Wednesday, June 22, 2016

For Ever

A couple days after a profoundly confused security guard shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, there was another shooting. This one took place a few blocks from my house. It happened a little after noon in an intersection that I run past on a regular basis. The requisite shrine with candles, balloons and taped-up poems sprang up overnight. It was a microcosm of the tributes that have been set up for the victims in Orlando. There aren't enough balloons. There aren't enough candles. Or flowers or sidewalk chalk or poems. These memorials are set up to last as long as the memories can, but they never do, even when they use those mylar balloons.
Or spray paint.
Another couple blocks down the street from the intersection where a young man breathed his last, there was a fresh tag, in black. This one wasn't for the guy who was killed in the most recent drive-by. It wasn't in memory of any or all of those murdered in Florida. It was for a kid who was shot on a different corner, near my house: Edgar. Edgar died when he was just eighteen. He wasn't the youngest victim of gun  violence here in Oakland. There are plenty of kids younger than him vying for that honor. Edgar does have the distinction of being a face that I can put to the names and the places where people have been shot and killed. I would love to tell you that it is a face that I will always remember, but it has been eight years since he was cut down, and while I remember him vaguely from seeing him on the street way back then, and the pictures that were posted next to those burning candles and mylar balloons, when I see "RIP Edgar" scrawled across a sidewalk or fence or some other flat surface. Instead, I think of all the other names that have come before and since. A list that keeps growing. A list that is exponentially larger when you consider those who knew and loved those killed by stray or direct fire. The degree of separation keeps getting smaller. Soon, everyone will know someone who was shot.
Sure, it helps the curve to live in Oakland. Or Orlando. Or Detroit. Or Newtown. A list of names that keeps growing too. Sales of candles and balloons continue to grow. As more hearts break.

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