“Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see things as they can be and ask, why not?”
- Robert F. Kennedy
I’ve always loved this quote. Some say Kennedy actually spun this off of a similar thought by George Bernard Shaw. All I know is when I first heard it, I was told these words were spoken by Kennedy, and they immediately captured my world view.
I apologize for not blogging much the past couple of weeks, Sometimes, quite honestly, I go through a bit of writers’ block. And in the past few months it’s been a rather nasty recurring cerebral virus for me. Back in the early part of my career, I was The Oklahoman’s police reporter. I covered fires, murders, crime sprees and disasters. And I was good at it. I was in the lead covering the April 19, 1995 bombing, I got to the scene way too quickly, and the images I saw that day have haunted me ever since. I was out there day and night, until the last of the rescue workers left, and I couldn’t tolerate one more minute amid the rubble. I went from being a top notch disaster reporter to a person who, to this day, gets physically ill at the sight of such devastation.
My disaster beat days are long behind me.
So on weeks like this, or when terrorists struck in Boston and a fertilizer plant blew up in Texas, it gets to be a bit much for me. I see things as they can be – without hate, without violence, without needless losses of life when twisters sweep through town – and I ask, why not?
And I’m terrified at the prospect that question may never be answered.
Like many of you, I wept while smiling reading Berry Tramel’s story Thursday about “Big Dog” and “Little Dog.” I was nauseated by the bombardment of endless imagery of entire neighborhoods and schools wiped off the face of this planet. We all watch, we all want to help, and yet we know we’re helpless to totally make things right, to fix everything that’s broken.
So we donate money, we lend our talents, our labor, our skill, our know-how and we do what we can. But lives lost can’t be brought back. And some trauma can’t easily be erased.
So that’s that. We’re Oklahomans, those of us born here like Big Dog, and those of us like Little Dog (including me) who were transplants from what might as well be another country. For there is no place like Oklahoma. Maybe that’s why we’re so misunderstood by those who have not stepped foot on our red soil. There’s something special about this place that makes us cling to these crazy tornado swept Plains. New York Times Magazine writer Sam Anderson began to nail it when he described this state’s birth, our culture, our community as virtual super-collider of humanity. And Berry, God bless him, he closed this identity crisis once and for all with what may be the great single piece of literature ever to grace the pages of The Oklahoman – the story of Big Dog and Little Dog.
Against such great writers, sometimes I feel like a fraud. I realize I have a long, long way to go before I deserve the time I ask of all of you to read my words, to take it in, and ask yourselves – why not? I promise, I will never give up trying to earn your time.
Thanks for making my words a part of your daily reading. And yes, life will go on, and in the interest of distraction, I’ll even embrace every “mystery tower” question you can throw at me today during this morning’s OKC Central Live Chat.