27 People in the Produce Section


Pulse. Orlando, FL. June 12, 2016.

Pulse. Sandy Hook. San Bernadino. Aurora. Faces from “just” four of the mass shootings in the past couple of years. You’d think the the numbers would be enough to propel the most urgent decisive action our government has ever taken. I keep going back to the faces.

What will it take?

I think back to how unbelievably fast we declared war after 9/11. How thanks to the swift security changes in the wake of that attack, we can’t bring bottled water onto airplanes. But any one of us could go buy an assault rifle in a parking lot for $500 tomorrow. No background check, no license, no training, no nothing.

How many lives?


Sandy Hook Elementary School. Newtown, CT. December 14, 2012.

I know nothing I share here will change things, and it’s hard to know how to stay hopeful in the face of something I can’t even find a word for. I’d call it “Congress,” but even that implies some kind of unified body. The body of this country is so far beyond unified; it’s torn to pieces, limb from limb. The body of this country has never been whole.

How do those “no” voters sleep at night?

I keep having this awful thought, about what kind of shooting (as if there are different kinds of shootings) would lead to some change. I shudder at the thought of it, but can’t help but wonder what it would take to get the attention of the senators who voted against efforts to pass gun laws. Again.

College campuses. Secondary schools. Shopping malls. Movie theaters.


Century 16. Aurora, CO. July 20, 2012.

This morning, the produce section. I counted 27 people. I looked at their faces. I wondered when the next shooting will happen. Tears pricked the backs of my eyes.

How long till the next time? Where? When?

I looked at the people’s faces, the ones I saw in the grocery store. I looked at their clothes. Their tattoos. Their hat insignias. Their wheelchairs. Their baby strollers. Their skin color. Their hairstyles. Their t-shirt emblems. Their shoes. I looked at the guy with nothing but Twinkies in his cart, and the woman nursing in the little seating area. I wondered who they will vote for, what they stand for, who their families are, what their eyes have seen. And I could not know, could not have any idea, what they believe. Whether or how they will vote.

Inland Regional Center. San Bernadino, CA. December 2, 2015.

Inland Regional Center. San Bernadino, CA. December 2, 2015.

I thought, this is how we coexist. By not talking about these things in public spaces, like grocery stores. This is how we coexist, by not asking each other, what have you seen? What do you stand for? Not exchanging this kind of information in public spaces keeps public spaces safe — or so we think.

But I also thought, this is how we erode each other’s humanity. By not talking about these things in public spaces. By going about our own business as if each other’s business didn’t matter. As if our lives didn’t depend on it.

And maybe that’s part of the problem. We don’t really believe our lives depend on it. Who is “we” and who is “they”? Who am I to cry out, and who am I not to?

How many? How many black and brown and gay and trans bodies will this country throw away? How many children’s lives?


4 thoughts on “27 People in the Produce Section

  1. jayce says:

    The true victims of all these ‘mass shootings’ are the exploited Sandy Hook kids who are silently begging us all to wake up.

    [If you dare to watch, try to put yourself in the shoes of one of these kids. You’ve survived a massacre in which 20 of your schoolmates have just been slaughtered. You want to go home. But no. Instead, you have to talk about the horrifying ordeal you just experienced, with cameras and microphones being shoved in your face, as your parents pass you around from one reporter to another.]


    Think about it. Then start your own research. Please.

    And never forget the name……Alexis Wasik


  2. daniel says:

    Jena—this is a fine and deeply felt post. Something I always think is that in the 15 mass shootings since President Obama has been in office (and, I believe, all the previous ones going back to Columbine—that Michael Moore pictured so well), all the shooters are MALE. They are never reported this way in the media: e.g. “another male shooter has gone on a rampage”. And I have a hard time believing that this is not connected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape and intimate killings that are almost all male (a few women do kill, separate from the women who kill to escape their violent domestic situation). Also I think of the male wars that are fought—as it was said in a book I read about the Palestinian/Israeli inability to come together, few women would send they children off to war, if they had the choice. So I am very upset about this refusal by the media (including the NY Times, Washington Post, the Guardian, NPR and many others) ever to identify mass killings as MALE KILLINGS. So this is my 2 cents on the issue. I do mourn the Orlando victims deeply. I am ready to cry for the LGBT community that so many feel has come so far. And I am very sad to see Muslims again held responsible as a group for the madman who committed the atrocity. Sorry if I’m throwing off what you are trying to say, but I just feel this needs to be said.
    All the best and love, Daniel


  3. wildchild47 says:

    I am not Amercian and so perhaps my ideas and thoughts about US gun laws etc. hold little value.

    What I do value?

    Human lives.

    Regardless of: nationality, geographic borders, religious beliefs or non, gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, faith.

    You ask yourself what would it take – to change the vote?

    Honestly – probably a gruesome scenario where those in office, power – in the senate and congress – if for some weird and odd reason, at the very heart of where the crux of American politics takes place – if this “sacred” space were to come under siege – if these people were to be held hostage and randomly slaughtered – as their “fellows” watched on – if this went on for hours – slow, painful minutes ticking by, as they helpless watched, prayed and wondered – for in this “sacred” place of reasoning – suddenly there is no room for logic or sequential thought – perhaps, if in the absolute balance – knowing that at any second, their sharp inhalations might be their last – perhaps, then maybe, they could, in turn, know a fundamental truth – that everyone – every.one. has the right to freedom, life and liberty – in safety, without threats – or should – and that all the proclamations up until now mean nothing, when the value of the right to bear arms and defend oneself usurps the right to life.

    Perhaps then – the survivors would be able to stand up and use their voices – people in an elected position of power – to begin to speak of truth, and freedom, of peace and understanding.

    And please understand, I’m in no way condoning violence – violence often begets violence. And I wouldn’t wish this type of scenario on any.one.

    Bob Marley once said “He who feels it knows it more” – and perhaps, perhaps if there were more people, collectively, who knew of this type of pain, horror, grief, senseless killing and loss – as witness, as survivor, as friend, loved one, care or support workers, if more people would and could dig deeper and weren’t all holy terrified to speak up – and say “No. This is not acceptable.” perhaps the tides might change.



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