There is a great scene in the film “The Patriot” (2000) that shows Benjamin Martin’s young children avidly reading newspaper accounts of the events leading up to the American Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. I remember looking up the statistics we have of literacy among the free settlers of the 13 British colonies and being pleasantly astonished to learn that nearly 90% of them were literate — that they could read English and or other modern and sometimes ancient languages at a rate that their descendants have never surpassed.
Terrorism attacks in airports. Slaughters in nightclubs. Deadly floods, droughts, and fires. These are the stuff of nightmares.
I wake in the middle of the night, and I can’t help but think of the dangers seemingly lurking everywhere. Fear grips me. Not fear for myself as much as fear for my children and grandchildren. Yet, if I’m honest, I fear also for myself. If something horrible were to happen to my children or grandchildren, I fear the devastation of loss.
On April 22, 2015, at 7:30 AM, I was riding in a car, from Statesboro to Savannah, because I was going to have a tooth extracted — my right bicuspid if you really need to know—because I had bitten down on a Greek Kalamata Olive, which was supposed to have been pitted in Greece, but hadn’t been. I knew when I crunched the olive in the month prior to this trip that I had broken the tooth.
After the atrocity in Orlando, where a shooter entered a gay nightclub and gunned down innocent people celebrating a Saturday night, our country is once again in mourning. I cannot believe that I am responding in a column, again, to a mass shooting. This one occurred in the city where I was born and raised.
The casualties (a word once used for war) are the greatest number in recent U.S. history since 9/11.
In the same week that an endangered gorilla was shot dead at the Cincinnati zoo, more than 700 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Social media exploded with outrage about the killing of the gorilla. Memorials, protests, and petitions were generated. The parents of the child whose life was saved by zoo officials were threatened and vilified.
The deaths of the migrants were scarcely acknowledged, much less mourned. Where was the widespread outrage against the conditions and circumstances leading to their deaths?
In more than 20 years of writing a column, I don’t usually get writer’s block. Often, days before a column is due, an idea germinates. I play around with the idea in my mind before I sit down at the computer. And, if I’m lucky, the words spill out on the page.