I didn't mean to look. But it was too late to "unsee" it. On the front page of the Daily News that day in Walgreens the man's back was intimately pressed against the black-robed legs of a dude leaning over him. Cupping the man's face, the dude was about to cut his head off with a knife. It was likely the first time in months the man kneeling on the ground had been held in the arms of anybody. His eyes in his last moment were squeezed shut.
I used to feel everything too much but short-circuited after Rwanda, where a bunch of men hacked a million of their neighbors to death with machetes.
I've largely been on activist autopilot since, just doing my non-profit work and writing. I stay highly informed of world events but manage my exposure.
I focus. I try not to get too close to anything or anybody, and if so, only through service.
Lately a few people say it feels like the world is falling apart. But surely it's been grimmer. Just look at World War II. Just look at the Slave Trade. Just look at the genocide of American Indian people in North and South America. Just look at this or that.
Overall there is progress, right? Unless the climate is really entering its first catastrophic tailspin there should still be a world to build a future, right?
I'm sensitive about body integrity. Meaning one's right to his or her body space. I also think authentic connections between people are a little sacred, even a momentary nod and "what's up brutha" from somebody passing on the street.
I've read that dudes in the Islamic State call each other "brother" or "bro". On a couple locations the "bros" took 21 handcuffed men down to the beautiful beach and, after chatting and joking around with each other like they were getting ready for work, slit their captive person's head off alive, twisting and severing the spinal cord as blood erupted everywhere. I didn't watch the videos. It's always such an anticipation to go to the beach, down to the water's edge, dive in. The exciting smell of the wild sea. The open plain of big water. Your soul and body can relax.
In Iraq I wonder if they're still super-gluing gay dudes' rectums shut then force-feeding them laxatives till they explode inside and die. It became fashionable after we went to war for Halliburton I mean to liberate the Iraqi people.
Here in the homeland I remember the names of Amadou Diallou. Abner Louima. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. John Crawford. And many others. With Abner, the police shoved a broken broomstick up his rectum, rupturing his colon and bladder. John Crawford was simply shopping in Walmart and talking on his cell to his sons' mother when police shot him to death on sight. Sean Bell was about to marry the love of his life when he was attacked and slaughtered by plainclothes officers in a hail of 50 bullets.
Maybe my first cracks appeared when Trayvon was killed. My son would fight back too if some child-molester-looking creep came into his body space while simply trying to walk home in the misting rain, hood up.
Street protests - from Keystone to Baltimore the country is restless. Street protests are like good vegan soul food. I'm hungry and want to be fed.
While men do things to each other's bodies, and to women too, of course, women largely keep walking forward, shouldering all our mess.
Call me an animist but I don't believe the spirit is separate from the flesh. 8 weeks ago I tore my left bicep and pec at the gym. Over time the dead, blackish-purple blood inside my swollen arm moved down like a slow-motion miscarriage. As an incapacitated athlete I've tried not to go crazy by counting my blessings.
Out in the California desert, a mile off I-15 between Vegas and L.A., a black model friend of a friend was found with his internal organs and eyes removed and they still haven't found who did it.
Over the last two years I tried to date again but the physical spiritual connection between men that I believed in was impossible. 'Talking' to dudes is like walking through a movie set built on top a wasteland... or ruins.
We've had some weather lately. When weather comes in off the ocean the winds blow hard for a few days. People's souls and bodies become unsettled, restless.
It's hard to stay in your apartment; you have to get out, walk. The wind blows you around.
"The sun does shine," Anthony Ray Hinton of Alabama said upon his still-living body being freed from death row after serving 30 years for crimes he didn't commit. He squinted at the strange sky.
Jarid Manos is an American writer and activist. JaridManos.com