I am deeply and profoundly sad.
Because of the enormity of the events that have come our way in the past months, and their rapid occurrence, I’ve felt generally daunted. It seems that when one tragedy or catastrophe is wrapping up, another one is immediately on the horizon.
I fancy myself a person who has a relatively analytical take on all things but the enormity of this storm has been daunting. We are at a point where if you were to say that you have been affected by or are processing “the recent tragedy,” someone would have to clarify which you were talking about because so much is coming at us all at once.
On top of it all Tom Petty died. Tom Petty.
I won’t get into the details of any of the politics here as many people on all fronts have already articulated better, more concisely, more resonantly, my opinions on gun access, gun control, disaster response, competency of leadership and more. I’ll just say that right now I hurt.
I offer all of this because in a way it’s my job as a columnist to look like I have my act together and like I know what I’m talking about and I have interesting and informed opinions on current events and the order of things. And the truth is sure, a lot of times that’s how I try to look at the world but occasionally — just like you, I imagine — I look at everything together and I wonder how we got here.
Why are there no adults in charge? Why have we opted to go down this road? I imagine that you are similarly perplexed when you have to tell your kids about morality and taking the higher ground at the same time they hear repeatedly about the terrible things our leaders say and believe.
When, with a few exceptions, the people we put in charge don’t take a stand or don’t think about the future or don’t imagine implications of their convenient and politically advantageous inaction. And then they wonder why many, particularly people of color, don’t display unwavering displays of patriotism, or denounce the actions of those of us exhausted with their behavior.
And of course we can take care of each other in our communities and we should. But we can only do so much. It’s not a matter of my feeling like I want the government to care for us at a granular level; I just want to start to believe that they have our best interest in mind. And I, probably like you, don’t believe that. We need it to protect us from corporate hostility, or existential threat. Instead, it often feels like those getting elected, with some exceptions — a handful from Maine, fortunately — could care less.
I promise the next time I’ll have it together and have something interesting to say and some good commentary or try to shed a new light on an issue, but I just want you to know that right now I’m hurting too. I think we all are. I just look for good news sometimes.
I will say this, the other day I got a call that one of my dogs — who it turns out was freaked out by a fire alarm — climbed out of an open third-story window and then got stuck on my roof.
It’s funny to think about now and especially to see pictures of this dog stuck on the roof. But I was confident at the time that I would come home to a dead dog, because why not? After this week? Month? Year? Why not? Things have just been absolutely devastating.
But some Westbrook firefighters showed up to my house and looked at the situation and this really extraordinarily brave young woman named Rachel Welch climbed through my sunroof on the third story window to save my dog. And I was grateful not just because my dog was saved and she was safe and not in danger anymore, but because something turned out OK and it was a reminder that some things can turn out OK. It’s been really hard to remember lately.
But it was just what I needed as I was starting to feel totally burned out. And I still feel daunted, but it’s nice to be reminded that not all is darkness. We’ve made a hell of a mess; we need some courage to face it and start cleaning it up.
Now where do we start?
Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Westbrook.