On Dana and the Rest of Us

The assassination of Dana Seetahal says more about the society in which we live than the brutal manner in which she died–her life, like the scores of dead, has no value.

You may fill in the blank with your own remembered dead.

But short of natural causes (not pneumonia caught in an open-air hospital a mile from the Beetham as it burned), what value have we and our loved ones?

It is said that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. In other words, the only thing worse than apathy is inaction by those sympathetic and silent when it matters. In this and other cases of depravity–crime, corruption, medical malpractice, abuses of every form and fashion, in our faces and presumably behind our backs–hand-wringing and chest-beating are tantamount to nothing.

Nothing.

This must be understood. These are actions of grief and shock, the equivalent of what we do at funerals–that is, after the dead are dead. And, while it may be argued that this nation has lost its soul–or sold it–grief is largely self-indulgent. National grief is simultaneously grander in proportion and inversely proportional in its effect.

It fails to bring back the dead.

While meaningful to us in the moment, they ultimately do nothing in the way of change. They are, in fact, useless. And *fake* grief? Worse yet. We’ve come to expect that the one bawling down the place at the gravesite (outbawling family and all) is probably a blasted fraud, a divertissement with more at stake in the wake and repast than the burial.

But how different from that is the perfunctorily deployed “RIP” when what we apparently need is for the restless spirits of victims to haunt all of us with their dissatisfaction until we do what must be done to set things right before we, too, turn to headline or headstone and go to an inglorious grave?

I get it: people are tired and scared.

But consider: if, as a means of handling that fear, you either lock yourself away so tight or run so far away and never come back, the only thing you preserve is your cowardice. The only thing you protect is a coward, a tired coward who waits for society to eat itself before emerging, triumphant as a hero amid the rubble of a battle he has neither won nor lost. We really don’t have the luxury to be cowardly, do we?

That includes me.

If no one is safe, if anyone can feel entitled to our life and take it and anything else away whenever they wish, then what have we to lose? Crises cannot, by their nature, solve themselves. No more than the dead can get up, poisoned, strangled, chopped, bullet-riddled, and perpetually unsolved to walk among us and congratulate us for doing nothing.

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