Wreckage

by MISSY BEATTIE

I was running the path parallel to the main road when I heard brakes wail and then a BOOM. Unable to see anything through the dense tree leaves that partition the Kingdom of Intersections from the larger world, I looked up at billowing, grayish white smoke.

I ran down the hill and turned left, wondering if I could help. It was morning rush hour. Plenty of people were out of their cars, moving towards the mangled metal. A man limped away from a smashed maroon sedan. Rushing towards him, a take-charge woman talking on a cellphone motioned that he sit on the grass. Vehicles crept along a passable portion of lane until the police arrived and closed traffic in both directions.

A young man told me he saw the driver of the white car exceeding the 30-mile-an-hour speed limit. “He was going at least 60,” he said.

Years ago, when I wrote scripts for a NPR show called The Heart of the Matter, I interviewed a trauma doctor who treated gunshot victims. “There are no accidents,” he’d said. I thought of those words, knowing this wreck would be reported and referred to as one. Except a driver made a decision to push an accelerator past 30 to 40, 45, 50, up, up, beyond 60.

I didn’t finish my run that morning. I walked. I walked and talked with neighbors, and then considered that BOOM and the smoke. I thought of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Gazans, the residents of war-ravaged lands—and how often they hear these explosions. No accident, since someone, some two, three, the Fourth Estate, Congress, and a complicit electorate not only endorse aggression but also seem to worship it as they demonize entire populations. There’s no acknowledgement of humanity, that those whose lives we rupture are perceptive and sentient beings.

Limits are exceeded, over and over, until we become inured to sounds, images. Buttons are pushed. Joysticks operated. Missions accomplished. If others are maimed or killed during a targeted strike, an apology may follow, and then it’s on to the next crime against our species.

We walk outside and hear a BOOM. Wreckage at home. Crashing cars and so much more.

Boston, school massacres, mall and movie shootings. A Mother’s Day mow down. And there’s the mom in my home state of Kentucky who went out to the garden, heard a BOOM, and rushed back inside the house to find that her five-year-old child had picked up his kiddie Cricket rifle and killed his little sister. A state policeman called it a quick thing that happens when you turn your back. The coroner said, “It’s just one of these crazy accidents.”

But this was not an accident.

“There are no accidents.”

We inflict great damage, yet we have the capacity to be compassionate, virtuous. If we’re fortunate, we experience love and tolerate loss by looking at the immensity of the universe and the brief time we have to live meaningful lives. But we must condemn injustice, violence, state sanctioned terror—the murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings the fear dealers want us to believe we’re fighting there, so we don’t have to fight them here.

We intersect, accelerate, advance shock and awe, and collide. Our government refuses to apply the brakes. The Empire is crashing, a mangled, immoral wreck. “There are no accidents.”

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com

 

 

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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