At the time I’m starting the rough draft of this post, yesterday was Sunday. When I’d gone to bed the previous night, I was still trying to wrap my head around the latest mass shooting that had taken place in El Paso, Texas. I just kept coming back to why–why? Why, again? And, where next? I was a little sad but more mad, so by the time I woke up the next morning after my subconscious mind had probably been thinking about it all night I was really bitter. I turned to Hubs and in my most extreme sarcastic tone said, “Well, let’s see where last night’s mass shooting was.” The red “Breaking News” rectangle that greeted me at the top of my screen was an odd coincidence, I thought. As I absorbed what it said, my blood went cold: “9 killed in late night mass shooting in Dayton, OH.” I was stunned. I read the words out loud to my husband. He thought I was joking. In my mind, I pictured myself tucking into a fetal position and staying in bed under the covers all day, because it just seemed like such a better–such an easier–thing to do than to turn on the news and hear the details of yet another mass shooting that had happened less than 24 hours after El Paso. I mean, what the fuck, Universe? Can we get a break? “Should we go watch Meet The Press?” Hubs asked me. (We have a weekly date with Chuck Todd.) I took a couple of slow breaths. I mentally peeked out from under the covers, un-tucked myself, said “Yes,” and headed down to the den.
Meet The Press wasn’t so much help for us–we only got to see Cory Booker talking about why he thinks our current sitting President is directly responsible for these shootings before it was preempted by some sports show. I am normally a huge sports fan; this day I was not. Thankfully, another local channel was still running the morning news (we don’t have cable) so we were quickly filled in on all the details known at that time. We went on and did what we’d planned to do for the rest of the day and then watched Lester Holt in El Paso on NBC’s Nightly News. He spoke with the family of the two-month-old boy whose parents died saving his life. I cried. I cried knowing what those parents were probably thinking in their last seconds, because as a parent your job is to protect your children until they are able to protect themselves. I cried for all the people who had in any way been affected by a previous mass shooting and were having their nightmares abruptly brought to the surface again by another senseless act.
Toward the end of the show they released the names of the nine people who’d died in Dayton. I had a huge lump in my throat as the names were shown on the screen and Lester read each one aloud–I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, a mere 54 miles south of Dayton, and I was hoping beyond my farthest hopes that I did not recognize any of the names. I didn’t, but unfortunately that didn’t make me feel any better, nor did it stop my tears.
What did stop my tears and take my breath away was what I saw out my bedroom window before climbing into bed that night–I headed up to bed early so there was still quite a bit of daylight. This is what I saw:
We are lucky to see beautiful sunsets out our bedroom window frequently but this one spoke to me. See how the sun is still so very bright on the left? To me, that said, “I have to go for now, but you know I’m coming back in the morning, and tomorrow will be a new day and we will figure this thing out.”
The next day was Monday. I went to work but made myself listen to my favorite SoCal station that has NPR news headlines and updates (what’s up, KCRW) so I could hear more about the events. I listened to some of our current sitting President’s thoughts. I heard some of the arguments and reactions about the shootings from local Angelenos. I learned about some of the people who’d died in El Paso, like the 56-year-old school teacher who went in for no reason in particular, she just wanted to make a quick stop while her husband and son waited for her in the car. As they were telling the stories, I heard the recognizable tones of anger, fear, grief, frustration, and desperation in all of the voices. My own frustration and fear was growing so I started putting pencil to paper to try and work out my own thoughts and feelings. That’s when it hit me; I’m going to write my own manifesto.
My copy of Webster’s New Wold Dictionary defines a manifesto as “a public declaration of intention by an important person or group.” My husband and son think I’m a pretty important person so I thereby deem myself eligible to write a manifesto. Apparently, many mass shooters write manifestos or some other type of piece for all to see before they do their business. So I thought to myself; if there can be manifestos of hate and opposition, can there not also be manifestos of love and acceptance? And, if people start deliberately writing manifestos of love and acceptance, how could the world not be just the teeniest, tiniest bit better for it? In my mind, I see it being the literary version of something like this:
Words mean something. Words can be promises, explanations, exclamations, declarations, and everything in between. This is why it is very important to think about what you say before you say it because there are no “take-backs” with speech. I am ashamed to admit that words have left my mouth directed at people I love that never should have been said. Those moments are now life lessons for me in how to be better—how to either better articulate myself in a non-hurtful manner, or how to be better in remembering there is always the option of silence.
Here and now, I choose to not be silent and use my words carefully. With this manifesto, I give you my word that:
- I will continue to have an open heart and mind and accept people’s speech and actions as their truth of the face value they choose to let me see, hear, and know. If I’m not digging what you’re putting down, then sorry, but we can’t get down together.
- I will continue to raise my son to have an open heart and mind and when the time comes that he is old enough to understand and start asking questions about the ugliness that happens in the world, I will remind him that the world and the people in it are still more good than bad. I will help him focus on the good and encourage him to seek out like-minded friends that also have open and accepting hearts and minds in whatever beautiful color of skin in which they are living.
- I will continue to have hard conversations and encourage open dialogue with my husband who has a different ethnicity from both me and my son but has taken on the task of being my partner and raising a multi-racial child. (Thanks for that Hubs, BTW, if you’re reading this.)
- I will continue to vote in every single election, be it on the local, state, or federal level. I will start taking my son with me when I vote, just like my mom used to take me with her when I was a little girl, so he can start putting the puzzle pieces together in his mind of how a democracy works. (I’m hearing in my head right now the Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just A Bill” song. If you’re too young to know what that is or just want a sweet reminder, take a peek and lend your ear here: https://youtu.be/FFroMQlKiag )
- I will continue to laugh and smile and not feel guilty about doing so. A lot of people died, again, for no reason. I cried for them and I cried with their families over their loss, but I’m still alive and able to do all I can think to do to end these horrible acts.
So there it is. My manifesto. Seems a little too simple to me but some of the greatest ideas often start out as such. And, even small things can make a huge difference. May everything I do today and every day after make a positive difference and create a favorable impact.