As of November 17, the 321st day of the year, there have been 369 mass shootings in the U.S. That works out to more than one a day.
It has happened so many times now that the only salve offered for a recent mass shooting at a Southern California high school, which left two students dead, was the sour concoction of sorrow steeped in hopelessness. The reporters and salve were gone in 72 hours.
As students were led out of the Santa Clarita high school by armor-clad, assault rifle-toting deputies, a local reporter was asked by a student, “What kind of country is this?”
I celebrated two significant events recently, one is profoundly satisfying, the other intensely sad.
After what was, once again, a race with the clock, Jodie Mansfield of VisaAngels pulled me over the finish line on literally the last day available for me to secure my permanent visa. Thanks to you and your staff, I can proudly report that I am safely ensconced in the community and realize our shared responsibility to participate in making Ecuador a better place for all.
It is also time, and with no small measure of resolve, that I must turn my emotional attachment away from the slow disintegration of my once loved homeland.
I do not know how “the shining beacon on a hill” became a guard tower looming over terrified children imprisoned for following their parents — or how enthusiastic is the continuing effort. I’ve lost count of the number of times I thought that justice and human decency would prevail, only to watch civility withering under the shade of powerful interests consumed with greedy indifference to suffering.
Finally, I lost my faith in America.
I came to understand that freedom, as defined by the Constitution and so intrinsic to the American Dream, was no longer desired by many. Instead, a tyrant that dictates the rules of law and order, as he sees fit, was chosen as maximum leader so as not to disturb from gorging in the trough of unbridled consumption.
Regulatory restraint has been abandoned as if no lessons were ever learned. Environmental responsibility has been abdicated and been replaced with a complete disregard for science and worldwide admonishment. Good people came to confuse quality with quantity. The stock market no longer reflects the diversity of stakeholders or takes responsibility for maintaining a lifelong investment in America. Instead, it bathes in the rubble of dismantled institutions, many vital to democracy, being sold piecemeal to inflate quarterly profit. Even Hollywood films, once the creative envy of the world, are no longer valued for artistic accomplishment, but rather on how large the box office receipts were in the first 24 hours.
Government-supported research and development, the future of sound financial footing for any country, is all but gone. It was offered up to China in exchange for a $1,500 Smartphone that fits in your pocket while maintaining a slim appearance.
Finally, you have the three-ring circus that passes for serious contemplation regarding the future of the union. It is being proposed that integrity is fluid. People of influence speak of corruption as being sanctioned if it does not pass an undefined threshold. Media remains obsessed with whatever god Kanye West is praying to this week while the public complains that presidential impeachment hearings — and the future of the country — lack the sexiness required to keep anyone’s attention.
I will not miss it.
I’ve had a long row to hoe this year. The bulk of my time has been spent recovering from or preparing for, another surgery. However, there is light on the horizon. In a matter of days, I will have enough metal in me to satisfy any Blue Oyster Cult fan, and I’ll have the added and distinct pleasure of looking forward to being able to once again take long walkabouts with my camera, knowing that whatever is going to happen will happen and that I can return to my job of showing up and watching it unfold. As it is, a day hardly passes that fails to absorb some gem gleaned from the people of this wonderful city into my heart, and I expect my experience will continue to be the same.
I had the pleasure of spending time with a fantastic Hindu/Buddist hybrid (say, what?) when I was younger. I carried away with me the same three words that he offered the world. I kept them carefully wrapped in memory for decades until I knew where they belonged.
It is with profound satisfaction that I arrived at an understanding of the profundity of his message and it is with his blessing that I will live out my days in my adopted home.
Be here now.