange house in foggy woods” by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

What good is a single man when his fellow citizens are being gunned down, routinely, in the streets? Mass shootings are as American as McDonald’s or Starbucks: it feels like there’s one on every corner.

My soul — like my country — rips at the seams.

I remember visiting my family in Florida, touring Everglades National Park on an airboat on Valentine’s Day with my father. (Yes, it was a rough time, romantically for me). Our return to civilization, post-tour, meant one important thing: cell reception. As we docked the airboat, I compulsively checked my phone to see what was going on in the world. I immediately saw there had been a shooting at a local school: Stoneman Douglas High.

A fluke, I thought. An angry kid with a pistol. One victim, probably. I was in denial. Hours later, the death count had ballooned and the roads leading back to my parents’ house in Parkland were clogged. My dad incessantly complained about the inconvenience and the illogic of the road closures, even as we passed the shooter’s neighborhood. I swelled with anger at his insensitivity, but what could a single man — no, a single boy — do?

I remember the horrific footage on local television that night — a blurred body in a classroom, soaking in a pool of blood; children screaming and running for their lives; the grief that overtook me as the fear climbed out of the screen and into my home — but what could a single man — or boy — do?

I remember Pittsburgh. And Orlando. And Fort Lauderdale. And Dallas. And San Bernardino. And Santa Barbara. Some memories vague and fragmented, but they are there, waiting to be activated, in my drive to school, in boxing class, in my bedroom, in my mind.

It is emasculating — to know there is such great hurt and to also know that there is nothing I can do to stop the bleeding.

I remember last night, when my law school held a “town hall” to discuss a student-initiated gun threat that surfaced over the weekend. At that two-hour forum, I absorbed more pain, fear, and anger than I can even recall witnessing in some years. And this is before a shooting even occurred. The adults in the room — the administration — talked with us about due process, privacy, reintegration, context, the administrative response, race, and so much more. But only so much can be captured by words.

Then, today, I woke up to my Starbucks coffee, to my McGriddle: another shooting, another senseless loss of life. This one in Thousand Oaks, just north of Los Angeles. My head spun and my fingers pounded my touchscreen as I scrambled to understand the tragedy. I was there just this weekend — in the Valley — meeting my girlfriend’s mom for the first time. The one I want to marry, the one I want to make children with.

But with everyday, with every Starbucks coffee and McDonald’s hashbrown I ingest and digest, my doubt about having children grows. It’s not about my partner, but about the setting we find ourselves in. Who in their right mind would bring children into this world? Yes — this beautiful, magical world. The one that gives us more than seven wonders, the one that gives us love, the one that gives us mystery, and humor, and hope, and excitement. This same world — this same country — delivers us grief and pain and anger almost daily. No, this country shoves it down our throats. What is a single man — no, a single boy, a child, a work-in-process — to do?

My eyes close. A kaleidoscope of tragedy.

I never thought that senseless death would touch me so intimately yet so forcefully, that it would inhabit my neighborhoods and streets, that it would haunt those I love. 2018 has proven me dead-wrong.

My soul — like my country — rips at the seams. Perhaps they are called mass shootings because, eventually, they will destroy us all.