Friday, June 17, 2016

So, it has been about a week

Remember the shooting in Orlando? It was the one six-ish days ago. It was in a gay night club on Latin night? I'm just reminding you because we've become desensitized. It's been, like, twelve hours since someone tweeted their thoughts and prayers. When you scroll through your facebook newsfeed, you're back to how much of a train wreck this presidential election is or, you know, puppy videos. You might've already forgotten. So, I just wanted to hearken back to this event that I learned about 48 hours after the fact because I just wanted a weekend without technology. 

I'm angry. And sad. And angry and sad and angry and sad. But, mostly angry. 

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that these shootings are no longer isolated incidents of terror. We are a country who lives in terror. We're so afraid of our own shadow. We're allowed to carry concealed weapons to use whenever something spooks us. We cry "self-defense," and all is forgiven. If you wacky liberals take away our rights to own guns, America will go straight to hell in a hand basket.

Guess what, Team America, we're already there. We live in a country that's so star spangled awesome that there was an average of 92.05 gun related deaths per day in 2014. President Obama has had to address the American public 15 times in response to mass shootings. We've normalised death. We've normalised terror. We've allowed gun rights lobbyists to usher us into a country of complacency. And we have done nothing. We've sat idly by while the entire country goes through the motions: outrage, profile picture changes, rabble-rousing statuses, flags at half mast, mild anger, new cute profile pic with a baby, #foodporn, flags fly high, complacency, comfort in knowing it could never happen here. Then, boom, another fucker with something to prove and nothing to lose gets his hands on a military grade weapon and shoots up a space of safety.

And, this, this is what breaks my heart. You wanna know the first thing my students in Korea asked me when they learned I was from America? They asked me if I knew how to shoot people. Not 'how to shoot a gun,' not 'if I owned a gun,' but if I know how to use a gun to inflict pain on another human being. What am I supposed to say to that? How do I even respond? I said, "No, no I don't. I don't know how people hurt each other like that." Their response: "It makes me sad, Kathryn Teacher." It makes me sad, too. 

This is, of course, a multi-faceted problem. But, I would really love it if the gun wielding politicians actually worked on the mental health issues on which they blame all gun related deaths. Or, take a hot second to remember that we are a country founded on immigrants. Or, figure out that the most recent radical terrorist attack in Orlando was a dude born and raised in the United States who believes in a bastardization of the Islamic faith. His relationship to Islam is akin to the Westboro Baptist Church's relationship to Christianity. It is outrageous and inappropriate. 

As a gay person, it would be remiss of me to overlook the location and perceived reason of the Orlando shooting. Gay clubs, like so many have said before me, serve as a place of solace, comfort, release of the constant tension gay people hold. Personally, I have a difficult time expressing my sexuality in public. Don't get me wrong, my rock-a-doodle haircut and proclivity towards Oxfords and trousers clearly show that I am gay, but I don't express myself as a sexual being for fear of making others uncomfortable. This is my problem, I know. But, in gay spaces, I can relax enough to show the kind of public affection that straight people so often take for granted. 

And, on Saturday night, as Latin night just started to heat up, a man disgusted with the idea of two men kissing rampaged through Pulse, flat lining 49 heart beats. 

Some cry, "Terrorism-an affront to the US." Period. Full stop. But, I shout, "Hate crime--an affront to the queer community." You cannot erase us from this history. I refuse. I am angry. I am angry about the social environment in which gay people are less than. I am angry about the erasure of mental health issues. I am angry about toxic masculinity. I am angry about people doing hate in the name of their god. I am angry about how fucking easy it is to acquire firearms whose sole purposes are to kill. I am so, so angry.  

It would be naive of me to think that there would ever be a total recall of firearms in the United States. We'd have to pry the second amendment from the NRA's cold dead hands. But, there is absolutely no reason that a citizen needs an assault rifle. There is no reason that citizens needs a weapon that discharges 600 rounds of ammunition per minute. There is no reason you should be able to purchase a firearm without showing identification. There is no reason you can purchase an AK47 at for fifty dollars and twenty-five cents...don't worry, though, it's free shipping. There is no reason for this. Absolutely no reason.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

So, I've been figuring it out

I've been back in my hometown for about six weeks. I still feel like a visitor. I still feel like I have a flight I need to catch to go back, to go forward, to just go.

I don't. This is my present, and I am really struggling to figure it out. I have an amazing security net of people who love me and want the best for me. But, I don't ask for help--and usually don't want it. Is this stubborn? Yes. Is this reality? Also, yes.

I read all the blogs about going back home after living abroad. I prepared myself for all of the scenarios. All of them. Except my own. I am back, but different. I am finding footing on a path that was. My tread is just a bit too cautious, my shoes don't quite fit, my hiking vest doesn't have enough pockets for all my new things.  I'm living a life I don't know--an adult life in the world of my childhood.

I've visited places that once held magic only to find it replaced by something new, something tangible, something real. I went to my grandparents' house yesterday. After they died, we sold the land to the city because it was technically floodplains. The entire plot was overgrown with spiky flowers so opposite of my gentle grandfather. The giant oak tree loomed above, void of life; fairies used to call it home. Short grass covered the fire pit, the birthplace of Grandma's Magic. And, they paved right over the troll bridge. Who's collecting the tolls? No one. And, all the while the Rock River rolls along, seemingly unchanged.

I see myself in this. Everything about me is different, but there's gotta be a constant somewhere, right? Or, do I make a new constant, a new anchor I trust to keep me from floating away? I dunno.

I guess, right now, let these truths be an anchor, which holds me steady:

1. I have never loved anyone as much as I love my niece(s and nephew--honorary). Or, that's perhaps unfair. I have never loved anyone in the same way I love them. I will drive two and a half hours to babysit Sweet P. I am so excited to watch her learn and grow into whatever she wants to be. I will stop what I am doing to go to the park with my best friend's children. My heart can't even handle it when T chooses me to catch her at the bottom of the slide. I need to be here right now. That's all there is.

2. I miss teaching. Apparently, it doesn't matter if it is English as a second language, To Kill a Mockingbird, or the front crawl. Teaching is my passion, and I am lucky enough to be in a position to continue learning and studying how to do it to the best of my ability.

3. Women's active wear is expensive and limited in selection. I don't have time for that kind of nonsense. Give me a pair of basketball shorts and let's go.

4. My mom is probably the most amazing woman in the whole wide world, closely followed by my sister. Their capacity to take on way more than any person should handle and come through with an air of grace and poise inspires me. I am glad to spend this time together and learn from them as much as I can.

5. The path that was is not always the path that is, and that's okay. I've just got to adventure on.