Thu 16 Oct 2008
It may not be readily evident, given my frivolous rants about Dodger Fan Douchebags and finally heeding Susan’s call to get my photos from our fantastic Mexico vacation up on Flickr, but these past few days I’ve been pretty beaten up by a combo of things: exhaustion and overload from the longest presidential campaign ever; continuing uncertainty (or rather a shortage of willing optimism) over how the election will end up; anxiety over the economy; the total helplessness that accompanies raging Southern California wildfires that choke the air with smoke and ash; and lastly the death of John McGraham, the homeless man who was murdered late Thursday evening on 3rd Street (less than 1.5 miles — as the crow flies — from our front door) by person or persons unknown who decided that it was perfectly acceptable to extinguish a human life by pouring flammable liquid on him and igniting it.
I can deal with all the other crap mentioned above. The fires will evenutally be contained. The votes will be counted. The markets will go up and down and up and down. I can muddle through all that. But not so quick can I get beyond being shown indisputable proof of our capacity for evil and as a consequence I pretty much spent the weekend on my ass in a fine foul funk.
Monday morning on my way in to work I visited the shrine erected in John’s memory by grief-stricken family members and outraged residents, and I was drawn somewhat reluctantly to revisit it after dark on the way home that night. I lost track of time standing before it with other members of the more immediate community. I read and reread the cards and letters that had been posted. I took stock of the items that had been left. A bottle of Dr. Pepper. A can of Coca-Cola. Two cigarettes. A box of matches. A meal in a plastic bag. Flowers. Stuffed animals. Candles, candles and more candles. Was there irony in those flames flickering in tribute to a man burned to death? I didn’t know.
I was too busy standing there in silence alternating between sorrow and seething hatred and praying for the power to see what soulless beast could do such a thing. Just show me God. Just point me to where such demons scurry and I will seek out the monsters and be no better and far less merciless.
Of course, nothing.
Ridiculous though it may seem, I even entertained the idea of confessing to the crime. I had feelings of literally wanting to be punished because of the guilt by association I felt at being a member of a species that can commit such base acts of ultra violence and depravity. But then my better, less martyr-minded half took control and led me to a more proactive mission: to put good in the world. Not in some monumentally impossible effort to cancel out such badness — because there is no canceling it. But rather to respond to such evil by by being more accepting and helpful and tolerant and considerate and respectful and assisting in my everyday life.
Evil may have its inevitable place in this world, but my response is to kill it with a thousand kindnesses.