What I Was Going to Tell You

I was going to tell you that I took my blood pressure yesterday and the results were better than they had been in six years: 123/83. The systolic reading (the first number) is 30 points lower than it was in March 2015.

I was going to tell you that I have also lost 30 pounds since March 2015.

And, as I was going to say, both are the welcome side effects of being alcohol free since March 2015.

I also wanted to tell you that I met my fundraising challenge of $1,000 for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

All of these things may add up to a longer, better life for me and, especially/hopefully in the latter case, for others.

But what’s holding me back is everything else that’s being said and all of the lives not being lived.  A little boy in Aleppo in shock after the bombing of civilians in Syria; his brother later pronounced dead. The news of 50 killed at a wedding in Turkey. Thirteen or more killed in flooding in Louisiana. There are 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease at this very moment. All of this leaves my throat trapped with lumps and unspoken words.

And then I saw something today that left my slack jaw even slacker. Something that makes Ryan Lochte’s drunken antics/boldfaced lie in Rio look like a game of tiddlywinks. In fact, I did have something to say about his behavior (and how it reminded me of crazy swimmer shit in Seoul, including my own reckless and drunken stupidity) but I’m not sure it really matters any more. Especially after the words I was confronted with this morning.

I was at Staples, mailing a thank you gift to a friend, when a man walked slowly in my direction. I was about to nod a friendly sort of hey-good-to-see-a-fellow-human-on-this-windy-day smile when my eyeballs met the message on his T-shirt.

Obama loves America like O.J. loved Nicole. 

I had to read it three or four times. Surely it didn’t say that. But it did, and I guarantee my blood pressure zoomed well beyond 123/83.

Words failed me. And the man was gone before I could think of something to say to him. I’m still not sure what to say even now. Oh, there’s a word for that: Ineffable.

I came home and sat stupefied on my couch, surrounded by treasures from the good people of the world. I thought about all of the kind things said to me over the years by Emiratis, Omanis, Jordanians, Palestinians, Cambodians, Syrians, Israelis, Indians, Kenyans, Turks, Egyptians and Yemenis.

What does that man’s T-shirt say about Americans? That we’ve lost our sense of decency? That no line goes uncrossed? That our hate knows no bounds? That we’ll say anything because we can?

How dare he be frivolous with the murder of Nicole Simpson? The number of American women who were murdered between 2001 and 2012 by current or former male partners was 11,766. Nearly double the amount of American casualties lost to war during the same timeframe. (And, dear God, it’s not a contest. It’s twice the horror!)

But that man’s T-shirt manages to mock the suffering and sacrifices of everyone, everywhere. All of us trying to survive something in the world, and relying on human kindness to do so. Casting doubt on President Obama’s love for his country is also reprehensible and grotesque. You may not agree with him, but he loves America as much as any other T-shirt-wearing American does.

The sheer volume of hate in those seven words — Obama loves America like O.J. loved Nicole — defies logic, understanding and compassion. It’s the kind of loathsome talk that turns people against each other, and begets more violence.

I’m trying to imagine all the things I should have said in response. The message on that man’s chest easily inspires confrontation and rage. But I didn’t want any part of that equation/escalation either. Perhaps I should have hugged him and held onto him tightly as he walked to his car. At the very least, it would have prevented a few other people from having to see those ugly unspeakable words.

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