Stumbling through the profound predawn darkness of the modern house, I managed to grab a cup of cold coffee and initiate the false dawn of the local news markets in one fluid motion born of years of practice. News mongers hawking their wares with the staccato of an 8 mm film fills the screen. The streets of Orlando and its victims are showing live and on various stage sets; each accompanied by an inlay of experts who know exactly zero facts other than what we’ve all been briefed. Political candidates running for offices and those in office from president to lamp tender welcome interviews in mind-numbing succession. Each has an opinion: it’s hate, it’s ideology, it’s guns, it’s policy, it’s white privilege, it’s his fault, her fault, the government’s fault. News crews and their tethered experts lecture, salve or throw salt into the wounds of the grieving populace in the wake of the June 12th terrorist attack at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub that left forty-nine dead and at least half that number in a hospital cleaving to life. Even my President lectures me against painting groups with a broad brush that exists only in his imagination. I know the difference and I suspect most of my 330 million fellow Americans know the difference. The bitterness of cold coffee yields a longed-for reassurance and I return the room to its predawn gloom. Enough!
The porch is better for these thoughts. Somewhere in the Atlantic the sun rises and reassuring humanity of its return as cirrus clouds turn pink and salmon. On the porch heat and humidity stifle breathing yet birds call, racers rustle leaves on the wee forest’s floor looking for squirrels beginning their ceaseless struggle for food, and tree frogs chat. Life’s cycle continues undeterred.
The Pulse began welcoming Orlando’s robust GLBTQ (the ‘Q’ stands for Questioning)
community in 2004. The venue was legendary and extended far beyond Orlando. The club welcomed people from across the country and all walks of life. People like Army Officer LT Antonio Brown who came to relax and, perhaps, spend some time on the dance floor or laugh with old friends met the same fate as those who frequented the club regularly. The roll call of the dead and wounded in the early Sunday morning attack reflects the diversity of the club’s appeal. First and foremost, they were and are Americans attacked in the United States based on a specific, extreme ideology. Similar ideologically based attacks have erupted like boils across the United States since the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Instead of confronting the ideological abyss, the nation, it seems, is committed to rubbing snake oil on the abscesses then blaming whomever is in the room during the next violent eruption.
The United States, you see, is not very adept at handling gaping ideological divides that are an anathema to Western culture. The last one, the Cold War, wherein the United States and its Western allies fought Communism, continued for 70 years and saw millions die. The Soviet Union was bankrupted, but Communism was not defeated. The Cold War ended by Presidential decree in 1991 when President Clinton said it was over. Not much had been resolved and a great deal was destroyed.
I would like to believe the Navy’s take-away message from its commercial graphically
spotlighting a family is surrounded by concentric circles of Naval personnel from all disciplines: “To get to you, they’d have to get through us.” Not true in today’s United States of confused culture. The United States is sliced and diced along racial, income, sexual, belief system, age, and professional boundaries. We are not one nation. We are hyphenated and arguing over whose lives matter. We argue over immigration rather than the expectation that all immigrants want to and will become Americans. Last week, the administration issued a directive:
Its latest policy statement, issued jointly late last week by the departments of Education and Health and Human Services, advises states to instruct early childhood students in home languages different from English, and to help them retain separate cultural attachments.
The administration warns that “not recognizing children’s cultures and languages as assets” may be hurting them with school work. “Over half the world’s population is estimated to be bilingual or multilingual,” the statement lectures almost plaintively.
My head and my heart scream “NO, we are Americans who have signed onto rule by a Constitution let us begin to act as such.” Let parents teach the old cultures and languages as part of their children’s heritage. As the children assimilate into the culture, let them introduce what is good about the old ways to the rest of us. Let schools welcome immigrants as Americans and as a wonderful infusion to an unbridled future based on a proven system.
And so, like Ishmael in Melville’s Moby Dick, I find myself following a procession that may lead me to the world. For Ismael the procession was a funeral and the world was the whaling ship, Pequod. I find myself in a procession that leads to employers that can transport me back to a world where maybe I can make a difference, even if only a tiny one…a country manager in Turkey perhaps. The effort beats back this restless feeling of sitting on a hot porch of a Tuesday morning feeling powerless, useless.
[Editor’s Note: We, at the Cold War Warrior, grieve with our fellow citizens in Orlando. Our condolences go out to the families of those who lost loved ones and our hope for complete recovery to those who were so injured by this terrible act of terrorism.]