Waukesha

4

November 22, 2021- The small children, ages 7 and 9, told their mother they never want to go to a parade ever again. There is no more heartbreaking statement that can ever be heard.

A celebration of community, of diversity, of life should never become the stage for the passions of the disaffected, the disgruntled, the deranged. This is true whether one is talking about the United States Capitol, on the day of a Constitutional procedure, or the downtown of a vibrant little city like Waukesha, Wisconsin, on a day of wholesome togetherness. It was true in Las Vegas, on the day of Route 91 Harvest, in 2017, and at houses of worship in North Charleston, Pittsburgh and Sutherland, TX. It was true during the Boston Marathon, in 2013 and in the halls of learning in places like Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. It has been true, every single time a disaffected, disgruntled, deranged person has taken out a twisted sense of entitlement and revenge against the broader public. It is true, whether the individual, or group of same, is a State Actor or just a private person wanting the world to know that he feels wronged, that his rights are above everyone else’s.

Four of the people slain yesterday were grandmothers. They were seemingly targeted by their assassin, for reasons presently known only to him. They were, in my humble estimation, innocent of any wrongdoing. They were there solely to bring “Comfort and Joy”, the theme as it were of the parade itself. There were small children, 18 at last count, injured. There were high school bandmates and cheerleaders, the very epitome of everything that is positive about life. There was a little girl, dancing in a pink suit, narrowly missed by the perpetrator’s vehicle.

I have a family member, five hours from Waukesha, who is a cheerleader. Here in Prescott, the youngest child of two dear friends is in his last year of playing in a high school band. If either of them were to be the least bit injured in an incident such as happened yesterday, I would be apoplectic-even more than I am right now.

Human life is given by the Creator, by God-if you will. Human life is not given, just so that it may be randomly taken, or even threatened, by individuals-no matter how righteously they present themselves or their cause. Human life is given, that its holders may pursue their positive, life-affirming, socially-advancing talents and faculties to their utmost.

Waukesha, may you heal-as the communities afflicted before you have healed; nay, are still healing. America, may we regain our sanity, little by little, until this sort of horror becomes a bad memory.

Astroworld

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November 8, 2021, San Diego– A lot of the conversation with friend, J, at Harpoon Henry’s Restaurant, in Dana Point, had to do with self-assessment and self-accounting. This was my first visit with her in two years, due to both the pandemic and the current circumstances of her life. J and I normally walk a bit along a beach of her choosing- Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach and Dana Point being her favourites. For the time being, such walks are on hold, but it was a good time for catching up. We agreed that it has been quite a year, all around. There have been ongoing debates and recriminations passed around, unwitting public figures being drawn into the limelight and a penchant for name-calling taking the place of people owning their decisions and the resulting behaviours. Through all the negativity, the pandemic continues, albeit in a slowly diminishing manner and responsibility takes a vacation-not in the beach towns, but at large public events.

Astroworld’s hip hop concert, over this past weekend, ended in horrific fashion, with eight people being crushed to death, and dozens more injured, in a stampede. There are further intimations of people being jabbed by hypodermic needles, laced with illicit drugs, at certain points during the Travis Scott concert. The performer himself couldn’t hear people calling for assistance for those injured or dying, until it was too late.

It is time for musicians, performance artists- and politicians to take stock, not only of how their words and actions immediately affect their audiences, but also how these infest the muscle memory of significant segments of society. Travis Scott cannot bring back his dead and injured fans-nor is he, alone, likely to curb the increasing tendency towards lurching towards abandon, when crowds of people are whipped into a frenzy. Astroworld should be a wake-up call for people to exercise restraint and look out for those around them. In the same way, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, North Charleston each should have been a wake-up call for curbing the access by mentally ill people to firearms.

The solution is spiritual. J and I each have chosen different paths to the sacred. Yet, both of us have found that sacred, in a way that makes sense to us, as individuals. It would have been all too easy, at least for me, to embark on acts of throwing caution to the wind-and giving vent to the wildest of urges-had I not been raised to act in a conscientious manner. Even so, trial and error have taken their toll, though thankfully not in a manner that was injurious or lethal to another human being. I can credit belief for the fact that such tendencies have gradually faded.

My heart always aches for those who suffer, needlessly, in events that go awry or where destruction is intended. The stampede at Astroworld and the apartment collapse in Lagos, also this weekend, are only the latest examples of the consequence that accrues, when we do not-even for the briefest of times, look upon the well-being of our neighbours with the same vigilance that we look upon our own.