Tuesday, July 12, 2016

American Holocaust

My friend was murdered last weekend.

I hadn't seen him in a few months - it was at the beginning of the year before the primaries were settled, and like I usually did when I saw him, I facetiously tried to get him to give me some political insider info since he worked for the DNC. He knew I knew he couldn't say anything and always had a vague but reassuring answer. "I'm cautiously optimistic" he said this time.

I never knew him to be anything but optimistic.

We weren't close friends - we ended up being bar buddies after working together for a while at GQR, a political research firm. When Chris and I moved to the Hill, we didn't get back to Lou's City Bar very frequently but when we did I was always happy to see Seth and we inevitably had good discussions about everything under the sun. I would come away feeling better after being ready to throw in the proverbial towel on humanity.  Maybe he too young to be jaded yet, but I think he would have been optimistic into old age. I tended to forget he was in his twenties; he had a quiet wisdom about him that you find in people much older. Sometimes you could mistake that quiet for confusion but then you'd realize that he was thinking, really thinking before he said something, and he often said it in a way you'd never before considered. I'm certain there isn't a person who met him who didn't go away feeling a bit more positive about the world.

Twenty-seven years old, goddamn it.

I wish I had known him better than I did. It was easy to recognize in him a depth of goodness that is rare in a person. His optimism was rooted in his faith in people, in humanity, and his life was dedicated to serving others and serving this country. There was something inherently good about Seth, which makes his senseless death all the more tragic.

He was one of the first people I felt comfortable around when I started working at GQR, and I quickly learned that everyone who met him felt the same way. He had a disarming smile and the goofiest sense of humor. I found myself chuckling at the photo of him in American flag getup despite the horrific story in the paper that went with it, the story I found too difficult to be true. Then I remembered the dreidel sweater he wore at Hanukkah, a hideous thing that you could imagine on a sixty year old Jewish woman, and I felt like laughing and crying at the same time. Oh, and the panda suit. What a goofball.

I didn't know how to process the news. Chris texted me that he saw the story on the local news and I was sure he was mistaken. I did a search and there he was, smiling in his flag outfit, beer in hand, with a Washington Post article to go with it. Shot to death. Shot. Dead. They found him conscious and breathing, but he died in the hospital. How long had he laid there after the cowards shot him and ran away, leaving him to die?

Here we have a tale of polar opposites, the best that humanity has to offer shot dead by worthless, cowardly garbage.

I couldn't process it, not that day, not the next, nor the next, not even now. I couldn't bring myself to go to the vigil; I told Chris I just couldn't handle it. I have not slept much all week, and I even tried to put it out of my mind and pretend it didn't happen. But every night, I saw him on the news, and I saw the articles in Wapo, CNN, British papers, even People Magazine. I saw the video clip with Hillary talking about him. (Yes, Clinton.) And I thought, here is this man, all over the news, a victim of the gun violence he despised, a man who dedicated his life to serving his country, and I listened to all the things that people said about it, and then I realized I could now see the dehumanizing nature of our media and our society. Because I knew this man, and I knew him better than any of the journalists or the talking heads who managed to reduce his life to "DNC staffer" and "crime victim," but most of all, I knew him better than any of the strangers who had opinions on the story.

And I thought of all the other victims of gun violence whose names have been in the news, and all the opinions shared about them by people who never knew them, and all the hateful things that have been said during the gun violence epidemic from which we suffer, this American Holocaust, born of greed, raised on propaganda, matured into a monster, and I remembered that Seth isn't a person in this discussion, that he's just a number, that these strangers with their strong opinions now will forget the name Seth Rich after the next victim of gun violence falls and there is someone new to discuss. I thought about how the gun bullies complain after each and every gun violence news story that anti gun-violence people "politicize" the deaths. I don't even know what that means anymore. If talking about a problem that is an epidemic is "politicizing" and you can't do that, then the problem will never be resolved. But maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe the point is that these advocates of the killing machines just don't care about strangers dying because it doesn't affect them.

Seth would have wanted us to "politicize" his death. His last Facebook post was a cry to "stop the killing." His whole life revolved around politics, because he loved this country and wanted to fix its problems. Damn it, this country needs more Seth Riches, not less.

I can't say the same thing about the gun-wielding thug who shot him or about the gun-toting bullies in this country who allow this plague to continue or the conservatives who joked about this Democrat's death on social media or the whackjob conspiracy theorists who claim he was killed because he was about to "expose voter fraud" or the indifferent enablers who don't speak out against gun violence. If you are reading this, you might be one of these enablers.

Where are the marches against gun violence? Where are the Susan Komen walks or the pink bats? Why aren't you passing out ribbons on every street corner, demanding an end to this insanity? Where is the Jimmy Fund to Combat Gun Violence? Why aren't you dumping buckets of ice water on your heads to end gun violence? Gun violence is the cancer of American society. More Americans die from gun injuries than breast cancer every year yet we have a cult-like mentality towards breast cancer causes but are indifferent about death by gun. Why can't we have a black bats against gun violence day at MLB ballparks? Why can't we have a Walk for the Gun Violence Cure?

Instead, we make gun violence about race or religion or mental illness and we create The Narrative and we cry a little less each time an American is gunned down and we blame everyone else but ourselves and some even cry persecution if we dare try to fix the problem. THIS is mental illness, this fear of all the wrong things and this belief that we can cure our cancer with more cancer. Meanwhile the real persecution is the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have perished by gun. Every day, 89 Americans are killed by guns. EVERY DAY. Every year, more than 33,000 Americans are killed by guns. EVERY YEAR. 100,000 Americans are killed by guns every three years. That's not even one presidential term.

But still, America sits there. You sit there and send your "thoughts and prayers" and do nothing. So it continues.

You murdered my friend.

Oh, yes, I am angry. Why aren't you?

I went from disbelief to numbness to denial to avoidance, but it has been about a week and the anger is starting to set in. It's always there, really. It's always there because this violence is non-stop.

Those of you who know me know how I abhor gun violence. Until now, I had never known someone killed by a gun. We are getting to the point where, like everyone knows someone who had cancer, everyone will know someone who died by gun. Is that the America you want to live in?

These are real people dying, people with friends and family who suffer greatly for senseless tragedies. What if it happened to your friend, or spouse, or parent, or child? Because it can happen to you, and chances that it WILL happen are growing each day we do nothing about the gun violence that is killing our society. When will Americans say "Enough?"

RIP, Seth.

1 comment:

  1. Cathie, I am sorry to read this about your friend and that you are going thru such a sad time. No truer words were ever written as these words in your blog. I don't think Americans will ever say "enough". This is such a sad America today & that human lives mean nothing anymore. Rest in peace, Seth, knowing that you are in a much better place.