What I want to pinpoint is a sensation—physical, cognitive, temporal—that is occurring at this fixed point in time, especially this past week, in the days following the twin tragedies in Buffalo, where 10 Black people were fatally gunned down in a supermarket, and Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were massacred at a rural Texas elementary school, in what is now the second-largest school shooting in US history.
First, let us finally do away with the big, stinking lie of immoderation, of how terrorism casts its depravity in our jagged land. The language of radicals and extremists is not born in the margins, as the folklore has gone about replacement theory, the foul dogma the gunman used to justify his slaughter in Buffalo. There is nothing peripheral about how hate draws breath. To be among the marginalized, outside the arena of power in the America of yesterday and tomorrow, is to live in the stifling yoke of wholesale animosity. It is to know the face of such cruelties as a constant, as an always.
By now the carnage—in Uvalde this past Tuesday, in Buffalo 14 days ago, in El Paso in 2019, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, on the Las Vegas Strip in 2017, at Pulse nightclub in 2016, at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012—is so beyond the point of doubt that it’s entered the realm of the hyper-real, the unremarkable, the thoroughly, tragically mundane. In America, horror is a cloverleaf: at once a bound reality and a recurring spectacle, shared and remixed online, appropriated and made a fool of by soulless pundits on Fox News. There is nothing one can do against the tsunami of affliction, set asunder in its unforeseen tempest.
I would feign shock, pretending that the apocalypse approaching through the rectangular fuzz of my apartment window wasn’t there, but denial is silly when the world is bordering on what feels like another end. A fresh devouring. More realities undone, made void. All of it greets me as utterly and unshockingly dystopian. “It’s a maw too; a mosh pit. It’s whiplash,” Margo Jefferson has written of the bumpy excursion through American culture; of what society can make of you. Do to you. How it will quickly, and without a second thought, dispose of you when you are Black or a woman or, God forbid, a child going about her school day. Mostly though—today, this week—it feels like yet another end. One more end before many more ends.
And because we live in a precise intersection of time and circumstance there is a very particular sensation, in the slipstream of inconceivable terror, that posseses the body, that seeps into the recesses of the mind. The sensation is not anguish alone that one feels, that one understands with a too-familiar sigh and heartbreak, because the feeling, in the context of this moment, is more than that. It is a simultaneous and exponential crush, swell, and unsettling: Everything is compounded on top of, next to, and under what is happening and what has already happened to you.
The tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde join a doom-laden surreality of unraveling horrors, each one ricocheting off the other. According to an economist at BMO Capital Markets, in an interview with Bloomberg News, the rising price of “food, rent, and a few other items look to remain troublesome” in curbing US inflation in the year ahead. This, in a year that could very well be plagued by the Supreme Court reversing a person’s right to an abortion, worsening climate conditions, the calculated narrowing of queer rights, a housing crisis, the threat of monkey pox, and what feels like never-ending pandemic fatigue. But no one has the time to process because the hamster-wheel of capitalism demands that we work, that we continue to satisfy its greed.