El Paso. Dayton. An Aftermath.

The reason I write is to make sense of things, to examine events and ideas from various perspectives, to figure out what I think, to form an opinion, to present a point of view.

But today, I’m at a loss.

I’ve written about the insanity of America’s gun laws after mass shootings at least three times; four if you count Columbine in 1999, which happened a few miles away from my own high school.

I wrote a “chin up” response to the Trump election. I’ve insisted despair is not an option. That hope is everywhere. I still believe that. But today, I’m tapped out.

Corpses, cops, emergency room doctors, outraged citizens demanding, “DO SOMETHING,” as the Governor of Ohio mouthed stale, empty platitudes after the Dayton shootings. The Democrats make promises they cannot keep — in good measure because of cynical gerrymandering, voter suppression and probably the Russians.

You’ve heard it all. I’ve written it all.

So what’s a human to do?

Well, there’s “self-care,” common sense mental health 101 that is old news. Deep breaths, take a walk, go to a movie, call a friend you’ve lost touch with. Limit exposure to breaking news: twice a day, morning and evening, but at least two hours before bedtime. Taken in greater quantities, the 24-hour news cycle can cause “end-of-the-world” syndrome.

I’ve been trolling for distractions (Queer Eye, anyone?) but I need to be inspired, by which I mean revived.

I was enchanted by the teeter-totter at the border wall; three long planks, painted bright pink, threaded through metal slats so that children in Mexico and children in America could play together. The seesaw was taken down after a few days, but the video went viral.

Manuel and Patricia Oliver, the parents of Joaquin Oliver who died in the Parkland High School massacre, were a few miles away from El Paso in Ciudad Juarez. They were there to paint a mural to honor their son’s advocacy for immigrants. When they heard about the Walmart mass shooting, they went toward the carnage. They were all over the news, serious, passionate, determined, exhorting the people of El Paso to fight for their lives and against the gun lobby and those who protect them. “The Parkland families are here with you,” Manuel said. Joaquin would have turned 19 on August 4. His parents keep his memory alive; how dare we sit it out?

There are a few blessings to count: Republican representatives are jumping ship — four of them from Texas alone. Also, it’s summer, so it’s okay to eat a lot of ice cream. 

Dog and cat owners have an advantage because purring and petting are as good for your health as yoga. Yoga is good, but it’s summer, remember? Swimming is the best. Dive in headfirst so the water can cool brain and body in the same breath. Float on your back and the sky will remind you just how small we all are. Walk the beach and look for a baby just learning to walk; watch how she falls, and laughs, and gets up again. And again. As many times as it takes.


Published August 6, 2017 at WBUR Cognoscenti


  1. Kari Deaton on August 13, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Beautifully written as it contains many thoughts and emotions so many of us are going through at this time. Our leaders we have elected seem to feel our voices are not significant. The tears and prayers of the families are not being heard. Our country needs a miracle. Continue to be a voice for us through your writing.

  2. Dan R Myers on August 16, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Hi Anita,
    Thanks, beautifully written. A point of view traveling through the space of emotions so turbulent. An expression of consciousness. For me, my actions may interact with the world and reach a nexus for overcoming obstacles. I like what you wrote about diving into the water.
    There are so many inspiring people speaking up and writing about the gravely dire environmental/ climate crisis, racism, fascist political consolidation, and nuclear annihilation. Folks dedicated to inventing new ways of benefiting humanity. This is how we counter nihilistic thinking! All this by way of saying thank you for what you do.

  3. Shirley A. aiken on September 19, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Dear Anita,
    You capture the essence of our hopes and aspirations. I loved The Red Tent story. Thank you for fighting and sharing.

  4. passion on May 17, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been doing a little research on this.

    And he actually bought me lunch simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But
    yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this matter here on your blog.

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