Guns in My Area

Reflections after responding to the Santa Fe shootings:

As psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk would have predicted, it broke through when I started dancing, if you can call the thing I was doing (something that increasingly began looking and feeling like some angry Elaine Benes gyration) dancing.

“Dancing,” the thing I was doing, began the weekend before Friday’s shooting when quite by accident I’d become obsessed with “This is America.” Twitter was all Childish Gambino this and Childish Gambino that and a few clicks later I was utterly hooked, irony fully intact. I, like many others, watched the video over and over again. I poured over the lyrics, read multiple articles and watched a few webcasts that exegeted the meaning of the (truly) prophetic words and filming. I couldn’t get enough. But then I went back to work on Monday morning and my usual habit of driving in silence or with NPR ruled the route.

I’m not sure when I remembered Childish Gambino’s song and video, his “This is America” prophesy. I just know I remembered it sometime over this past weekend under florescent lights somewhere between the long plastic tables and a flurry of FBI and Red Cross lanyards. I remembered it with a crash and a shudder…(“Too much!…Too close…!”) so I shoved it firmly out of my mind.

Dutifully and blessedly it stayed away.

It stayed out of my mind until this morning, when the album thumbnail surprised me in iTunes on my laptop. I stared at it for a second and overcame my initial impulse to look away. I thought perhaps I can stand listening to it again. It was certainly relevant. I breathed in and clicked the right-pointing triangle.


Jack had already left for the day so it was just me and the dogs, the dogs who became increasingly interested in the “dancing” I started to do around the house as I began to get ready for work; the “dancing” I did that increasingly became expressive, not just rhythmic; the “dancing” I did that opened up something I hadn’t felt but for maybe the 20 seconds after the first traumatized family-minus-one walked through those multi-purpose room doors (multi-purpose, indeed).

…I’d wondered what had happened to it…

What had happened to it was that it buried itself in my body—just like Bessel van der Kolk would have predicted—when it grabbed my throat and I texted Jack “Gah!” and I promptly shoved it to the side, into my side, so I could be present, if needed, for family members and friends, witnesses, teachers, students, or custodians (and, truth be told, with a couple of profound exceptions, I really wasn’t). Now here it was again.

But the thing I was doing, the “dancing” I did, then tapped into something harsher, harder underneath, something frustrated and raw, something that had been there since before Friday’s shooting so perhaps it was a collective thing, but, regardless, I needed it to stop so I could finish getting ready for work.

…Guns in my area (word, my area)

I’m not a Black man in this world. My body has another set of social rules stamped on it. But I live in America. There’re guns in my area. There are bouncy castles in the parking lots outside where they sell them from big warehouses next to PetSmart. There’s an insane man in the White House. The NFL is regulating “respect.” Eight teens and two substitute teachers (sans classroom keys) are added to the dead. Others will soon follow. My mind-body can’t process all of it at once, and, probably, I’m gonna shake the frame.

Yeah,” prophesies Childish Gambino, “this is America.”

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