by Jas Faulkner
There is always a stifling blanket of ambient rage that drapes over everything whenever something bad happens. I had hoped, as I set out to run errands and spend time away from my work, that the Spring weather would serve as a balm. On April 18th, 2013, Nashville was blessed with beautiful weather and relative peace and safety.
In spite of this, every stoplight presented someone with a theatre to act out their impatience. People honked their horns and shouted at each other. West Nashville, drivers let their ire get the best of them. People did stupid, ragey, dangerous things with their SUVs and sedans that frightened and endangered me, the people in the car with me and people in other cars nearby who were also trying to get from point A to point B without becoming a part of the vehicular Grand Guignol that seemed to be playing out at nearly every intersection. We all did our damnedest to stay out of the way of the people who had, at least for the day, subscribed to the Point And Shoot school of driving.
It would be nice if we could all handle the stress that comes with dealing with people who are broken with something resembling equanimity. We accept that things are rougher and sometimes we decide to contribute to the conditions by becoming harder ourselves. We are angrier and it seems like every time some atrocity happens, it takes longer for things to get back to normal. In the interest of disclosure, I have to admit there are nearly empty bottles of baby aspirin, vitamin E gelcaps, and sublingual B12 tabs that give away the fact that I am failing miserably at being strong in the face our collapsing sense of community and civility. When did the news start giving me chest pains?
I, no, we, all of us- except for the people right in the thick of it in Massachusetts- are being big babies. We need to get over ourselves. This is not about us. We are not Boston. The people who have picked up their fellows, dried tears, lifted the fallen, cleaned the blood from the sidewalks and pushed classmates to safety on campuses as gunshots rang out…those people are actual Bostonians.
Co-opting civic identity, especially in the wake of a tragedy is something that is well-intended but ultimately wrong-headed. It smears our regional identity into the kind of homogeneous cultural goo that piths away our humanity. If you want to look at it in a more jingoistic light, saying that I am Boston instead of saying I am a Nashvillian who stands with Boston is letting the terrorists win.
Allowing for this boundary does not trivialize the feeling any of us have for Boston or Sandy Hook or Nickle Mines or Columbine or New York or Oklahoma City or Atlanta or any other place that has suffered at the hands of those who fail to see anything beyond a target and an agenda. When we stand with but not as the stricken we are saying that we will be strong for those who are hurting, those who are scared, those who may have been our big shoulders in the past. It is having the class to say it’s not all about us.
What can I say to the road ragers and the tremulous and the angry and the flag wavers who are screaming from a safe distance? Get over yourselves. Your angst and anger helps no one. The good you could be doing will make a much bigger difference.