I was in Baton Rouge, visiting family, when the shooting started.
I was never in any danger; I had no desire to move toward the cordoned-off area, either during the event or after the shooter was down and the area declared safe.
Like the rest of the country, I followed it on Twitter, the local news station, and the other platforms that shared information as it became available.
Reports, as always, were ceaseless and draining, often qualified with the adverb that's working overtime nowadays, "allegedly," and I tried to remain calm.
I wasn't alone. Everyone tried to remain calm.
The phone rang as friends and relatives from around the country called to make certain that we were safe. Human beings caring about human beings. No one takes it for granted any longer.
But Baton Rouge has problems that are longstanding and difficult to solve for a host of reasons that I'm not qualified to address. So I won't.
But personal testimonies and postings about the troubled city have been appearing everywhere, and I find "Maggie's" a credible one. If you have a few moments, you might want to look at it.
But I also remembered a passage from the "Preface" to Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human, where the German philosopher speaks about the "chills and fears stemming from isolation," a condition that has become an increasingly prominent aspect of American life:
Whoever guesses something of the consequences of any deep suspicion, something of the chills and fears stemming from isolation, to which every person burdened with an unconditional difference of viewpoint is condemned, this person will understand how often I tried to take shelter somewhere, to recover from myself, as if to forget myself entirely for a time . . .
And so all of us, citizens of a nation now sharply divided, and in the face of these daily executions, are trying to recover ourselves however we can, as we wait for the next event. And even when we wait in a crowd, surrounded by our fellow citizens, or our colleagues, or our family, we understand what Nietzsche meant when he spoke of the "chills and fears stemming from isolation" that come at us as we hold radically different opinions about seemingly intractable problems.
We feel helpless and angry. We feel alone.
So let's first recognize that we have become a country whose citizens are continually seeking shelter in ways that are both productive and destructive, and let's learn to tell the difference between the two.
But let's not ignore the feelings that are leading us to seek shelter. And again: that we are now a country whose citizens are seeking shelter however they can and whenever they need to do it.
The hardest part? Learning to recognize those chills and fears, and to say to ourselves, now I must take shelter. Now I must take care of myself.
These are wretched feelings. And they are spreading. And each of us will deal with them in different ways; we will attempt to recover as best we can, even when it means recovering from ourselves and our obsessive attention to our own feelings and opinions, and to the political embarrassments and assaults that our media daily serves up.
But this is necessary work that we all must undertake, and it is work that we must give everyone the space to undertake.
At this point, I don't know anything else to say or do: take shelter when necessary, on your own terms, and encourage others to do the same.