Sunday, August 13, 2017
I sat at my turquoise tile table this morning and fed Sophie oatmeal, peaches and almond milk. She has several scabs on the bridge of her nose, and a bit of swelling from a fall. She fell into a pile of toys the other day, in a corner of her room, a tiny spot not covered in padding, her head face-down, catching the edge of something hard. Language can and should be brutal. I saw that or have seen that spot, have looked away. It would seem that chance conspired with my moment of looking away to cause injury. Is it in my power to control, literally, everything? The injuries she's acquired as a result of disability and epilepsy make my heart ache more, I think, than anything else. I don't need to explain why, and you don't need to tell me.
While I fed her, I looked at the photo above. I stared at the photo above, at every inch of it. I saw it yesterday in the frantic period after what happened, and I looked away. Some insist that we should not allow "in" images like the one above, while others insist on the importance of being a witness to what is illustrated. There is a risk of voyeurism and a risk of dissociation. I believe in confronting what is difficult and sitting with what is uncomfortable, even traumatic, particularly if I am able to do so, and I am very much able to do so. Tears stream down my face, but I am able to do so, to look, to confront.
An old friend asked this morning on Facebook whether we were capable of extending compassion to those who wrought that. All persons are worthy of compassion and need to be heard. To be seen. To be heard. If you could ask them one question, she wrote, what would it be? I quickly responded and then quickly deleted my comments. I tried to imagine what I'd say to the people who wrought that and realized that it was too early for that. Too early, too raw. Obscene. The asking, the telling, the looking, the looking away.
Right now, though, I know the question. I'd ask them what they saw when they looked at that, when they looked at that photo. What do you see? I'd ask.
What do you see?
I see that person there, in the right lower corner, with one foot on the ground, the other vulnerable and resting on the bumper of the car. I see the man in the center, caught in flight, the man to his right, upside-down, his shirt riding up, exposing his tattooed back. I see the colors of their skin. Next to him, I see the sign LOVE it says. LOVE, it says. I see the person to the left, his hand at his face. I see the woman to his left, her mouth open in a scream. I see stop signs STOP and the rush of movement even as it is suspended. I see a Black Lives Matter sign, a peace symbol, both upside-down, next to a man's legs, toes pointing to the sky, upside-down. The world upside-down. A sign that says Solidarity, right side up, a fist raised to the sky, below it a foot, a leg, a crumpled body the glint of metal. Death in light.
I can pore over this photo and see everything, everything there is to see. Language can and should be brutal. We can live questions without answers. I will not look away and you should not either.