Taking Our Pulse

It’s been an intense time.

Most of us are neither cavalier nor warrior, yet find ourselves oscillating between the two, even if only in our beliefs.

We have been inundated with commentaries and reactions, hoping for a new way to parse the constant barrage of anxiety provoking events—political and societal. The intensity of our politics and divisions only seems to get interrupted by terrorist attacks at home and abroad, when we aren’t mourning cultural icons whom we have worshipped and found ourselves grieving as though we lost a family member (along with our youth).

The anxiety and grief are difficult enough, but the incessant barrage of audio and video clips, articles, tweets, and responses heighten our anxieties and negative emotions and leave us enervated.

The issues that seem so acute and immediate, and the seemingly always extreme rhetoric, may continue to demand attention, but also seem to be repetitive and unable to be reasonably resolved. It feels like unending noise—often overwhelming, and too often threatening to our sensibilities, yet commanding visceral responses while we crave rational and critical thought. It feels like adrenaline overload; like living near a war zone, except we know our situation is not quite that grave, nor are our political fights matters of imminent life and death, despite the fear mongering.

We may be deeply divided politically and economically, as well as ideologically in many ways, but we seem to be united in states of anxiety and fear, and strangely enough, united in states of exasperation and a sense of insufficiency.

After seemingly endless violent attacks at home—whether by homegrown terrorists, and/or hate, or by individuals so detached and driven toward violence with the easy accessibility of guns and endless rounds of ammunition, we have seen and are reeling from the confluence of factors that seem to generate increasingly frequent episodes of gun violence— especially the intentional killing of innocent folks.

Last week’s massacre during Latin Night at the LGBT club Pulse in Orlando felt at once like a familiar spasm, and also like a new or more unendurable convulsion. It was like a grand mal—even more horrific than we had previously seen.

The typical response to such horror and terror—the moment of silence and prayer—was disrupted with cries of despair and demands for change through action (legislation). The silence wasn’t doing anything. United in a state of grief, Pulse became ours. Whether we knew anyone at the club or not, we knew that those affected by the massacre were our extended kin.

With all the commentary and reactions, and the overwhelming noise, it is easy to want to disconnect. But Taking our Pulse reveals that we are indeed united in our state of grief and despair, recognizing that hate and terror come from internal as well as external arteries. Our vital signs are a bit iffy, but after our Pulse was taken last week, we may now be ready for more moderate exercise.

It is too soon to know if our heart rate is still resting, or if a subtle shift has occurred since our Pulse was taken. Using well established protocols and procedures, there is a palpable response and a bit of resuscitation of character and strength to restore our health. We may not be able to avert all attacks, but if Taking our Pulse will cause us to respond more thoughtfully and courageously to make it at least as cumbersome to get guns, especially assault weapons and ammunition, as it is to get an abortion, or vote, or as regulated as buying Sudafed, then we will at least have honored those who were senselessly slain. And we may even be stronger and healthier going forward.

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