I was visiting one of my best friends in Isla Vista, California on May 23, 2014. His film was accepted into a UC Santa Barbara festival, and I drove up from LA, with a bunch of buddies, to support him. We were looking forward to a fun, wild night (if you’ve ever been to UCSB, you know what I’m talking about).
Almost a week later, I still haven’t processed it fully. I ate pizza next door to IV Deli, the scene of Christopher Martinez’s murder, that afternoon. The BMW crashed to a final halt just a few doors down from where I was staying. Six strangers lost their lives and an idyll was shattered.
Every day, across the world, people are murdered. This time, by random chance, it happened to happen in my geographic vicinity. That’s how I rationalized the night of and morning after. I awoke to my car within the police cordon zone, and was told I couldn’t leave. That occupied my thoughts more than anything else.
I was only able to cry and truly feel a few days later, when the victims’ identities were revealed.
They were all us. They were neighbors, sisters, nephews, best friends, sons, daughters. They were artists, students, lovers, humans. Who knows how many of us passed them in the night, sometime long in the past, or just a week ago, skipping in the sun.
When the police told me I couldn’t leave IV, they said it was because they needed to gather all evidence to make sure they could determine what had happened. This idea seemed insane to me. We know what happened.
The obsession with detail and the transformation of tragedy into some sort of political tool has always made me extremely uncomfortable. Yes, I am a supporter of strict legislative regulation of weapons: You can’t buy a grenade, why can you buy an automatic assault rifle? They aren’t that different. And yes, misogyny, xenophobia and other types of bigotry exist and should be continually fought against in public and private discourse. But these are everyday facts of life, and we should not, as individuals or a nation, need any sort of prompting to face them and fight the perverse special interests that exist to propagate fear in the name of private financial profit.
There is no silver lining. Tragedies will continue, regardless of legislation. Human nature leads some to commit evil – always has, always will. That these instances still make news is heartening; in many parts of the world, murder is so commonplace that, though communities and generations are shattered and left behind, the greater population barely blinks.
As we grasp for meaning and rally behind hashtagged slogans, remember one thing: care. Care for your fellow humans, no matter their relationship to you. Hug your friends, forgive your enemies, grieve for those who have suffered such terrible loss. In a world of antipathy and a news cycle that forgets far too soon, only love and caring on a personal level can bring us together and open the door to a better tomorrow.
Today’s song – “Blackbelt,” by John Grant – holds no relevance to this post, other than that I believe music can be a healing salve in desperate moments. I like it, and I hope you do too.