I’ve been watching the last season of the West Wing again recently.
I enjoyed it the first time maybe about three years ago, all seven seasons of it, although I admit there were pieces that dragged. But it’s good, tight story telling for the most part, and I loved it.
Now, I’ve been watching it because I want to watch a post-Convention election season that isn’t filled with horror and disbelief, and this seemed to be one way to get it.
But the episode today was something else again. Episode 7, “Undecideds.” I watched it and I cried and I find that I don’t know what to do now. Because that episode aired ten years ago. Ten years ago this past winter, and all I could think during most of the episode is ‘what the fuck have we all been doing for a decade?’
For those who haven’t seen it, one of the major plot points of the episode is that a young black kid gets shot by a Latino cop. You blinking yet? Wondering if I saw a news broadcast and got confused? Yeah, I wondered about time warps, too. Ten years ago, and it was such a hot button topic they based an entire episode around it. Ten years have passed and not a damn thing has changed.
Black kid gets shot by a cop. Black kid gets shot by a Latino. That story is ten years old, and four years old, and a year old, and a week old, and all the other times that I know nothing about because those people and their deaths didn’t make the news, and all the other configurations of people killing each other because they think they have no choice.
This kid we’re bring into the world. How do I explain this to him or her or they or it? How do I tell my child that people kill other people? When I was three, my mother lied to me and said that people don’t kill people. But they do. All the damn time. For greed or pain or not knowing they can choose differently. For safety. For food. For righteousness or their god or money or whatever.
All those kids we will foster, and the ones we will adopt, and the one we are making, and the babies that will grow to be young men and women standing so tall and proud and trying to do the right thing. How will we explain that people kill people? How will my babies, soft and small and cute, turn into scary strangers on corners that people might try to kill? How can I protect them from the people holding guns in pain and fear and rage who don’t even see them enough to distinguish their humanity?
What the fuck have we been doing all this time? That ten years later, it’s the same damn story. And fifty years later, and a hundred years later, and a thousand years later. All that time, and people still kill people, and we. can’t. stop. it.
There’s got to be a better way. If only I could think of it.