Monday, 13 June 2016

Love, hate and swallows.

Out in the world, something dark and violent and ugly and fatal happens. On the television, everyone is talking about it. Quite soon, everyone is fighting about it. What was the cause? What is the solution? Who, or what, is to blame? (There must always be somebody to blame.)

And then, somewhere quite else, someone is writing about swallows. The talk of the nesting swallows reminds me of a man I used to know who lived in a house that was filled with wildlife. He didn’t really like it unless it was inhabited with birds and beetles. He died, from a stupid disease, much too young. Down at the horses’ field, my own swallows are flinging and flying. It seems hard, in the warm Scottish rain, to imagine the fifty lives which were just torn up as if they were so many pieces of paper, to imagine all those who grieve for them, who will miss them, who will never be quite the same without them.

I almost know why the shouting people shout. This is all very complicated and frightening and people want a nice, neat box to put horror in. There is a huge desire to blame it on The Other. The Other is safe, because it is not the enemy within. That’s the really scary one. The Other can take many forms – fundamentalism, terrorism, religious extremism, insanity. Those are easy, because they can be pointed at. They are over there. Hatred and violence and bigotry and the unravelling of the mental wires are more frightening, more complicated, more difficult, because they don’t belong in a neat box. They are not over there. They have their seeds in the familiar culture, in the zeitgeist, even, horribly, in the playground. From tiny seeds of prejudice, harmless name-calling, careless labelling, mighty oak trees of division and derision grow.

This was about lots of things. All those things will be shouted about in the next few days. And in the end, probably nobody will do anything. Everyone will call for action, everybody will say Something Must Be Done, and everyone will still be able to buy an assault weapon at Walmart.

One of the things it was about was hatred. The shooter hated gay people. Whatever else he loved, whatever else he hoped to achieve, whatever else was in his head, his hatred was clear.  That is widely reported, even by his own family. On the internet, there is footage of a choir called the Orlando Gay Chorus, singing True Colours in honour of the victims. It’s very moving. The camera pans along, and there are men and women, white and black and brown, young and old, tall and short, slender and rounded. How, I wonder, could you hate all those people? They are all so different. They are all such individuals. They sing so beautifully. What blind category error makes a person scoop them all up and hurl them into the hatred box?

Also on the internet, various memes are off and running. One of them goes: Love is Love. I always think this when everyone gets hysterical about equal marriage. Woman and man, woman and woman, man and man: love is love. It really is. I don’t know much, but I do know this. The privileging of one kind of love over another is so odd. I take your gay love and I trump it with my hetero love. It’s not a game of poker. This is not a royal straight flush. Love damn well is love.

The good part, because in every tragedy there are good parts, the merest slivers of shimmering silver lining, is that the hatred will, in many quarters, be countered with love, and there will be unity and sympathy and empathy and the holding out of hands. The bad part is that nobody really knows what to do about that kind of hate and some people don’t want admit it even exists and all the shouting people will go on shouting, mostly about otherness and the Second Amendment.

But someone, somewhere, is talking about swallows. And that is what I cling to, because when faced by the very big, the very cruel, the almost inexplicable, I can only hold on to the very small. 


  1. It has been raining buckets here, just about every day for several weeks. There are (some) mornings of sunshine but there always seems to be a downpour before the day is over. It's raining right now (6:28 p.m., Monday, June 13). We're up on a hill so no flooding and the rains have left the garden extremely lush; there have never been so many peony blooms.
    I only "found out" about the Orlando massacre well after it had happened. Take one day "off" from the internet/ computer and....

  2. I was intermittently asking the universe to knock the referendum pantomime off the front pages towards the end of last week. I was so heartily sick of what the print meejah and some horridly ambitious men are making out of the EU decision that has been laid at our feet - so few of us asked for it, and yet now we have had our hands forced, at least leave us in peace to THINK!

    Now I'd like it back. I'd even like IDS, and BoJo and the Ghastly Godawful Gove back (I am a retired teacher, he irritates me beyond MEASURE!) twittering and wittering and fibbing and wilfully misleading us all.

    That's saying a lot, for me.

  3. I am done and about gutted with all this hatred. Yeah, I know, you just have to keep repeating any bit of wisdom you can and go forward, because life being life, you can't go back or even sit in the same place. But that's wearing very thin.

    The sad thing is, plenty of people will say, "Oh, Islamic radicalism" as if that explains it all and we can relax because we already know that is deadly. That may very well be a large part of it, but the bottom line is that it was bigotry. Bigotry -- and worse yet, there will be some people sniggering quietly to each other that "at least it was just queers, and they were asking for it." No, no, no and no. How on earth did a supposedly civilized nation, one that says it offers equality to all, come to this kind of ignorance and hatred in even a segment of its population?

    I live in a lovely place, close to stud farms where beautiful little future race horses are born every year, and every spring there is more hope in the air than is legal. :-) But I have come to the point that I'd rather live in Canada, where, I know, things aren't perfect either. But jeez.

  4. And in Marseille last week, men, trained in the art of hooliganism unleash their great desire to beat up on others, and violence hides in households where you think life unfolds with merriment and great purpose, and a prominent journalist takes down his twitter account because the anti-semetic lashing and references to the next holocaust are just too much...
    Think swallows. And reach out to your neighbor. And recognize that nature endowed us with the ability to destroy ourselves unless we finally learn to behave like peace loving animals, rather than lunatics who don't know good from evil.


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