TIAA #20: “United Mess of America”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

US flag located at Easton Ponds / Easton, Washington, USA / October 31, 2021
US flag located at Easton Ponds / Easton, Washington, USA / October 31, 2021

What can I say about the photograph above?

Not much, in fact. My intention is to leave it up to interpretation by you, the viewer. You probably already have an idea given the title of this week’s entry for TIAA.

Still, since I’m using my blog as a tool to share my photography as well as the thoughts churning in my psyche, it would be folly not to say anything at all. One thing I have observed is that Old Glory (the widely known moniker for the American flag, also commonly referred to as “The Stars & Stripes”) is almost always at half-staff nowadays. Flying a flag at half-staff, in many countries, is typically symbolic of recognizing a public figure who has died, or to commemorate an event that has tragically impacted the nation.

I think we’ve reached a point in which almost every day of the year is the anniversary of a tragic event in the United States. There have been so many tragedies — especially mass shootings — that I, as a human being, am unable to account for or recollect all of them. There are literally too many of them each year of each decade. One thing is clear, though. They appear to be increasing and much more frequent with little breathing space (for the American populace) between each occurrence. This is nothing new, sadly.

I was riding my bike around Lake Union in Seattle two weeks ago when I saw several buildings flying the flag at half-staff. I was confused because I was trying to remember if we were commemorating a past event on its anniversary or whether it was something else. I couldn’t think of the reason why flags were at half-staff that particular day (again, keep in mind the flag is commonly at half-staff for many consecutive days of the year). It was later on that I found out about the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. However, what happened in Buffalo had followed other mass shootings in California and Texas just a few days earlier. I believe they were all in the same week. Does that mean someone in the federal government must determine which event is horrific enough to announce that flags should be waved at half-staff nationwide? How is that decided considering each one of these events is terrible in and of itself independently?

The mass shooting in Buffalo was on May 14th, the same day I was capturing photos from the Bans Off Our Bodies protest in Seattle. The mass shooting resulting in the deaths of several elementary school students in Uvalde, Texas, occurred on May 24th. I’m at a point in which I don’t think I’m desensitized, but I have acknowledged that these occurrences are, admittedly, a routine part of American culture. I didn’t just acknowledge this today. I came to this conclusion years ago because all we’re doing now is reacting to what has happened. There is a formula we all follow during the aftermath of a mass shooting. Later, we will go through the formula again when (not if) the next one happens — guaranteed to be within the next week or two. I am not wishing for this by any means whatsoever. I’m being realistic in my perspective based on what I have observed in the last five to 10 years.

I’ve addressed my perspective on mass shootings in this blog before. In fact, I posted the article “Gun Violence: America’s #1 Single & Broken Record” almost exactly three years ago to this day. All one really needs to do is change the location of the shooting and my message remains unchanged.

This morning, as I was driving back to my home from an appointment, I felt somewhat somber and numb thinking about this situation in the United States, the only country in the world in which mass shootings occur so frequently and feverishly. I began to think of the many issues facing our country (which rarely leads my mindset on a good path), but it did make me pose this specific question to myself: “What is the United States, as a nation of people, exceptionally and collectively good at doing that does not involve or pertain to tragic or unnecessary loss of life?” (It’s a very warped and biased question, I realize, but I welcome anyone to make a list in response).

I don’t really have anything else to say. I hope we can make it through Memorial Day weekend without another mass shooting. I also hope we can make it through the month of June without one, but as I’ve mentioned here and in previous articles, I am a fervent realist in most matters, especially those in which we see a regular pattern.

US flag located at Easton Ponds / Easton, Washington, USA / October 31, 2021
US flag located at Easton Ponds / Easton, Washington, USA / October 31, 2021

21 articles down for the TIAA challenge. 31 remain!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kirk. says:

    No words to say. So exhausted from seeing how moves are literally taken for granted. We have to have hope that things will change but it is hard.

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