If you haven’t heard of Aaron Bushnell by now, please know that even the blurred video is disturbing. Google with caution.
I’m having a hard time reconciling US political rhetoric about the preciousness of life with the willingness of some to dismiss what’s happening in Gaza.
And by “hard time,” I mean I can’t contort my brain—which is exceptionally good at rationalizing when it wants to be—into imagining a scenario where a single, non-fascist human being can hold both thoughts at the same time without necessarily imploding.
Yeah, I witness cognitive dissonance all the time. But living in a world where a group of overlapping people can condone the genocide of a people’s children while also giving preference to embryos, calling some children filth, and trying desperately to deny other kids food?
What strikes me about Airman Aaron Bushnell is the singular sense of purpose he had, a desire for the peace and freedom of the people he saw being oppressed.
But even NPR reported yesterday a bizarre recounting of the haunting news, suggesting they couldn’t be sure what Bushnell was on about, exactly.
NPR reported Sunday: “The Israeli embassy in DC said none of its staff were injured.” And “The Metropolitan Police department has since declared [Bushnell’s] vehicle of any suspicious activity.”
The article has been updated since I first read it, but I still don’t understand what they’re hedging for without putting on some very cynically filtered shades. They added, “As of Monday morning, NPR was not able to independently verify the man’s motives.”
There are Bushnell’s statements, social media posts. Graphic video that he streamed to Twitch.
Particularly harrowing and authenticating is how a cop pointed a gun at Bushnell while an EMT yelled that he needed more fire extinguishers, not guns.
The entirety of the internet knew exactly what happened within minutes.
I don’t have well composed thoughts about self-immolation as a form of protest and frankly my mind might not even be capable. But a Facebook post I saw attributed to the airman reiterates a common refrain:
“Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’ The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.”
I am sorry Aaron Bushnell won’t get to see the peace he sacrificed himself for.
I let myself be sad today. Which is a breakthrough of sorts. Over the years, I have flipped some emotional switches to try and stem feelings of fear and anxiety and anger.
I know. Danger, Will Robinson.
Well, it backfired horribly, as any outsider might likely have guessed. Instead of short-circuiting the feelings I didn’t want to have, I amplified them. I don’t know how it works, exactly, but a professional could probably explain.
Anyway, not only was I still feeling scared and anxious and mad, but that was *all* I was feeling. All the time. Then I was down on myself for failing to be sufficiently happy about happy things, and that made the bad things badder too.
I knew something was wrong—even if I couldn’t put my cursor on it—when my dad and then my dog died. The grief, which I was accustomed to leaning into with past loss, didn’t seem as hard to process. It was there but not as intense as I would have reasonably expected.
It was more surreal than it was painful.
(Kind of like when the doctor told me I had brain cancer and instead of feeling horrified, I felt vindicated. I laughed and made a joke about my dismissive doctors from my wheelchair. Justified, but, you know, not quite what 30-year-old me would have expected from her older, wiser self getting such news.)
Back to the grief though. There’s a tendency in medicine for the main diagnosis to be The Thing Which Influences All Other Things. Once upon a time that thing was fibromyalgia. Now it’s brain cancer. And because brain tumors can cause mood changes, I thought for a while that all the pent up anxiety and mounting anger was normal for someone who’d done some chemo and had some brain cells irradiated.
And maybe it was. For a while. But long-term it stopped up my grief passage* among other things.
I know this because my mom mentioned she sold something of my dad’s this week, and I felt physically hurt in that place between my sternum and my spine. Of course my lizard brain wondered why she’d hurt me like that.
There was a giant ball of sadness in there, and I wanted it out. Posthaste.
But I have been working on myself, and I paused and thought, “Hey, this is a good time to explore the sadness instead of punching it down.”
When I held that loaf of pain** and turned it over in my hands, I realized that it was not fresh. The hunk of sadness was stale and crusty and hard. I realized I was sad because I missed my dad, not because my mom had sold a thing.
And, the point is this: in this moment I’m okay with not being okay.
When I was about 10? Maybe? I used to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego on our family’s IBM. The den’s dark wooden shutters would be closed, and I’d put on headphones and listen to Simon and Garfunkel while tracking down a villain with a punny name, a copy of Fodor’s close by just in case I needed help with a clue.
Those earphones—cans, you might call them—were probably 20 years old. I think Dad got them when he was in the Navy. When I wore them, the painted fabric ear cushions would peel, the black fabric paint tearing off in little pieces and sticking to my sweaty cheeks.
I must’ve looked ridiculous wearing those giant things with the 6-foot-long coil plugged into the 1970-something receiver, sitting on a bookcase with a 6-cd changer, a tape deck, and a reel-to-reel.
I realize only now those were noise cancelling headphones, and I loved them so much because I was alone in my happy place listening to Simon and Garfunkel sing anti-war, anti-The Man poetry with some of the most beautiful harmonies ever recorded.
Dad had a 3-CD set. I want to say it was a collection of all of Simon and Garfunkel’s studio albums, but I could be wrong. What I do remember is the CD case was hunter green and the cover was a booklet with lyrics to everything.
In those days, I thought the whole world had learned something about war and authoritarianism and every adult was a hippie and went to Woodstock. I didn’t know I was naive. That even my own parents were squares, actually.
I didn’t know that I was the only fourth-grader on the planet who had not only heard S&G’s deepest cuts but could sing them by heart.
Anyway, Dan talked me into buying noise cancelling earbuds from Amazon this week. We needed new filters for the cat bubbler* and they had the earbuds on sale.
For the first time in 30 years, I heard everything. I thought I couldn’t enjoy music in that way anymore. Not since the brain tumor, but it turns out I just wasn’t listening the way I needed to. I teared up.
Here’s what I find frustrating about my predicament: if I over-explain people get bored and irritated and wish I’d just say what I need. If I just say what I need, I’m too bossy and not appreciative enough.
In the absence of other people with brain tumors and TBIs, I find common ground with people who have ADHD or autism. My brain can’t (not won’t; can NOT) process two things at once. And since pain and anxiety are always happening, I get extremely exhausted and extremely frustrated extremely fast.
I was trying to get three things from the fridge for lunch. Oliver was jumping on my rollator, Dan was upset I didn’t find a joke of his funny, and I couldn’t get out of the kitchen because I miscalculated my turn radius. “I can’t do two things at once,” I said for what felt like the hundredth time, “that includes laughing.”
Then I couldn’t get my Rollator—with my lunch and a cat on it—over the threshold between the living room and the bedroom. Dan was saying something behind me (I don’t even know what) and in exasperation, I said “Stop yelling at me!”
Was he actually yelling? No idea. But it felt like knives were being hurled into my ear drums, and my shoulders clenched just a little bit closer to my ears with every unprocessed word that came from behind me.
The door slammed, and Dan’s voice trailed off, “Fine. I won’t talk then.”
I ate my deviled eggs seated on the edge of the bed while muttering, “I don’t need you acting like a five year old.”
From doctors to family to friends, I am acutely aware how I can’t explain myself to normies anymore. It’s stressful and sometimes scary.
I was reluctant to share this Zentangle video of mine after being punished by the government for making enough money for us to stay alive, but screw it. If I make or lose an extra $5 this month, it’s not like it will change anything.
Anyway, watch this if you or your kid are making a card this year and want ideas:
I, personally, like to enjoy this holiday by eating non-holiday-specific, non-heart-shaped chocolate and buying a Valentine’s Day card for Dan from a self-employed artist. You know, sticking it to big VD. But this year, I got him a breakfast burrito. Because SSDI paid out at midnight, and that’s the best I could do on short notice.
Not that he wasn’t delighted with his SuperSonic Breakfast Burrito. There are jalapenos.
The weather is warmer today, which explains why I hurt so freaking much and couldn’t sleep last night. Any weather change is bad for pain and inflammation while it’s happening. I’ve been told, however, this sunny stuff might hang around (meaning I might actually have enough time to acclimate) until the weekend. Around these parts, that’s practically an eon.
I’m also delighted to be able to tell you that my colon has entirely reversed course since the last time I discussed such unpleasantries. Ain’t IBS grand?
I’m a week away from my oncology appointment, where I am still anticipating a giant shoulder shrug from my doctor regarding the lymph node stuff. Just managing my expectations. Someone else can cross their fingers that there’s an answer until then. I’m just not in the mood.