June 13, 2012

Tragedy, Distance & A Kiss. ~ John Whipple

A gunman killed five people in Seattle.

This sort of event seems to happen often, but these deaths hit me close to home. Two of the victims were gypsy folk musicians. I didn’t know them personally, but I could identify with them. I am something of a gypsy folk musician myself.

That could’ve been me.

Have people become callous to violence? People tend to overlook tragedy until it touches them directly. I understand why people tune out stranger’s tragedy. The world is a tragedy machine. All the sadness, madness and injustice out there can be overwhelming if you take it too seriously. To cope we think a stranger’s tragedy does not concern us. We keep our personal distance.

Distance is a great source of tragedy in our world.

The creation of distance manifests in society in many ways. We condemn people of different color, religion, political leaning and sexual orientation when we perceive difference. This hostility exists when there is enough distance between oneself and the hated other. For example, you might have to rethink your views on same sex couples if your own son or daughter comes out of the closet. You might rethink how you feel about our health care system when someone in the family is struggling with both illness and their insurance company.

My stepfather was confronted with his racism when he sold a car to a black family. The family was respectable and hard working. The kids were clean and well behaved. They had good credit. He came home that night and said, “There are some good ones too.” That was certainly not enough but, for him, it was a big admission.

The distance got smaller and so did the hate.

A lot of people feel like outsiders. Millions of us feel alienated in some way. In college I wondered how I could possibly fit in. Then a pretty girl smiled at me. I mustered up the courage to approach her and fire off a joke. It wasn’t funny but she laughed anyway. I later learned that she was just as insecure and unsure about her life as I was about mine.

And so I kissed her.

To bridge the gap and make the distance a little smaller remember Joe and Drew. They were two of the victims of the Seattle shooting. They were gunned down for no apparent reason. No one should be so far from you that they are out of reach of your love and understanding.

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John Whipple is a barefoot, vagabond musician, artist and writer based out of a Toyota pickup and wherever it is parked. His website can be found at http://barefootjohn.com. Email him at [email protected].


Editor: Carrie Stiles

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