12.18.2012

stop shopping

secondhand children's books & handmade gift knits

Friends have asked why I haven't been blogging. First, there was the $330 ear infection (and that's with insurance). Then there was another cold, the third since August. Then there was a house guest who wasn't mine. Then there was getting a little party together for the kids at school. And throughout, there's been the brooding, chill December darkness, black and starry when I leave for the bus in the morning, dusk when I get home, making me crawl under the covers with a book after dinner. My life's easy, by comparison with many: I have only myself to take care of. Yet still, so much to do, so little time. I jest.

The day of the mall shooting in Clackamas I was on the green-line MAX headed southeast after work. At about a quarter after four, two stops away from Clackamas Town Center, the driver started speaking on the intercom but his voice was faint, so the only thing I could piece together was that my stop at SE Fuller Road would be the last stop, the stop just before the end of the line. Repeating himself since none of us seemed to be moving, the driver said anyone headed to the mall area would need to walk because the buses and trains weren't running. I was meeting my friend Jeff for a little secondhand shopping, needing to find some like-new books as holiday gifts for my students, so the announcement didn't affect my transit and I didn't think much about it until another passenger asked if anyone had heard what the driver said, and when I told him, he said, "Oh, it must be because of the shooting." And then everybody on the train, who normally keep to themselves, started talking, exchanging information. Someone who'd just gotten on said all the cops in town were headed to the mall, that it had been an automatic weapon assault. (It turned out to be semi-automatic, but tomatoes, tomahtoes.) We all got off at Fuller Road checking our phones. Mine displayed a text from Jeff telling me to make sure I made it off the train at Fuller Road.

When he picked me up at the station, he said his mom, niece, and nephew were holed up at Denny's because they weren't allowed back to their car in the mall parking lot. Later we found out he knew another person who claimed to have been smelling perfume at Macy's with her baby in the stroller when the shooter walked by; she ended up interviewed on Anderson Cooper. Jeff and I followed our plan and went to Salvation Army to look for books, where the employees were tuned into local radio. I found several (buy two at a dollar each, get one free). His brother picked his mom and kids up at Denny's. Jeff and I went to D.I. where I found two cotton tote bags for .50 each, and then we went to WinCo so I could pick up marshmallows and Styrofoam cups for the kids' hot chocolate in two days (not that I approve of either marshmallows or Styrofoam but there I was in the checkout line, paying for both). And then at about 6:30 p.m., we drove by the north side of the mall on the way up Mt. Scott, where a large command-center tent was glowing near the movie theater, buses and onlookers parked along the street, gawking.
 
The Clackamas Town Center is right across the street from the career college I used to teach at. They cancelled classes that evening.

On Thursday, my coworkers and I gave our first-through-fifth-grade students 10-minute holiday parties at the end of their sessions throughout the day, with cookies, hot chocolate, candy canes, and books. And then the next day, Friday, we learned a slew of school kids had gotten knifed in China by some crazy person—and that a bunch more children and teachers got shot up and killed in Connecticut that same day by another disturbed person. What is it making these mentally deranged men climb out of their hidey-holes and rampage all in the same week? Do they really think the Mayan calendar ending on the 21st means the world is coming to an end, and they want to go out with a small bang first? Or is it something more sinister, more enduring, what these mass slayings reveal about our consumerist, infotained, keep-your-hands-off-my-assault-weapons culture in steep decline? (If you're not yet convinced of America's imperial decline, just read Morris Berman's Dark Ages America or anything by Chris Hedges.) And how many people are making the connection between the number of deaths in the school knifing incident in China (0 dead, 22 wounded), and the Oregon mall (3 dead, 1 seriously wounded) and Connecticut school (28 dead) shootings. Yes, people are the ones doing the killing, but guns make the killing both more impersonal and effective. Or if this is all too much to think about, too heavy on the brain, let's all just keep shopping. But leave the kids at home.

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