As I wrap myself in layer upon layer of fleece (it's 9 degrees outside, and my house is drafty) I catch myself doing what everyone seems to do in the last days of one year and the first days of the next. Lots of internal summation, lots of listy thinking. I'll spare y'all. And no, I'm not making resolutions, though I do have goals and hopes for the next few hundred days.
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In my last post I mentioned the murder of fiction writer & IU professor Don Belton. It appears that his killer has been caught; the young man's story is that Belton had sexually assaulted him a few days prior, and the alleged killer had gone over to Belton's house to discuss the situation. (Here is the ABC News version.)
Now, I didn't know Don Belton, and I don't know the alleged killer, and so anything I say must be conjecture. I do know what friends of Belton have been saying, and they all say that he is not the sort of person who would have assaulted anyone, and they sound pretty credible to me. And while I believe that self-defense against sexual assault is absolutely justifiable, I don't think that showing up at someone's house several days after they allegedly assaulted you, with a large knife in your belt and a willingness to use it, is really what I have in mind when I think of "self-defense."
I also know that homophobia and racism stink pretty loudly, and there's been a bad aroma around this story for a while. As the "Justice for Don Belton" website points out, "there is a long, established history of suspects invoking a claim of sexual assault and/or a “gay panic” defense to get charges reduced or to win over a jury when the victim was a gay person."
The whole thing makes me fairly queasy, to be honest. As I said I didn't know Don Belton at all, but it sure sounds like the world has lost a talented and much-loved man. And it won't surprise me if homophobia turns out to play a very large role in what happened. It's all very, very sad.
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Also sad, the recent suicide of poet Rachel Wetzsteon (who I also did not know). Along with the Christmas-week suicide of Vic Chesnutt, this news spotlights the fact that this time of year can be so very hard for people. If you know someone who's sad or lonely, do the world a favor and reach out to them this month, will you? Sometimes even love doesn't help someone pull through crippling depression -- sometimes there's just too much fear, pain, damage -- but sometimes it's good to try.
This poem of Rachel Wetzsteon's, reprinted in the New York Times, struck me hard:
The park admits the wind,
the petals lift and scatter
like versions of myself I was on the verge
of becoming; and ten years on
and ten blocks down I still can’t tell
whether this dispersal resembles
a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.
But the petals scatter faster,
seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor,
and at least I’ve got by pumping heart
some rules of conduct: refuse to choose
between turning pages and turning heads
though the stubborn dine alone. Get over
“getting over”: dark clouds don’t fade
but drift with ever deeper colors.
Give up on rooted happiness
(the stolid trees on fire!) and sweet reprieve
(a poor park but my own) will follow.
There is still a chance the empty gazebo
will draw crowds from the greater world.
And meanwhile, meanwhile’s far from nothing:
the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees.
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I continue to contribute to Blogness on the Edge of Town; the last few days have celebrated the "Decade of Bruce" with several of us talking about our favorite album, song, tour, and show of the past ten years (as well as our least favorite song - that one was kind of hard). Other than that, I haven't been writing much lately. Maybe it's just too damn cold. Maybe the days are just too damn short. Or maybe I've just been too damn lazy.
I hope all y'all had a good holiday, whatever "a good holiday" means for you. Mine included a short trip to Atlanta, where I got to see actual giant pandas for the first time in my life. Here's the youngest, Xi Lan:
And some meerkats (they remind me of people I know, though I can't put my finger on who):
And finally this dignified gentleman orangutan. My sister said he looks like Buddha. So he's the Orangubuddhatan:
(More zoo pictures on my Facebook, for those of you who are there.)