It's Quiet, Uptown.
|Photo © Jessica Taghap|
The week started out with a lot of noise -- namely, about the Stanford rape, social media blowing up with plenty of strong opinions on consent and the proliferation of rape culture. For a while, the noise over these issues only seemed to grow louder over the course of the week, even as news came of the untimely murder of singer and former The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie at a concert in Orlando this past Friday night. In about less than 24 hours the verbal noise of the ether would find itself quieting down to a standstill, giving way to gunfire -- this time, at a nightclub. Indeed, as one survivor of the shooting -- whom, admittedly, had never heard gunfire before -- had described: the shots had initially registered not as the sounds of cold-blooded murder, but that of music from within the club itself. In the midst of joy and laughter and revelry, nearly fifty lives would perish.
As a writer, all I have are words -- and over the past week, I have heard lots of words bandied about, but cannot myself rise above the din with my own. Cutting through all the noise -- the opinions and calls to action and harried pleas and utter blame and endless debate -- I honestly don't know what to make of any of it. At times like this, I very much wish I had an opinion to give, that I had all the resources in the world to give back what is lost. But every time something like this happens -- another Columbine, another Sandy Hook, another San Bernardino -- I just feel...ill-equipped. I do not understand. All I know is that my heart is weary, and left with a terrible, terrible sadness at the world we are living in.
How does one even begin to comprehend such a thing?
In Alan Bennett's play The History Boys -- about a group of Oxford- and Cambridge-bound sixth-formers in 1980s England -- the students ponder the same questions in what becomes a heated discussion about the Holocaust and how it could ever be taught in schools. One of the students, Posner, the only one of the boys who is of Jewish descent, argues, "But to put something in context is a step towards saying it can be understood and that it can be explained. And if it can be explained, then it can be explained away."
I am jotting some of these thoughts down into my iPhone, on an F train coming from the Upper East side, where the sight of a building lit up in the colors of the Pride flag has just greeted me as I left work for the day. In this, I take solace. I take solace in the quiet of the summer night, in its crisp air, in the simple ability to be able to breathe it in for just one more day. I take solace in the sight of a couple walking in front of me, tenderly holding hands as a song from Hamilton ("That Would Be Enough") begins to flood my ears, its opening lyrics carrying a new resonance:
Look around, look around
at how lucky we are to be alive right now
As Lin-Manuel Miranda said in his acceptance speech this past Sunday night: "Love is love is love is love is love is love is love..." That's all we have. That's all we can give. And that means so much more than just mere words. It means so much more than hate.