Life is precious and priceless
There are no adequate words. When discussing why the landmark film “Koyaanisqatsi,” which takes its name from a Hopi word meaning “life out of balance,” has no dialogue, director Godfrey Reggio said, “Our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live.”
As I grope for a remotely adequate response to the double stabbing last weekend that left 46-year-old college professor Troy Wolff dead and injured 30-year-old Kristin Ito, I’m left feeling that this is an event that could only occur within a deeply broken nation and within a very troubled world. On Sept. 17, Ito was released from the hospital.
A world of winners and losers that appear to have little in common. One that abandons those left behind and celebrates the victors, even when they cheat. A world in which there is no such thing as too much or even too little.
A world that is deeply out of balance. Where we ease our sense of alienation and dislocation with distraction and blame. Where there are no simple solutions.
Coming, as this does, in the context of a heated and increasingly politicized “downtown civility” debate, this horrific, bloody and unthinkable incident will fuel the rhetorical flames. There will be an avalanche of passionate words that do little justice to the awfulness of the event.
The sense that many of us share — of life being out of control, of being unsafe, of victimhood perhaps lurking just around the very next corner — will find focus. We will look for easy answers to address our feelings of doubt and pain and fear.
There will be calls for more police. More arrests. More prosecutions. Get the creeps off our streets. Make us safe. Do it now. No, do it yesterday.
We know that the alleged assailant was homeless, and we know he told police he had schizophrenia.
I know that mental health and drug-and-alcohol treatment services have been slashed by the state legislature by more than $20 million over the last four years.
I also know that previous funding was hardly robust. That the correctional system that imprisons nearly one in 100 of us functions as a de facto mental health system. That this serves no one.
I recently asked a human services advocate friend who is active in Olympia how these cuts to critical services could occur. We know these services save both lives and money, and are essential to public safety. How could we be this shortsighted?
“Every legislative session,” he said, “we identify key priorities. There is only so much money. We can only focus on so many things. Important stuff falls through the cracks.”
Important stuff falls through the cracks.
I have another answer. Important stuff falls through the cracks because some lives are regarded as cheap to the point of worthlessness.
When we devalue the lives of some, we devalue the lives of all. We don’t stand apart from one another. The unholy logic of social abandonment comes at a terrible price.
These, I am aware, are just more words. Words are inadequate. Words are cheap. Words fail. Life, on the other hand, is irreplaceable. Life is precious. Life stands, in all of its hope and fragility, against death. We must choose life.
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