Sunday, April 18, 2021

Broken hearts


"Queen Elizabeth II sat isolated and the royal family gathered under stringent coronavirus restrictions to say goodbye to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," said the Washington Post yesterday.  Maybe only an American paper would call it "an image that breaks hearts around the world," although viewer figures suggest millions of Brits are over their rage at the BBC for cancelling a soap opera and a cooking show on the day the prince died.  A cynic (as opposed to a cockeyed optimist like me) might almost think the media-savvy court arranged the seating in St. George's Chapel for maximum sympathy.  

There are more broken hearts than usual just now, all over the world.  There are the ones we never see, for the thousands dying of covid every day in countries well- and ill-governed, rich and poor.  There are the victims of Central American gang violence, Mexican corruption, political upheaval in Myanmar and Yemen, Chinese concentration camps and natural disasters.  Looking only at the numbers as they relentlessly tick up, one could imagine a world war quietly raging, every death as important to someone as a royal duke's.

Of course, big fat dumb happy America, The Land of the Free, is full of sorrow, too.  Since I sat down at the keyboard, word has come of two more or less simultaneous mass shootings.  Three dead at an Austin apartment complex, "an isolated domestic incident with no risk to the general public," the police soothingly assure us.  Three dead and two hospitalized in Kenosha, "an isolated additional threat to the community."  (Kyle Rittenhouse, stand back and stand by.)  The families of the eight Indianapolis victims will be comforted to know that after Brandon Hole was detained for mental health evaluation, he legally purchased two rifles to replace the shotgun that was confiscated.  There's a "red flag" law in Indiana; the flag says "Sell him guns."  

For the families of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, the worst is yet to come.  They will have to arrange covid funerals while enduring the empty words of politicians and the exhausted outrage of op-ed writers.  Then will come the torrent of abuse from the Tuckers and the Lauras, assuring their followers that the dead man and boy deserved to die for stepping outside the lines this society draws around people of color, brilliantly described by Jonathan Capehart ("Being Black in America is exhausting").  They will have to do all that while awaiting, with most of the world, the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial, and wondering if he or any other "sworn officer of the law" will be punished for a public, extrajudicial execution.  If Brooklyn Center and Chicago have to stump up a few million dollars, it will never mend their broken hearts.  

Christine Emba and others have written about why they are not watching the Chauvin trial -- because of the exhaustion Capehart describes, and because they know it will happen again, maybe not so public and excruciating, maybe in the home of some innocent person unrecorded by Smartphones or CCTV, but it will happen.  Moreover, the response will be identical, from the shrine of flowers to the tear gas and rubber bullets deployed against protesters and reporters.  Somebody will be angry enough to break a window or burn a car and Fox Nation will shit themselves.  If we're lucky, we'll get a week to recuperate before the next shooting, police or amateur.  We have not been lucky this month.  America runs on guns.



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