My well-meaning sister said I should just “come home.” She’s wicked smart and knows full well that she isn’t giving me logical advice, that her appeal is about her concern for my safety, and her simple wish to connect with me when CNN tells her that guns have fired in Seattle. “Come home,” she said, meaning the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
But I wouldn’t be safer there, either. And not just from flying bullets.
I wouldn’t be protected from a national culture that refuses to take responsibility for the (literally) dead-serious problem of mental illness.
I wouldn’t be protected from a national culture that tolerates racist systems of oppression, revealed just this week when the shooting deaths of white people by a white shooter made national headlines, but the shooting deaths of black or brown people by black or brown shooters are met with a yawn and a sigh, oh well, isn’t that what life is always like in the Central District?
I wouldn’t be protected from an economic climate of profound, chronic, debilitating anxiety which wears down even the privileged and comfortable, and pushes the people on the edge into the abyss of despair and violence.
I wouldn’t be protected from a political climate of demented absurdity in which my decision to marry a man is more troubling to so-called “conservatives” than the violence that is destroying lives, families, and communities, seemingly without end.
If “home” is a place where I am protected from all of those things, then I am homeless.
How about this: yes, dear sister, I will come home. But home for me is this: home is where I stand with my friends, neighbors, and even my so-called enemies against violence and ignorance. Home is where I resolve to be a teacher, and a good listener, and a safe and well-informed neighbor…and voter. Home is where I state openly and often that I support leaders who want to take guns off the streets, and ensure that we all pay the high cost of effective mental-health treatment, and the high cost of sound education for everyone’s children, and the high cost of neighborhood renewal and development throughout my beloved city. Home is where I decide to say: Enough. I am going to do more, do my part and then some, to resurrect a safer city from the tragic deaths of my neighbors.