This isn’t the blog I was intending to write today but yesterday’s shooting at YouTube’s HQ, and the just hours earlier murders of two teenagers in London, have been weighing in my mind for much of the day.
I won’t begin to kid or claim to have any new profound views on what must change or deeper insight into what’s driving acts of devastation and atrocity like these, nor any authority on the matters. These are simply my unordered and unorganised thoughts and feelings from today.
My morning was one of two halves. I made a decision to start the day with an 8am yoga class, shifting my in-the-office arrival an hour later, because I am increasingly passionate about the importance of, actually the criticality of, a more balanced life. It felt good. Walking to class, the sun finally shining, a happy, restorative and healthy practice. I called my mum at the end and she commented on how just completely well I sounded. On the tube I checked my phone. I saw a message from my best friend who works for YouTube, in their NYC office, who I’d been in contact with the night before to make sure she wasn’t out at HQ. I read about what her colleagues had been through and I just started to cry. I didn’t and don’t have any words to even describe. Before I could even form a coherent thought, I started to cry. I couldn’t keep it in.
Over the past month, months, year and years there have been more and more big unspeakable acts of complete and utter destruction, violence and trauma, ripping communities apart. Too many to even begin to list. The big ones flood the news cycles, social media spheres and you think you will never forget. But for many of us watching, not directly impacted or affected, they perhaps fade or the initial emotion changes to something less front of mind. And each day across the globe, there are many more deaths and violent crimes that go unreported, unnoticed other than to those who experience that person being taken (I deliberately won’t use the word loss in this context).
Today I remembered one of the most impactful books I read last year. And I read A LOT, so much so that last year I was stopped by Airport Security in Sri Lanka post a bag scan who were curious as to whether I had any books with me… Some, I coyly replied, and when asked exactly how many, I had to confess over 15… I was there for a week.
It was ““Another Day in the Death of America” by a British Guardian journalist Gary Younge, who picked at random one day, just a normal day, in America; Saturday 23 November 2013 when ten children and teenagers were killed by guns. These weren’t deemed newsworthy crimes or fatalities, they went untold. He searched for them and brought their stories to life. I read it over just a couple of days, including a few tube trips that also had me sobbing openly in a very un-British way, though I was very Britishly given a wide berth with a complete avoidance of any eye-contact, not that I blame them!
I remember how profound it was and how profoundly it impacted on me at the time. I’m going to re-read the book. The FT reviewed it as “timely and utterly, hopelessly timeless”. They couldn’t be more right.
I live alone. Someone once asked me that surely I would feel safer at night if I had a gun and knew that if I was attacked and they had a gun, I could defend myself. No. My answer is an absolute and univocal no. I am not American, nor a specialist, so perhaps its difficult, and some may say inappropriate, for me to comment on the legacy of the right to bear arms or the entanglement of gun possession laws, but I sleep better at night knowing that it is harder to get a weapon here and were I to be burgled tonight, its unlikely they would have a gun (I say that based on belief, not a stat I can cite though I do think I’m right!). Writing off attacks as being nothing to do with gun control is, in my opinion, lazy and just not true.
I felt very small and without any power to change when I read about the YouTube shooting this AM. Then I read this article, also by Gary Younge, on the courage and leadership shown by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, joined by thousands on their recent March for Our Lives. They stood up and they spoke out. Whilst he may be right that alone, ‘young people’ can’t solve this unilaterally, they could be the spark to light the flame.
Our compassion for others, our ability to feel deep empathy even oceans and time zones apart, and how we can move to act when we see a burning injustice, often on a stranger’s behalf, demonstrated by those students and supporters hundreds of thousands of miles away… that is my humanity. And whilst very reluctantly I’m not really able to call myself young anymore (hello forthcoming thirty-second birthday…) I hope I will always continue to connect and perhaps even find some small way to help fan the flame.