On Fire

Content Warning: School shooting, gun violence


Another shooting in a school.

Another male consumed by rage.

More senseless deaths begin to pool.

I won’t believe we can’t engage.


A politician asks for prayers,

Performing for the party stage.

The television protest blares.

I won’t believe we can’t engage.


Surviving students rise on fire.

They cover Twitter page by page

To hearts and minds and souls inspire.

I won’t believe we can’t engage.


(This is a kyrielle.)



On my way home, my gas gauge drops down to its last bar. My computer strongly suggests that I plug it in. My phone requests that I put it in low power mode. The world is conspiring to send me a message. Slow down? Fill your tank? I don’t know what metaphor it has in mind, but I’m definitely low on fuel.

My mind is whirring with work and deadlines, but what has me in a funk is my overwhelming confusion about my country and the world. Over and over I find myself asking why.

When you picture an American, what does that look like? If you are one of millions of Americans, the first thing you picture is someone white. Why? Why would the tired and poor, “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free” come only from European countries? Where, by the way, many are not white anymore either.

What does that feel like, to think you are somehow more entitled, more worthy of being an American, simply because of the color of your skin?

How does it feel on the other side of that assumption? And if your family is white, but you are a person of color, do you still feel different?

Not so long ago, the lines were drawn finer, between WASPs and Catholics, between Italian-, German-, Irish-, and other immigrants, Jews from any country. My ancestors were here during the Revolutionary War and came through Ellis Island, similar to endless generations of immigrants since we wrested the land from the Native Americans. Why do we always draw lines?

Do you wonder why wealthy football players would kneel during the anthem? Or why it would be less patriotic to peacefully protest than to stand with hand on heart and remain silent? Or why the press missed the point? As protests go, this one inconveniences fewer people than any major protest in my memory. It costs taxpayers nothing. No blood is being shed. So why are so many people so angry?

I want to know why, when the majority of Americans believe politicians are dishonest, a large percent, many of them well-educated, are willing to believe them when it comes to corporate tax breaks creating jobs and global warming being a myth. When did science become suspect? When did rationality and bias become so intertwined that people can’t or won’t follow a chain of thought to a logical conclusion?

Why is it so hard to imagine that others are facing difficulties that we ourselves don’t? When can we have a national discussion about bias without finger pointing and flag waving?

Most of all I want to know, why has the discourse gotten so much worse over the last few years? Have opinions changed that much? Or has the current atmosphere simply bared the faces that were already staring out at us?