This Is Us

Christian is an aging lad living on a couple acres in Northern Kentucky. He is a proud father, a reluctant distance runner, spirited driver, and purveyor of mediocre blog posts. He is best known for his constant search
for the six fingered man, as well as wild and inaccurate statements. Many claim his sarcasm is a coping mechanism used to distract readers from his hatred of writing bios.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog was submitted on Monday, November 6th, shortly after news broke regarding the violent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragedy.

Less than 48 hours after the shootings in Las Vegas, I was on the Vegas Strip. The Mandalay Bay, resplendent in the night sky, looked sad, distant, and almost apologetic with two, obvious blemishes on the 32nd floor.

The police presence was heavy. Crime scene tape danced in the constant desert breeze, as a procession of mourners and supporters carried candles along the sidewalks. I took a picture. One picture. It felt grotesque. It felt voyeuristic. I deleted it.

This place, this mecca of celebrations – for good or for ill – felt eerily hallowed. This isn’t a place of respect and quiet introspection. It’s a place of excess and suspended reality. That night it felt different.

Once I got to a gaming floor, I couldn’t shake how I felt. The money came and went. The free drinks flowed. The table talk was the same. The surly card dealers were just as surly, but I could feel it. I could feel the weight of what happened just two nights before.

A walk up the strip took me along a railing in the shadow of the Mandalay Bay. At my feet were stains. A few weeks ago I’d think they were coffee stains, or the expulsion of too much alcohol and Vegas buffet, but here, in an orderly row, as if laid out for triage, the stains were something else. They were something sinister. Something painful. Something difficult to accept as real.

I looked over the sea of gawkers snapping photos, and I wondered, “Is this us?” I looked at the vendors selling #VegasStrong t-shirts at one of the many candle light memorials, and I thought, “Is this us?” Desperately I tried to think of all the heroes who helped the night of the shooting. I tried to imagine all the good people doing good things amidst the bad person doing bad things, but I couldn’t escape the casual jokes about the tragedy. I couldn’t escape people taking pictures, people talking too loudly on their cell phones, people just not caring as much as I wanted them to care. Again I wondered, “Is this us?”

Being completely unqualified to answer for the collective, I feel it necessary to stare inward. So, who am I?

Am I the shooter? Would I bash out a window and unload on a crowd of innocent people? Am I a victim? Would I be an innocent bystander, a target, ignorant of the mortal danger? Am I a hero? Would I run around amidst gunfire and rescue strangers? Am I a coward? Would I hide, duck and cover, ditch my friends and anyone else too slow to keep up with me? Am I in denial? Would I change the channel, ignore the videos, and refuse to accept the violent hatred boiling in the streets?

As I ponder all my various choices, one thing sticks out: this is us.

We humans are a collection of violent, depraved, decent, and amazing beings. We have communities of hatred and communities of love. We have violence in our DNA and compassion and selflessness in our hearts. How can these disparate realities exist at the same time? How can these humans hands create and destroy, hate and love, push and pull?

This is us. This conflict. This tension. This is us, always, and at all times. We are a people in flux. We stare up at the heavens and ask where we belong. We assign stories to the stars and give distant deities names, all while desperately trying to figure out who we are, where we are, and what we are.

There are no answers here, but isn’t that what keeps us going? Answers root us in an ever shifting reality we cant trust, but questions – questions drive us forward. They push us places we were once too afraid to go. There, in a place of pure discomfort, we are stripped bare, and we came face to face with everyone else asking the same, inescapable question: is this us?