I am in a remote place of scenic beauty working on a project that, in part, explores how the world is given to us only through language, and how there is an intrinsic link between the loss of linguistic capacity (our ability to speak Image result for american flag tatteredtruthfully, to wield language responsibly) and the loss of the world (its destruction by forces of hatred and self-interest and our culture’s willing and often unwitting collusion with them).

And in the wake of two mass shootings (I will not call them “senseless”—they make perfect, inevitable, heartbreaking, enraging sense to me), I’m reminded that what people “see” is completely connected to how language shapes our seeing. So if the U.S. is constructed for you linguistically as the story of American exceptionalism with its various plot points of dangerous outsiders and protect our own and democratic socialism must mean Stalinist authoritarianism and the founding fathers were evangelical Christians and guns are a sacred right and why keep talking about slavery and Hillary should be in prison and why can’t gays just keep it to themselves and who’s to say humans are really causing climate change and young, white men who shoot up night clubs and Walmarts are mentally ill and thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers . . .

Then we will not get past this linguistic impasse where what I see is the story of America as an imperial project from the beginning with its various plot points of settler colonialism and lies and conquest and extermination and enslavement and racialized capitalism and the fear of the other and fearful white men who have always held all the power and astonishing cruelty to the most vulnerable and an unwillingness to be the least bit self-critical and God in heaven can’t you see the climate is effing collapsing and why do we tolerate for one second more a President who is obscene, wildly incompetent, and culpable . . .

But can both of us see the dead bodies? Hear something of their stories? Name the failures of language that keep us from keeping bodies, all bodies, safe?

I doubt it.