Phelan M. Ebenhack via AP
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #13 (July 4, 2016), pages 6 & 8.
What we know, after Orlando
Today is Tuesday. Tuesdays are still early in a Portland workweek. After
today, there’s a lot more to do. So much more.
Today is only two days after a crazy man with an assault rifle, killed and
killed as much as he wanted to. Then he reloaded to kill again. After that, he
reloaded and killed even more daughters and nieces younger than mine, sons and
nephews just as precious as ours. At will. Oh ampun’illaah (Oh Lord have Mercy).
It’s Tuesday evening and we’re gathered around our Muslim elder’s kitchen
table, listening intently for more information about that ugly man — What about
his familia? — His faith? — His motive? We don’t know. We cannot know, we are
humble women and men. We are a thick continent and three time zones away from
another instance of cruelty lit by the excesses of another national election
Our swollen hearts are racing, our muddled minds are too. What can we do — we
elders and our younger civic activists; we community-policing commanders and our
blue street cops; we Arabs and Africans, Anglos and Asians. Fathers and mothers,
aunties and uncles. All of us, so startled. And stuck.
For us, Tuesday finally ends. We’re exhausted after three days of alternating
highs and lows, all bad. There are so many mixed feelings around our table,
among our many Muslim communities. Coherence eludes me. Our lives have not
properly prepared us. Not for this. Not for these 100 families suffering from
that single sick shooter. Not in a gay club.
What’re we to do
I drive away. Slowly north on Highway 217. I tentatively blinker right, to
Oregon 26. I cannot navigate well so far outside the emotional geography of my
small life. I am lost. GPS cannot help. And I can’t locate our ancestors’ or
elders’ radio signal. I strain to hear my Abrahamic teachers’ and my university
Very late Tuesday, after our city streets and our household mice quiet down,
I hear my patient teachers’ and persistent ancestors’ distant whispering. They
say they’ve already spoken about unhappy moments such as these. Many-many times.
Over your family’s seven decades of angry invading armies, of brutally sudden
expulsion, of humiliating resettlement in resentful Europe then in racialized
America — they say — at every ugly intersection, our direction to you has
been the same. Always the same. By now, you already know how to feel, what to
As midnight nears, as in every earlier existential crisis — mine, our pop’s,
our grandpa’s — I re-examine what I know. What I can know.
I made a list, short and sure:
I know I love our son and his River City art. I know I love our nephew and
his Medellín community building. I love our daughter, her rural Cambodia and
Kenya health clinics. I know how much I love our daughter’s daughters’ chocolate
eyes and their sing-song voices. I know for sure that each of these souls are
living expressions of love.
I know that love is a smaller word for God. A tear to our oceans. Love is
God, as much as I can know God. I know I must nourish and warm myself with this
littler love, their love, because all that humbling mystery, all that grandness,
that is God remains really unknowable and practically undeliverable, given the
narrow bandwidth and slow bit-rate service our side of town gets. Comcast, man.
Therefore, I know that every son and nephew, every daughter and grandchild,
whether straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, black,
white, or brown as me, is likewise loved by fathers and uncles and grandpas.
Guapos just like me.
And that these lovely souls suddenly leaving our achy little earth on such a
terrible Saturday night breaks my heart like those sorrowing men’s hearts are
broken. I know that me not feeling thus, makes me as unlovable as that shooter.
So lonely. So Godless. Ampun’illaah.
* * *
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