There are some days when I just don’t want to internet anymore. When every other thing I read is evidence of the senseless violence humans act out on other humans. When shootings and bombings seem relentless.
If Jo Cox’s murderer had an assault rifle, West Yorkshire could look like Orlando right now. If he’d had a bomb, perhaps it would look like Istanbul. I don’t need to go on, though you all know I could.
It would be easy, I think, to stop reading twitter and facebook, to turn away from the news feeds, to ignore the ever present evidence that as a species we are unforgiveable to each other. That the hate we enable – by ignoring or reinforcing – is manifest in the violence we not simply tolerate, but encourage.
Our world is one in which violence creates a platform. We – as communities, as countries – not just tolerate but prop up violence as a solution. We excuse it. We justify it. If you want people to listen – kill somebody. If you want people to obey – blow someone up.
This is our world. Where people learn that to be heard, to remake the world as they want it – violence is the ultimate tool.
What will it take? What will it take to end this? I don’t want to wake up every day in a world where people are killed – punished, in the eyes of their attackers – for holding a particular view, for dressing a particular way, for loving a particular person, for their very skin and hair and eyes.
Each of those numbers, each of those names – they are people. They are me, they are you. We – you and I – we die with them.
They had a right to breathe this air and tread this earth until their hearts and bodies gave out. They had a right to live in safety. To laugh and dance and sing and love. They had a right to fucking live in the light.
This is not my world. I do not know who makes this world. I want to hide from this world.
From this pain, from this senseless violence, from this constant, relentless reminder that we are not safe, that at any time someone angry can stop my life, your life, our lives – they can tear apart our communities, they can spit on our civilisation, our freedoms, our ideals, chase thousands from their homes – they can upend the good world.
Because our good world has no defence against this. Our world offers thoughts and prayers with no action. Our world gives condolences. Our good world offers sentiment when it should kneel in the earth and rip out by the roots all of the signposts and standards that show angry people that violence works.
I want to hide from all of this because it hurts. It is painful and frightening. My heart breaks for those who lose family, friends, lovers, homes, communities. I am terrified for those I love and cannot protect.
And I rage. I rage at the injustice of the violence that is cavalier as it steals these beautiful, singular lives as if they do not matter.
But I cannot hide. Because they do matter. Every single one. I do not want the portrait of these pointless, angry murderers burned on my retinas, I do not care who they are or what supposed rationale they claim justifies their outrageousness – I want to know all of these people and mourn them like friends. I want to bury the image of these killers with the remembrance and due attention to those people who were simply living their lives.
I do not know if facing the ugly cruelties of the world will make it change, but I know that ignoring problems makes them worse. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also useless and damaging.
Knowledge is work. It is pain and it is grief. But it too, is a tool. And one I hope ultimately more powerful than the violence that is the first or last resort of the angry and desperate.
In the Christian tradition, the tree of Knowledge was forbidden to Adam and Eve. Knowledge meant they had to leave safety and plenty and live in the world, in all its harshness. But knowledge does not change the truth. Adam and Eve were naked before they understood shame. Knowledge instead changed them – their thoughts, their choices, their actions.
Knowledge is not a punishment; it is the cost of living in the world. And it is the only means by which we can change.
I have no faith to speak of, but I would not be able to continue in the world if I did not believe that we could, all of us, reach a place of peace. A day and time where violence is not a megaphone, not a passport, not a ticket to the big kids table, not an option. A day where every life is recognised as holy and worthy. Where disagreement or disapproval does not find it’s logical conclusion in blood.
And so. I continue to stare this in the face. I take my knowledge as the bitter pill it sometimes is in the hope that I will learn something, anything, worthwhile – and in the hope that something will be enough.