Friday, July 27, 2012

"With Lifts And Everything"

This from The Stranger:

At the recent Totally '80s Sing-Along Encore to the Maxx! at Central Cinema, the final song/video was Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings," which was lifted from fatal sogginess by a couple of sing-along attendees: a man and woman who came together at the front of the house to perform a song-length interpretive dance, "with lifts and everything," says an eyewitness. "The whole crowd sat and watched, and when the dance ended, the applause was insane. Then -- THEN -- the man and woman parted ways and sat back down on opposite sides of the theater, suggesting THEY DID NOT KNOW EACH OTHER. It was magical, and that it was occurring at roughly the same time as the Aurora massacre makes it even more so."

The homicide rate in the US is as low today as it was the day I was born in 1962 and has been in dramatic decline since 1991 when it reached its all time high.  Events like the recent Colorado movie theater mass murder, however, with their attendant wall-to-wall media coverage, are on the rise causing many of us to perceive that the world is a more dangerous place than ever before, when, in fact, it's pretty much like it was during the nostalgic idyl of the 1950s.

That said, all of us must deal with tragedies like this, even if it's just making our brains not think about it. I know I'm not the only one who felt first horrified, then angry, then sad, all the while scanning the news, websites, Twitter, and blogs for a "reason." Was this politically motivated? Racially motivated? A result of abuse, neglect, or bullying? I'm still waiting for a credible timeline of his life because, I guess, I want to scour it for clues as to what could bring a person to this point, how a person could fall through the cracks like this, and what perhaps we could all do to prevent it from ever happening again.

In the aftermath of Seattle's recent grisly tragedy involving a mentally ill person with a gun, I focused on our criminally lax gun laws, and this event only strengthens my conviction that we need much stricter regulations on guns and gun ownership, especially when it comes to the kinds of military assault style weapons used in Colorado, weapons specifically designed to kill human beings enmasse, all of which were purchased legally by the killer. I doubt it's an accident that the number of these senseless mass murders of innocents has increased alongside the de-regulation of guns during the past couple decades.

But as gun advocates are quick to point out, a person bent on doing a horrible thing will still be able to acquire guns illegally or turn to other methods of killing, and I can't deny that: bombs can be made from fertilizer and cars can careen into crowded squares.  I've not done the research, but I suspect there have always been mass murderers, men who snap (and it's most often men who psychologists tell us are more likely to turn their sadness outward in anger, while women are more likely to turn it self-destructively inward), and to use the vernacular, go nuts. It's what happens to some probably predictable percentage of humans when they become disconnected from their tethers, just as we know there will be more earthquakes in California.

But I don't want to turn this post into a debate about guns. I'd rather think about those strangers who came together at the Central Cinema to dance while being serenaded by one of the schmaltziest songs of all time, uplifting a theater full of people, who themselves had come together for a sing-along. The most newsworthy part of this story, I think, is that it was reported in a newspaper. It's the kind of everyday interaction between humans that we tend to take for granted, that we overlook in the rush and crush and worries of our day-to-day lives. But they are happening all the time. They happen as tornados rip houses off their foundations. They happen as earthquakes shake the Earth. They happen as hurricanes and tsunamis and droughts and floods and mass murders ravage lives.

And they happen even as we wonder what we can do to mitigate these natural disasters in the future. They happen as we build stronger levees and better warning systems and contemplate stricter gun control laws. Strangers are dancing with one another all the time. That is what sane people do. That is what our children crave every second of every day: to connect, to connect, to connect. Connecting with the other people is the surest sign of mental health.

Yesterday, as I was cycling home from the Center of the Universe, I ran into my friend Tiberio, who I've not seen in quite some time. We stopped our bikes in the middle of a sunny parking lot and caught up with one another. A lot's gone on since last we spoke, up, down and sideways. At one point after telling me of a failed business venture, he said, "You know what I've started to do? I've started looking in the eyes of everyone I pass and smiling at them. Some of them look away and some of them must think I'm crazy, but some of them look into my eyes and smile back." He paused to draw in a deep breath holding his hands in front of him for emphasis. "I get so full of love that it almost makes me cry."

So yes, we can go back to our debates and planning and worrying, but man, let me tell you, the answer to it all is to dance with strangers, "with lifts and everything."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this uplifting post! I also heard a wonderful commentary by my favorite radio host Jian Gomeschi on the CBC. He asked why does the news always focus on the perpetrator instead of the victims? Can you name the perpetrator? Yes! Can you name the victims? I can't, and I bet you can't either. The thing that was really cool in his talk, was that he never mentioned the perpetrator's name once as a way to emphasize his point, and support the victims!
And by the way, share wit your friend that I will smile and look people in the eye as I walk down the street!