Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Injured Bystander

Click here, then read.

I can’t take amputated limbs anymore.  I can’t take another mass killing of kids or grandparents or another wedding party blown up somewhere.  I don’t care if it’s in America or a better place or a worse place.  These things can’t keep happening, but they will.

Where does that leave me, another injured bystander, after I just asserted that I can’t take it anymore?  That leaves me in a state of protest.  Ping-ponging around in my head are the ideas that you can’t help anyone unless you can help yourself, and if you want to make a difference in the world, you should make a difference in your own community first.

Make a difference.

The phrase gets kicked around a lot, but what does it mean?  “Differ” implies disagreement.  “Different” often ends up being “bad”.  The word “difference” itself makes people run for cover because for God’s sake if I don’t have time for my own life, how can I have time for yours?

Asking an injured bystander to make a difference…to create a new dynamic that’s supposed to have more positive outcomes…is asking a lot.  

And who is doing the asking?  The media asked that old man who got blown off his feet in Boston to make a difference by interviewing him endlessly.  You could tell he was just an old man who got blown off his feet; he was tired and wanted to go home.  He had just run the Boston Marathon.  He was the wrong person to ask to make a difference, under the circumstances.  I wish Mr. Iffrig well.  I would have given Mr. Iffrig the last drop of my subcutaneous fat to prevent him from bruising, if I thought it would have helped.

Who is the right person to ask to make a difference?  I can’t run to Newtown and help the thousands of people who will suffer the reverberations of that shooting forever and ever.  Sometimes we take loss very physically; I know I do.  I can’t run to every tech school and community college or university and college and wave my freak flag, not every time there’s another shooting.  I can’t make a difference by spreading myself that thin.

I don’t run anymore anyway, though I used to be good at it.  There is no use anymore, for me, in trying to stay fit that way when the pounding only shortens my neck and compacts my spin.  I was going in reverse there for awhile until I pulled my head up and looked at the situation for what it was: running was no longer good for me.

You won’t see me running to Boston either, and if you think that’s a bad joke, that’s fine.  It’s not my fault that my theme of running to help happens to lead up to The Boston Marathon.  I bet the meaning of that phrase will change now: The Boston Marathon.  When 9/11 happened, the meaning of my sister’s birthday changed forever: it won’t be the more promising “September 11th” ever again.  My association with that date has gone from white cake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles to whatever you think when you imagine 9/11.  

I can’t watch TV anymore.  It has nothing to do with what’s going on in my own world.


I suffer no physical wounds from “What Happened in Boston”.  I wonder what they’ll call it now, like a new title.  I wonder who “they” will be—people in charge, or the crazies.  Both.  I wonder what “it” really is.  I wish I could transport myself immediately from my chair right now to the bedside of anyone who just lost a limb.  

I want to make a difference in respect to helping those in need, but I feel empty and boneless when I imagine what I’d give to the people who are suffering in Boston from yesterday’s attack.  If I inserted myself into that tragedy right now, I would expire in the donation room.

Yet I cannot continue to perch ergonomically correctly every day all day on my same seat and look at the same screens, on which I see the same things and nothing new.  Where would that leave me?  Still in a state of protest, and a state of protest is nowhere to live.  Everybody knows that.   

You give up your life, and whatever you were protesting rolls the way it would have rolled without you.  It is not heartening to be an injured bystander who wants to make a difference.  It’s kind of soul-stealing, or at least it can be, in my experience.


Several years ago, I had some landscape people dump ten tons of decorative gravel in my backyard—the good stuff, very fine and all the browns that the earth can be—specifically on the far east side of the house, since I knew I’d need it in the far west corner of my property, which droops into the city.  I like to keep neat borders, and—obviously—I wanted to make sure I had some work to do that would produce observable and positive results.  I need that.

So last night I was hauling gravel like nobody’s business; too bad the whole neighborhood didn’t want some.  It was just me, gravel, and my wheelbarrow for a couple hours after dark.  I have a good shovel, but I used my hands more.  I found comfort in spreading these tiny crushed rocks over the parched dirt of my front yard.  It was all I wanted to do.

I’m so fortunate to know what brings me peace.  I’m educated enough so that I can take my wounded self out of my parched body and comfort it, and I’m strong enough because what came before didn’t kill me.
I know that’s faulty cause and effect.  Nevertheless, I am the result.

Somebody has to be in charge of delivering bad news.  It’s not the messenger’s fault that you don’t like it.  She's simply telling you something.  Don’t hate her for her nuances and affectations; don’t blame her if she includes references to herself.

The messenger is only human.

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