I have not yet felt much of anything about the NYC truck terrorist, but I think I should. Today’s attack took place within blocks of where my daughter would have been going to school, had she not felt bad and skipped class. What a blessing a little sickness can be! But even if she had gone to class, I’m not sure what I would feel right now.
I am blessed with a rational/emotional filter that allows me to not feel things that I don’t have sufficient reason to believe are real. I am not afraid of the dark. I am not afraid of ghosts, though I think they probably do exist. I don’t fear heights, unless I am up very high on the edge of something and perceive the likelihood that I will fall. At the same time, unlike many American men, I can feel deeply, and I am not afraid to openly express feelings. I have been known to weep in church, weep in movies, weep while reading books, and to weep while driving – which I don’t recommend for safety reasons. I can feel. I just don’t feel something today. Not yet.
That may be partly because tragedy has been normalized to me. I paid close attention to Hurricane Harvey, but it did not upset me. I watched Hurricane Irma more closely because I know more people in Florida than in Houston. But Irma didn’t upset me either. I have watched a parade of tragic shootings and terrorist attacks projected across my consciousness through the ever-present news media, and I have become numb. They are all tragedies. My mind knows that, but my mind also knows that some huge number of people die every day, a fact over which I have no control and to which I have no connection. Death is part of life and always has been. Getting upset over it would mean being upset every second of every day of my whole life. I can’t do that. I have my own life to live.
Does that mean I don’t care? Perhaps, but not because those deaths don’t matter. I know they matter. They matter infinitely to the loved ones who must grieve their children, siblings, parents and friends. They matter deeply to the neighbors who say to themselves, “That could have been me.” And they matter to community leaders who ask, “How can this happen? Why did this happen? How do we stop this from happening?” I have a touch of the neighbor’s thought. That could have been my daughter. But it wasn’t my daughter, and there are enough real emergencies. I don’t need to imagine that a near miss could have been a hit. And I have pondered the leaders’ questions. But I have no new answers for this tragedy, just as I and the leaders’ had no new answers for the last tragedy or the last hundred tragedies, or all the tragedies that make up Human history. We are, after all, a tragic species, killing ourselves at a shocking rate, capable of killing ourselves forever. It is wearying to think of how suicidal we are as a species, and I am weary of thinking of it.
Tonight there are people weeping over the eight fallen loved ones. Were I with them I would likely join in because their sorrow would be real as air to me. But I am miles away from their sorrow.. I suppose could try to imagine their grief and work myself up into an artificial cry, but that would be as useless as it would be false. My daughter survived. She is well in her tiny Brooklyn apartment, probably reading for one of her classes or stir-frying some vegetables. I can see her blue hair and her clever thrift-store outfit, laughing, talking with friends, snoozing on her bed. She is my darling girl, and if anything should happen to her, it would wreck me, just as the loss of those eight innocents has wrecked their loved ones. But mine is ok. I am so sorry others feel loss tonight. I wish I knew how to make their loved ones safe like mine is safe. I don’t. All I know to do is to pray God’s mercy on this world of self-killing humans and thank Him for letting me keep my dear one this time. I am as grateful as those people are grieved. I am sorry, and I am relieved – all at the same time. I do feel something after all, and it makes me want to pray, God have mercy on us!