I’m very sick and don’t really have the mental capacity to do a well-written or well-thought-out blog post. I’m just thinking about this excellent and thoughtful article over at the Toast, which I connected to a lot in terms of its discussion of political anger and its healthiness or lack of healthiness.
I’m not thinking about it because I connected to it; I’m thinking about it because it discusses the UCSB shooting. Which was about six months ago now, I think, and which still gives me a sudden and awful shock of anxiety-tearfulness-sick-feeling whenever I see it mentioned unexpectedly.
About two weeks before the UCSB shooting, a very close friend of mine almost died. Much like the UCSB shooting, I found out about this the morning after it happened; the friend posted about it on their personal blog, and I frantically messaged them to ask if they were okay. Unlike the UCSB shooting, there was nothing else I could do while I waited for them to respond; I couldn’t check to see if lists of the dead and injured had been posted to see if they were on them, I couldn’t text my parents to ask what on Earth was going on, I couldn’t scan every single news article, looking for a mention of the name I most wanted not to see.
This friend was, as I mentioned, someone I was and am very close to– someone I would genuinely take a bullet for. We had in past years been in contact almost every day, but due to changes in both of our lives we had been talking less lately, and often I didn’t know what was going on with them.
When someone you love is hurt, it’s hard not to blame yourself. It’s hard not to shriek at yourself for not doing more, for not knowing how to stop this, for not being able to fix this before it happened. I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological science behind this– your brain knows something is wrong, sends an error report to itself, starts scanning everything that’s happened over the past days and weeks to figure out how things can go better next time. In the less analytic and less quantifiable world of your consciousness, this mostly translates as I fucked up, I fucked up, I fucked up, I should have done something, I should have saved them, I fucked up.
Even when you’re in a tiny dorm room in New York studying for finals, and they’re four hundred miles away. Even when you’re in your house in Oakland, with their old bedroom just down the hall from you, and they’re in Santa Barbara. You’re supposed to save them, and you fucked up, and you have to do it better next time.
I’ve become more protective of my friends over the past few months, without really noticing. I yell at them more when I think they’re in dangerous situations. I have panic responses when something bad happens to them and I don’t know exactly what it is and how to fix it.
This was originally meant to be another post about my vague discomfort with the way feminism treats the UCSB shooting. I don’t like the way it’s discussed as if it’s something that belongs to all women. I don’t like the way feminists act as if being women makes them experts on the shooter. Most of all, I don’t like the callousness of the conversations around it: it’s a topic for political debate, it’s a talking point, it’s a thing to feel righteous about.
I went to a book reading a few months ago with a feminist author I really, really respect and admire, and one who I see myself in. At the end of her talk she took questions, and one person in a discussion of male entitlement casually brought up what he called the “Santa Clara” shooting. The feminist author I respect nodded and smiled; she clearly knew that wasn’t quite right, but the mistake wasn’t important enough to warrant a correction.
I brought up my discomfort with how feminism handles the UCSB shooting with a woman who writes for Slate, and she asked me what exactly I wanted feminism to do instead.
I didn’t have an answer for her then. I don’t now.
I don’t know how to fix it.
I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know how to stop it from happening again. I don’t know how to save the people I love when they’re in danger. I don’t know how to stop finding out about it the morning after, from the Internet.