September 8, 2013

Beautiful. Ugliness. Both.

A bird's-eye view of the ocean, a blanket of blues and violet. Could be dawn, it could be sunset. There are no undertows, no threat of menacing aquatic life and tidal waves look like silent ripples in a pond. In the middle of it all is a tiny speck of white -- or maybe yellow. It's Diana Nyad somewhere in the in the sojourn of an over fifty-eight hour swim toward the Florida Keys.
Now zoom in. Further into the journey as she reaches her destination greeted by wading well wishers and you see her emerge from the waters swollen and dazed. This scene isn't as serene as the imagined one. In fact, there's even a trace of ugliness and gritty reality there, but within that scene, we're able to hear Diana reminding us to "Never give up" and that "You're never alone." That's something that can't be heard in the idyllic birds-eye view.

Everything's prettier from a distance, don't you think? Doesn't mean that the zoomed-in gritty version negates the beauty of the birds-eye view, it's still there.
It's just that beauty and ugly exist. Together.
That fact seems logical enough, but sometimes it seems as though we're only able to handle one concept or the other.

For at least two solid weeks, when I'd wake up and click on the morning news, the breaking news headlines were about gun violence. Shootings. Multiple shootings. Everywhere and everyone, but mainly in economically struggling and minority neighborhoods. Each and every day.
The mayor talked about it.
The police chief and the mayor talked about it.
The police chief and the mayor and the governor talked about it.
Corporate CEOs, nonprofit execs, mental healthcare execs and gun rights advocates talked about it.

We were all talking about it.

The reality of human beings disregarding the lives of other human beings was everywhere. Depressing as it was, I think it was a good thing. We started feeling vulnerable. We started looking at each other as humans again and at least thinking about how, maybe -- just maybe --we really are connected regardless of social class, race or ethnicity. We even mourned each other's losses.

Then all the talking stopped, all the coverage stopped. But not because the shootings stopped.

It was the week of celebrating Harley-Davidson's one hundred tenth anniversary and because Milwaukee's the birthplace of all and everything Harley-Davidson related, the community welcomed Harley riders from all over the world who came to celebrate. It was the week to talk about how wonderful the community was, not gun violence. There was a lot of talk about how rich we are in our traditions and what a welcoming spirit we have.

We proved it too. Watering holes, restaurants and even churches plastered "Welcome Home Harley Riders" signs and spontaneous block parties broke out everywhere. Goodwill and brotherhood was contagious. Out-of-town and out-of-country visitors were on the news left and right, singing Milwaukee's praises in the dialects of their country of origin. All the Harley riders and their Milwaukee hosts might have even held hands and sang Kum Bah Yah around a campfire someplace. Don't get me wrong. My family enjoyed all the hoo-hah too, and Georgia and I even went to the grand parade to soak up the excitement.

But still. The wall-to-wall coverage. All Harley-Davidson celebrations, all the time, with the conspicuous absence of gun violence coverage. On every local news outlet.

Until the celebration was over. That's when the shootings -- at least coverage -- of the shootings resumed.

And I wondered why is it that we can't reconcile that we've got some very real, very tragic problems with gun violence and at the same time, acknowledge that we live in a wonderful welcoming place with rich traditions and where goodwill and brotherhood is contagious.

I don't know...I couldn't help but think that we sell ourselves short when we choose to focus solely on the idyllic. Sure, that birds-eye view keeps us safe from the menace of threats, and we're deafened to the sound of crashing dangerous waves...

...but it's only when we choose to also zoom in on the ugly grittiness of idyllic scenes are we close enough to hear desperate, hopeful reminders to "Never give up" and be reminded that we're not alone.
Because after all, beauty and ugly exist. Together.


  1. Sorry about the delay in getting here - been a busy week -but I did read the story when you first published via RSS; just now added it to the Saturday Shortcuts :)

    Great story - we need the ability to focus "both/and" far more than "either/or" - but don't leave the choice to the mainstream media, or the story won't get out...

    Good stuff all the way around, Ro!!

    1. Thanks for "dancing," Rick...there are indeed three side or more to all the stories. And we need to hear 'em.

  2. I agree, it all exists together.

    1. Thanks for reading, Nance. Without focusing on everything, we only cheat ourselves. :)

  3. I come over from Rick's Saturday Shortcuts. What a contraast between the beautiful and the ugly. The one is hospitality which America is known for, and the other is money - and ratings not really concern for the families, because there are "MANY" shootings that are not reported as the coverage, ratings would not be there. Awhile back I wrote about the Ugly Beautiful Cross:

    1. Well thanks for visiting and reading, Hazel! It's amazing how much goes on and how much we don't hear -- both the good and the bad.

      ...and I'll definitely be visiting you too! :)