Friday, September 11, 2020

It Will Come Upon Our Shore

You've heard the song before. It speaks of the tragedy, darkness and ugliness that happens in a location that is - thankfully - far away from where we stand.

It all happens over there ... over there.

Over there, over there
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming
The Yanks are coming
The drums rum-tumming
So prepare, say a prayer
Send the word, send the word to beware
We'll be over, we're coming over
And we won't come back till it's over
Over there

This was the sentiment, here in the United States back in the early- and mid-20th century, when war took place in far-off lands, in a foreign theater that would not be observed except in newspaper clips, photojournalism, history books, some TV news segments, or war stories. The results we could view in the ticker-tape ribbons streaming down the parade on Broadway in New York, in victory. Or in the PTSD of those returning from the likes of Vietnam, in defeat. 

The most we would see of war came in documentaries on WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, sit-coms like "MASH," and on the news segments if we could stomach it. Even then, though, it would be taking place on a small rectangular or square flat screen, from which we could turn our gaze and once again be in a family living room. 

Home sweet home. Safe. 

Yes, in 1941 there was that initial shock of being hit at "home," on our own territory's soil, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in the famous day of infamy. Shock-waves ushered us gladly into WWII. However, somehow even with this close-to-home hit, we still knew war, battles, bombs and terror took place ... over there.

It wouldn't be until September 2001 when the real wake-up call would come - on a Tuesday morning, sunny, clear sky.

Suddenly in the flash of a newscast, broadcast time and time again, over and over, we realized it could happen anywhere. It wasn't just "over there" any longer. Terror and war could arrive in our own backyard. It could come upon our shore. It could happen here.

No longer would there be the cinematic image of just dust being kicked up in the desert, or jungle villages being blown up with foreigners running for their lives, sometimes terrorized and naked.

Now it was a large US city - skyscrapers collapsing under the weight of the unknown, and bodies jumping towards their final release. It was here. Or at least nearby.

For those of us not living in New York City or Washington DC or in an empty field in Shanksville, PA, we still may subconsciously and even consciously think to ourselves: well, it didn't happen here. It was over there in another part of our country.

Still not in the backyard. Still not on our shores.

That was until 2020 came along and the terror of radicalized "protestors" decided to take their "protests," campaigns, angst, and hired directives, towards other target cities within our country. Hell, even the small, quiet town of La Mesa, a neighboring city to my own, was the site of rioting, looting and burning. It was right there in my backyard. While visiting my bank in the late afternoon, I was mere feet away from the marching crowds that became, a few hours later after being joined by the mob, menaces designed to destroy and terrorize.

Yes, terror. The terror is here. The terrorists are here.
Innocent people walking down the street being screamed at, being struck from behind, being shot, being killed. Those with a sane mind would have no trouble defining such actions as terror-filled.
Here. Right here. And getting closer. 

And so - if this is the case, what can be done?

Perhaps it all comes down to defining the word we've been using all along in this piece. "Here." If we used to consider horrors happening over there, how would we define this term "here?" 

I would imagine we could determine that "here" would start and end with a border - at Canada to the north, Mexico to the south and some form of ocean to the left and right. I guess that would be the case if you consider yourself an American, with US borders defining you. 

And yet.

What if we expanded ourselves to include other countries, other nations, other continents? What would "here" look like? What if we embraced the entire globe as our own, with its inhabitants not "over there" somewhere, but here ... on the planet on which we stand? 

Now I'm not suggesting we dissolve borders of nations, just as we don't dissolve bodies when drawing healthy boundaries around our persons or homes. 

But if there is an underlying interconnected quality between us all - can we really be left without impact when another nation falls or experiences disaster, drought or devastation? 

Perhaps our salvation will come when we no longer feel safe because trouble is something that takes place far away in some distant land. But rather, our salvation and safety can come from embracing the reality of our unity. 

A tall order. 

But it's the only option that ushers us out of the slumber of separation that would have us go careless in the face of cities and humans left in rubble and trouble. 

We have to create a new paradigm, and live from that heightened state of mind. We are all connected. And everyone counts. When our brothers and sisters are harmed, it can impact the collective humanity, just as when our hand hurts it impacts the human on the whole. 

Someday we may all wake up to this. 

Maybe when it really counts ... when it's really real.

Maybe when it truly comes upon our shore.

James Anthony Ellis is at a lot of the time. 

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