A few days ago, I posted a diary about my community's recent tragedy- the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, 17 year-old Christopher Cervini. Today, after attending Chris' funeral, I feel like a follow-up is in order.
I'm fully aware that obstacles and challenges are a necessary part of life and that resilience is born of adversity. I have a blessed life in many ways and I'm grateful. I have a home, a loving family, and, for the moment, anyway, gainful employment.
To be entirely honest, though, I have been struggling to maintain anything approaching optimism lately- even before Chris was killed. I am not seeking sympathy or comments of encouragement that things will get better. They may. They may not. Either way, I'll keep on going...
More after the jump...
I was a philosophy major and I read existentialist literature. Sartre, Kierkegaard- they were brilliant, but obviously tormented by the big questions of their time. Each was obviously shaped by living in Europe during the rise of fascist dictatorships and the subsequent horror of the holocaust.
We are, collectively, experiencing an incredibly stressful combination of events, circumstances, and conditions that may ultimately lead to the extinction of our species. Seems fairly obvious to me that it's more normal for thinking people to struggle mightily with all of this and feel anxious, nauseous, small "d" depressed, or any combination of these. Our national aversion to actual problem identification or attempt to make significant changes to the status quo, is, understandably really frustrating.
When crazed gunmen are seemingly everywhere, people who work hard and don't deserve it become ill and go bankrupt paying for treatment, and, to top it all off, the resources we "do-gooders" depend on to support our community-building work are entirely dependent on there being a bullish market and sufficient tax revenues! In the past week, I've been confronted with the national news of multiple shootings- including the horrific attack in Binghamton, the family of 5 in California, the Pittsburgh cop killer, and, finally, the murder of 17 year-old Chris Cervini.
I've gotten into heated arguments- online and in real life because people seem to need to insist that "those kids shouldn't have been out at 3:30 in the morning!", "They must have been up to SOMETHING!" and the like. I get it- (those who pick this particular fight) you were all perfect teenagers who never did anything stupid.
Regardless, no child of 17 should be shot down in the street! Ever. Period. But I'm painfully aware that 17 year-old children, and infant children and all ages in between, all around the world are dying at the hands of others all the time! And, in the midst of the funeral today, among hundreds of Chris' friends, and family, listening to the priest assert that what we foolishly consider a tragedy is actually a blessing for dear, 17 year-old Christopher. Aghhhhh!
David Sirota's passionate blog post yesterday echoed my recent thinking to such a great extent that I was compelled to contact David via Facebook with a message he'll probably never read but, what the hell, right? Some of what David had to say:
Thanks to the economic meltdown, ensuing AIG bonuses, and promotion of economic criminals to top White House jobs, it has never been more clear that the American economy and political system is one that rewards everything we say we don't want to reward. The media world I work in rewards David Brooks, the economy rewards AIG executives, the political system rewards Larry Summers. It's all the same fucking thing - everything we say we want to punish, but instead systemically cheer on.
So again, what the fuck are we doing? Why do we just sit here and take it? And if we're not going to take it, what the hell should we do? Most of us who have a job are totally overworked - we barely have time for our families. Those of us who are out of work are scratching and clawing to survive - they barely have time for anything else. So what should we do?
Here's part of my emailed response:
We- meaning those of us who think about, care about, and feel compelled to do something about what's happening in our country and in our world- we inevitably confront internal and external limits that bring us up short and compel this kind of existential crisis.
Between the almost inconceivable, unprecedented perilousness of the world's economy due to wanton greed and recklessness and the constant stream of personal tragedy to which we are subjected on a minute-by-minute basis through our media, overwhelm, outrage and despair are, in my opinion, entirely appropriate responses. Add to those stressors the whole litany of daily obligations and relational issues- it truly is a wonder any of us get out of bed each day!
On the upside, the ascension of intelligent, talented, thoughtful people such as Rachel Maddow, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and yourself (among others) plus the rapid delivery of new ideas through online media offer a great deal of hope. We have much to overcome- there can be no doubt about that- and I am certain that the next 20 years will be nothing like the last 20 in ways both terrifying and exhilarating but we need to be vigilant if for no other reason than because it is our responsibility to provide an example for our children and future generations.
I have to say that I'm very grateful that you've posted your existential question because it forced me to consider counter-arguments for my own recent, angst-ridden diatribes! We must resist staying in our darkest places because it is our light that will inspire change.
You have a growing audience, David, and access to others with a very large megaphone, making the impact of your thoughts, words, and actions significantly more potent than most of us. Use your platform. Continue to inform and enlighten the masses. And, in the immortal words of Margaret Mead, "never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
I also shared the link to the following movie trailer:
Let's hope we can all find the strength to make "The Shift" happen faster! In the meantime, it's not a bad thing to ask ourselves "What the fuck are we doing?" and truly seek answers.