More Depleted Than We Thought?
We’re having a week of glorious spring weather here in Seattle. Sunny every day. And of course now the days are so much longer.
So I’d like to write something light, something cheerful.
But I’m not sure that’s where we’re at. When I was doing pastoral ministry I remember being surprised by the frequency of incidences of suicide at about this time of year. Spring. When things seemed on the up and up. Hopeful. Then a suicide. It happened more than once.
A friend who worked more directly with those experiencing mental illness said that spring was, paradoxically, often when suicides happened. He explained that at least some people who were already struggling were so depleted by winter’s challenges and darkness that by the time spring came it was all too much.
Maybe that’s what T. S. Eliot had in mind when he wrote “April is the cruelest month of the year.” That the work of re-birth, of tubers and roots uncoiling from winter’s death and getting up for another go, was just too much.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
This spring we’re not only depleted by winter, but by the pandemic. And by other things, like the seemingly unremitting horror of shooting deaths . . . Atlanta . . . Boulder . . . (many more if you look it up). And now the death of another black man, Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Another death of a black man at the hands of the police.
It may seem that the Atlanta and Boulder shootings, mass shootings at spas and a grocery store, have no connection to the death of Daunte Wright. But there is a link. Guns and a culture of violence.
In a culture of so many guns, the police are understandably anxious, on a hair-trigger. Add to that, our police, especially since 9/11, have become increasingly militarized. And many, like Derek Chauvin, appear to think they are engaged in a domestic war, a war where American citizens, particularly black men, are the enemy.
We’re a country that is up to our gills in guns, now way more than one for every man, woman and child. Each new incident of violence seems to prompt the acquisition of more guns. We are addicts, unable to stop getting guns, using guns. And guns, as officer Kim Porter found to her shock, are lethal.
Earlier this year, there was a guest column in the Wallowa County Chieftain from a self-described “gun lover.” He talked about the guns he owned, the guns he had inherited from family members. He spoke of the craftsmanship involved in making those guns. He cited the various purposes for which they existed, how he used them for hunting and target practice. Such a view of guns would resonate with many in that rural county.
But then he said something had changed, something had gone badly wrong. Guns and carrying them around had become a political statement, a cultural signifier in a way that was just nuts. So much so that he, a gun enthusiast, was having second thoughts about the whole gun thing. The gun-crazies, he wrote, were giving us all a bad name, putting everyone at risk, and increasing the likelihood of gun restrictions.
Spring is beautiful. It’s another gorgeous day. But this spring we may be more depleted than we know.
By the pandemic, by the culture wars, by racism, by violence in America. This spring I can understand those who, by the time spring came, only felt exhausted.