Gunmetal Gray

Last Monday we returned home from a wonderful weekend spent in part with good friends in majestic West Virginia, looking westward across layers of mountains and the snaking Potomac, and in part with dear old friends in Pennsylvania celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. The weather was warm, gently sunny, and sublimely relaxing.

On Tuesday we began a streak of gray, rainy weather, in which for six straight days the sky remained a relentless gunmetal gray, the air got colder, the precipitation varied from drizzle to downpour to fog and back again. During midweek we got ready to hunker down for a local hurricane. Early weather forecast models had “Joaquin” coming right up the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. My Church Council dithered for a while, trying to make our inclement weather snow policy fit a hurricane. Couldn’t do it. We struggled to actually think out what to do “in case.” But the storm went way out to sea instead, casting grave doubt on the reliability of forecast models, even those developed only three days ahead. In fact we got only gentle rains, which were much needed. They served this year’s version of the “equinoctial storms” that herald the change of seasons, as in Shelley’s “wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being.” But this week was a time of dead losses too.

For baseball fans of all teams except the elite playoff clubs, it was the end of the season. Watching games last week televised in Atlanta, New York, and Washington, D. C., I could hear the echo of individual fans shouting their last hurrahs and epithets as many of the “fair weather” faithful opted for warmer, drier, lighter surroundings than the dank, dim ball parks. On Saturday the Nats took two games from the Mets in Citi Field, and except for diehard fans of the two teams nobody cared much because the Mets had already sewn up the Division Championship. If the race had still been on, Bryce Harper’s game-winning two-run blast in the eighth inning would have been electrifying (positive or negative charge) for tens of thousands of fans in the park and at home. As it was, the ball bounced around for a while in the largely empty upper deck, and I knew that as a Nats fan I’d still have to suffer the condescension of smug New Yorkers once again, as I so often have had to as a Boston fan. Gunmetal gray.

Republican poll leader Donald Trump's preferred school protection device

Republican poll leader Donald Trump’s preferred school protection device

On Thursday a gunman in Roseburg, OR, killed nine people, mostly Christians, and then himself, at a local community college. The incident was investigated by the local sheriff, who has been an active advocate against gun control. The President of the United States expressed grief, chagrin, frustration, and sorrow at the unwillingness of his country, alone among advanced western nations, to take action to reduce access to handguns. As he foresaw, universal gun access advocates used the same “tired” and untrue arguments. Predictably, the leading Republican presidential candidate opined that if the faculty of the institution had been armed fewer people would have died. Another Republican candidate, son and brother of presidents, observed that “stuff happens,” and you can’t just change the law every time it does. I reflected that among the “stuff” that the U.S. has had to endure are three terms of presidency by his family, one brought about by a vote of 5 to 4. The lack of compassion among those seeking leadership dismayed me. Gunmetal gray.

Overseas, first the Russians and then the Americans took turns bombing and killing doctors and patients in refugee hospitals staffed in part by Doctors Without Borders. Both nations denied intentionality. Americans were asked to be skeptical of the Russian claims, while accepting that the deaths from American bombs were unintentional “collateral damage.” That is the coldest, cruelest, calculatedly impersonal phrase in the lexicon. Medical doctors who volunteered to relieve suffering in the Third World were blown apart. Patients were burned alive in their beds. Had to do it though, because we thought there might be “bad guys” hiding there. As if this were some childhood game of backyard cops and robbers or ringolevio. At least when the Israelis bomb a hospital you know they did it on purpose because their military doesn’t make mistakes, and they admit it because they just don’t care. Gunmetal gray.

Well, it is Monday morning again, and the sun rose in a golden glow about 7:15 a.m. The sky is blue, the air is fresh and comfortable. Perhaps we’ll have a better week. We sure need one.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2015.

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