Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Nine dead (or was it eight, or was it ten?) including the gunman. Blown away. Shot through the heart. A bullet in the head. The details all differ, there to be tracked down and mourned over, discussed with the calm of yesterday's strange weather. I haven't done it. The specifics, I mean. I'll leave such a morbidly clinical task to the police and the families. I speak in generalities, initially, because to mention the names and the weights, the heights and the hair colour of all these poor vicitims begins a long process whose end has no end. How do you classify a person's whole being? Alive, that morning, deceased by their usual bedtime that night. Who can collect all the dreams and sweet heartbreaks that filled each of these souls as a child fills his bucket with sand at the beach? To, and I quote (from whom I'm not sure, the nameless and faceless void of our culture), 'count the human cost', is a process which, if done properly, must topple us over with its own absurd weight.

The cynic inside me throws down the newspaper and rolls his tired eyes, disgusted at the incompetence, at mismanagement, at tardiness, at laziness, at the slow-burning rage of a policeman who turns his own gun on those people he once swore to protect with his life. Dismayed at his own disgust. For here we have weariness, writ large. An oversized example of a soul -- the gunman's -- that has been battered, if not destroyed, by the life that he chose, corrupt as it became, and a soul -- this writer's -- weary of people in general, their weaknesses, their selfishness, their cruelty, their indifference, all that contains and surrounds them, and this comparison between himself and a killer can only disturb this writer even that much more further. Who wants to compare oneself to those that have lost the will to succumb to life's subtle disappointments or grand it's-not-fairs?

For modern psychology insists that we look at this mind and this act and probe them with care, to seek out the dark secrets that led to this end. Perhaps not literally, of course. This man's brain, I am certain, which once was attached to a body that fell to a sniper's swift bullet, is still in the head, in the grave, in our earth. No need to weigh it or slice it to see who he is, the true self, organic in nature, tactile in tissue. No Einstein -- not here.

What is so special about a man who kills eight other souls and their spirits? Nothing! Yes, of course, indeed, it goes without saying, as a matter of course, a bus full of Chinese from Hong Kong held hostage all day in the plaza where the nation's new president spoke mere weeks ago has a quality of pathos, albeit a tabloid one, that creates a good story, international in scope, and allows an example of provocative themes to unfold as we sit comfy on couches: the safety of SWAT teams untrained for such chaos, unfolding live on TV, while countries away these hostages own relatives watch their hurt loved ones while we munch on our snacks. A story that demanded an ending in blood. (Isn't that what prime-time TV offers on each weekday night?) Which we get -- a sniper's sure shot that takes down our mad foe, but this movie-type climax takes place only off-screen! A disappointment as precise as the one that we feel when finding the car window half-open after the first storm of spring.

Suddenly, it's over. In the rain, in the confusion, in the tilted camera angles that hint at access only partial and skewed, we're left with exhausted announcers to fill in the blanks that lead to an anti-climax that offered us death, muted and distant. The days that come soon will give us our fix: nations at war with their words and their sorrows, a movie script's denouement played out for much too much long. We've long since left the theatre behind to piss our sweet piss in the lobby's dank toilets, but the story goes on in the endless end credits that rise up from the screen and into eternity.

What are we left with? A third-world country's soft pleas for understanding and patience. Perhaps I'm not as angry as I should be. I've grown familiar with the pace and the lag between my home and this one. And something larger is at play, even greater than nations, and their frequent huge squabbles. We are, in the end, left with a man and a gun, and a bus full of people. Fill in the name of a country, and watch what would happen. To quantify how to deal with a man at the end of his rope is tantamount to predicting our own fragile ends. We work with our brains, and he works with his, 0nly he has that trigger he can so easily pull. Ba-boom. Cosmic questions of life are reduced to gunpowder. Tour bus heroics end in dark endings. To make sense of the senseless? To prevent one's mad rush to his doom?

I can't follow these roads, for I know not where they lead, nor, should I follow them, how to get back to the start of this land's constant soft sun and its light that can soothe as it burns, turning white skin to red in subtle slow shades.