Well. It happened again. At such times that tragedy touches a community that one of our own belongs to–a community that is a source of both strength and vulnerability–we make the following choice. Sometimes people who are grieving need to laugh. And sometimes they need to write about their feelings. So here’s the comic. Enjoy with our blessings. And yes, the comic is about procrastination and we published it a day late. Ha, ha. Right below it will be our usual description for people who have trouble seeing the image. And then after that we’ll talk for a moment about art and trauma.
Big Cat, Little Cat
Three identical photos sit side by side. In each, two cats sit encushioned upon a sofa: a large orange with darker orange stripes who takes up about half of each frame, and a small grey with darker grey stripes who takes up less than a quarter of each frame. The large orange smiles peacefully down on the small grey. As if a life that could furnish the large orange with such a friend could furnish nothing finer, and need not trouble itself to try. The small grey looks off into the distance, however, as if rehearsing some old grievance, oblivious in his rage at the injustice of all life, to the tranquility emanating from his companion just a few short inches away.
Big Cat: Oh, crap! The new comic was due today! Wait, let me see if I wrote it already.
Little Cat: Why would you have written it and then forgotten?
Big Cat: I don’t know, but sometimes past-me has my back.
Little Cat: Oh. I wish I had that. Past me is a dick.
Little Cat: Which doesn’t make sense, because present-me is awesome!
Art and Trauma
Erika contributed several key ideas to what follows.
So much of what we’ve seen on the internet in the wake of yet another mass-shooting at yet another LGBTQ+ hangout-spot follows this pattern: people are not only responding to this trauma, but also remembering previous traumas. The obviously being the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando several years ago. Or the dozens of people arrested in Idaho just this year who were conspiring to turn a Pride celebration into a riot. But people have their private traumas, as well. We feel helpless when someone attacks or bullies us. We also feel helpless when we read of a mass-shooting like this. It’s hard not to draw parallels between the two.
This mass shooting is just another piece of evidence on an increasingly tall and teetering pile. It says: you are not our legislative priority. We don’t have to bow to your pressure the way we do to that of the gun lobby. Or the religious lobby.
It’s more salt in the wound. It’s a reminder that HR departments serve to silence queer voices and hush-up workplace harassment/violence against queer people rather than taking the side of justice. That police and government have historically been, and in many places still are, against the queer community and not in favor of them. And it’s a cherry-on-top to what has already been a difficult year for LGBTQ+ people–between the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, and more besides.
Is the outrage of queer people, coupled by the outrage of their allies, so easy to ignore? If so, how can we change that? When we talk about art and trauma, we’re talking about two things: surviving trauma and defeating it.
Art for Change
Writing (like other forms of art) can perform two important functions in healing after a crisis like this. One function is that it can provide relief to overwrought nerves. The sweet lie that Athena is watching over Odysseus or Eru Iluvatar is watching over Frodo Baggins can be enough to unclench taut nerves in moments of turmoil. And reading about the beautiful queer relationships in books like Black Leopard Red Wolf and Call me by your Name can remind us of what we’re fighting for.
Writing can also be a way through, or a way out of, a moment of crisis. Writing helps us order our ideas to make our arguments stronger and more implacable. It helps us craft a list of demands worth listening to. And it helps us communicate our outrage in ways that help that outrage become collective. That help the call for change become collective. With the goal, cynical though it may be, of making the queer voices shout louder and stronger than the gun lobby, the religious lobby, and the ever-insidious business-as-usual lobby.
Art and trauma is a big, complicated topic. Hopefully this piece gives you a few ideas.
Art and Trauma… and Editors
If you have a response to the mass shooting in Colorado–or if you have a response to another news item that you feel is being badly or inadequately covered in the mainstream, please reach out to us. Let us help you hone your message. And, if you need one, let us provide you with a forum in which to express your thoughts. There is a real connection between art and trauma. We (and other like-minded organizations) can help you heal and we can help you make your voice heard.