I got a lighthearted e-mail last night from an overseas reader of my Joan Crawford website, telling me about a Joan-owned fur coat and outfit that his boyfriend had just given him.
He signed off, though, on a more ominous note: "And be careful out there. The USA is getting a bit dangerous."
I was a bit puzzled at first as to what he meant. When I read the latest news this morning, though, then went on to note other recent mass killings:
4/5: Just in from Washington state. A dad shot his 5 kids to death last night.
4/4: Pittsburgh. Gunman kills 3 police officers responding to domestic dispute.
4/3: Binghamton, NY. Gunman kills 13 at immigration center.
3/29: North Carolina. Gunman kills 8 at senior center.
3/29: Santa Clara, CA. Gunman kills 5 relatives.
3/21: Oakland, CA. Gunman kills 4 police officers.
3/10: Alabama. Gunman kills 10, including mother and 4 relatives.
This has all happened in the last 3-1/2 weeks. As far as I'm aware, the US has never, ever seen anywhere near this number of mass killings in so short a time. Sadly, I'm used to hearing about one or two such occurrences per YEAR, maybe. But... 7 mass shooting sprees in 3-1/2 weeks?? No one in any media outlet seems to have yet attempted to analyze this epidemic.
Of course it all has something to do with the horrible economy, and job losses. (Unemployment just reached 8.5%, the highest rate since 1983, when I was a senior in high school.) Unemployment is an extreme stressor, as I'm just discovering for the first time in my adult life. When my project job ends in May, I'll be eligible for enough unemployment benefits to cover my rent only. I have no family or friends in this area that I can move in with. I have no mate to pay my bills for me. I spend probably 90% of my waking-day thinking, "What am I going to do? No, really -- WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?" (Yes, knowing that my current job is ending in May, I've been applying for other jobs. No one is hiring.) It's a very grim, hopeless feeling. My level of angst, though, is probably only currently on the "headache/canker sore/pulling-on-a-hangnail" level. I have no home or car or family to lose. I've got a dying cat to take care of, but once she's gone, I'll be free to move to a cheaper place. I don't like having a roommate, but I'll get a roommate, if need be. I'm used to not having much. I'll survive (without shooting anybody).
But I'm a weird, solitary case. What about those who actually are losing their homes, cars, and families? As the past 3-1/2 weeks have indicated, there's something disturbing in the air that some people aren't finding ways to personally escape. I've heard this current political/economic climate referred to as a "paradigm change." Yes, definitely. Now I'm old enough to realize the very real, frightening consequences of that.
Weird side-note: I moved to NYC in February 2007. Never had a single problem on the streets. Just last week, though, I had a couple of creepy "Taxi Driver"-type incidents happen to me within a 2-minute span. (1) A homeless guy actually GRABS me: "Read my palm, read my palm, do something, TELL ME!" After I jerked loose from him, I turned the corner, and (2) then another homeless guy walks past me, then turns around and stops and says to me: "I HATE you fucking 'African-Americans.' You African-Americans living in projects. Who the FUCK do you think you're fooling?" Huh? I don't look black. I'm a middle-aged white woman, with blonde hair. Why was he telling me all of this? I stared back at the guy with a "what the hell" look, and he turned and walked on, still muttering.
These two encounters were, of course, pretty harmless, just weird. It's just that... I'm aware of the "weirdness level" having increased a lot lately to varying extents, both personally, and on my streets, and in the nation.