A Lake County police officer walks through chairs and bikes left behind on the Central Avenue parade route sidewalk near the scene of the Highland Park mass shooting.
— Brian Cassella (@briancassella) July 4, 2022
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The flock of Pine Siskins is clustered on Nyjer thistle sock feeders this morning.
The Jays are braving their way across the pasture to the porch for the payoff of protein-by-peanut. Papa Cliff Swallow is perched on the birdbox watching his progeny take flight over mountain grasses growing taller with every blessed raindrop this July. Black-capped Chickadees are tweeting in their searches of the westernmost Ponderosa Pine.
Our rescue mutt, Charlie, is licking his paw under a blanket. Our disabled Texas rescue, Willie Grommit, is puttering in his wheelchair along the western edge of the yard, scanning the willows for faunal movement.
Last night, a lone doe appeared after the beautifully saturating rainstorm to browse in the pasture at sunset. From what I observed, something happened to her mate. Deer rarely travel alone in the valley. Mountain lions pose a threat to their quiet lives, and the company of another provides that extra set of security and guarantees that they may live to browse another day.
I’m trying to fathom the seven people who lost their lives just north of my hometown of Chicago this past Independence Day, and the 45 others injured. They all had extra sets of eyes upon which to rely for their own security and safety, and yet, all lethal threats slipped through the cracks.
It’s hard to resist the intense feelings of anger, to ward off stress.
Another young, angry, white male, the mind says. Our new homegrown terrorist.
It’s impossible not to feel affected. It’s insane not to feel helpless and frustrated, enraged, even, because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, or seeing Clarence Thomas’s smug expression. It’s hard not to think of my Texas friend who defended my idea that people shouldn’t be allowed to own AR-15 semi-automatic weapons by saying that they use them to “hunt herds of wild boars down [there].” It’s hard not to feel resentment, fear, and animosity when I pass another Texas plate on my way down below in the Canyon, or wonder if they have a rifle in their Escalade.
It’s hard to love my fellow Americans right now.
What’s happening in our country is detrimentally affecting us all. Ultra-extremist groups, enabled by some Evangelicals, are putting guns in the hands of haters. While they strip away the human rights of women to choose what they wish to do with their own bodies, they enable angry white men—and they’re nearly always that—to have easier access to lethal weapons that kill dozens of people at a time. The same extremist Republicans seek to maintain control by restricting voting rights, further oppressing minority voters or those severely lacking, while simultaneously fattening the bank accounts of the already-wealthy through trillion-dollar tax cuts.
At the same time, they increase taxes on the middle class and increase the cost of living, taking away more resources and making life more expensive by raising food and fuel prices, thus increasing the cost of resources for basic survival.
I think of the Russian soldiers stealing socks and underwear out of the drawers of Ukrainian houses in their recent looting ventures.
It’s hard not to feel angry right now.
Those of us who grew up working hard, voting Democratic, and living in a world where it still snowed in December understand what we are losing. Some of us are fighting hard to retain it.
It’s all little more than a fundamental battle for resources and co-opting of power, as primal as early ancestors co-opting water and food, controlling populations through exploitation and manipulation. Early civilizations employed and controlled the masses through slave labor, and built irrigation systems and pyramids on the backs of the lesser-privileged. Later on, as agriculture was developed, some tried to control the means of producing food for mass populations to survive. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the steel and iron magnates created means of movement and factories, choking the air and clogging up natural systems, but still using massive exploitation of labor to control people.
It’s hard to understand where our technological revolution has led us, and where it serves our higher good, much less our relationship with Mother Earth and the natural world, except as a fracturing device. I can only speculate that Zuckerberg’s Meta venture isn’t going gangbusters as people are less inclined than he otherwise believed to grasp onto a false reality.
But then, I think of generations after mine, ala Gen Z and Millennials, who may feel connected through a screen, find other people with whom to relate ala Tinder, and wonder if they feel fulfilled by such removed and detached means of relating.
From my own ethos midlife, it feels like the very soul of our humanity is at stake. Those screaming for controlling the means of survival are doing so violently, enabled by others in power seeking to manipulate for purposes of their own personal agendas. Trump (or Captain Lunatic) ran on a platform of fear and disenfranchisement, appealing to underprivileged white male anger or disempowered, under-educated women with a false promise of improving their lives. He held up the tall dreams of prosperity like they were the golden fatted calf itself upon which everyone could get their hands.
Meanwhile, people stared up at Trump Towers as if they were the golden arches themselves.
All the while, he stole more money and power, catered to the demands of preaching, judgmental Evangelicals, and manipulated the anger of millions of angry white men feeling the squeeze of progress and the emptying of personal prosperity.
What frightens me most and wakes me at three o’clock in the wee hours is the prospect of all this continuing. It’s unfathomable that Americans can be so inherently ignorant as to be manipulated through such base means of tribalism, so intensely hateful that they take up violent arms against their fellow man, or that people who profess their holy love of an almighty God in one way and want to permit life to come forward at all costs would enable the taking of it in another.
All of it feels like what psychologist James Hillman described as the alchemical process of soul making. In it, the dark and the light mix together, and what comes out is a deeper sense of where the vibrancy of life may be found. Somewhere in the muck and mud, a stronger, more authentic and meaningful expression of character and sense of purpose for why any single living being, human and animal, is born and what they are here to do clarifies as the chemicals settle.
Let’s all hold hands and pray—as the Governor of Utah prayed for rain in July of 2021—that peace comes before the next Independence Day Parade.