I write this with shame radiating from my body and soul. As an American, as a veteran, as a human being, I’ve just committed an act I’d never ever pictured myself doing. Living in the Great North Woods in a Tiny White Box, I don’t have running water, so I can’t take the shower I need. Not that self-disgust comes off with soap and water, but I feel the need to commit some act to cleanse myself. Maybe writing this will help.
Regular readers know I don’t have vibrant Internet service. I walk across the dirt road I live on, stand outside the cabin there and pick up a Wi-Fi signal, getting a connection that’s slow but capable of letting me upload daily columns to tinywhitebox.com. It’s Sunday evening, November 5, and about an hour ago I was publishing a silly piece on the importance of focus in writing. Its hook was that out of its 600 or so words only about 30 are on focus – the rest is a series of asides, conjecture and assorted nonsense. Ha. Ha. To be fair, I also write about more serious topics (addiction, patriotism, homelessness, etc.), but this was just a light gag.
While that column was being sucked up into the sky, letter by letter, I looked at Google News and saw there’d been a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, killing at least 25 people and wounding another 30.
Before continuing, I ask for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for their families. Each victim is a martyr to madness, and I can’t even imagine what the survivors will endure every day for the rest of their lives. As soon as a legitimate fund has been set up, I pledge to donate immediately a sum significant to my finances. Please consider doing the same.
Given the terrorist killings in New York this past week, I HAD to know the shooter’s name and his background. The internet connection here was hinkier than usual, so I grabbed Sam (is a dog), piled into the Jeep and drove the three miles to the convenience store that has good Internet.
Now comes my confession. Now comes my shame.
The whole way there, I was praying. For the victims? Sure. For their families. Yes. Mostly, though, I was praying the killer was not Muslim. Once I’d prayed for the murderer’s lack of ties to Islam, I prayed he wasn’t an illegal immigrant. Once I’d prayed he wasn’t shouting “Allah Akbar” or Mexican, I prayed he wasn’t African-American.
Why did I pray these things? Because I live in a country where the President takes an act of terror by a Muslim lunatic in New York, one who came here legally, and calls for the death penalty before he’s been arraigned and the end of an innocuous immigration program. Because I live in a country where the man we elected began his campaign by labeling illegal Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists and “some good people.” Because I live in a country where our commander in chief provided more comfort for marching Nazis than he did for John McCain, a goddamned war hero and genuine great man, or the widow of a soldier slain in defense of our country.
My greatest shame? The reason I need to confess? A smile broke across my face when I found out the killer was a white veteran piece of garbage instead of a brown Muslim piece of garbage or a Mexican piece of garbage. I was happy to identify with the killer. Why, he’s just like me! Except for being the piece of garbage, I mean. White veterans like us get seen as individual pieces of garbage who’ve gone crazy, not representative of ALL white veterans.
That would be crazy, wouldn’t it, to start rounding up all of us white veterans because of that piece of garbage Devin Kelley who killed those innocent churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas? That would be criminal, wouldn’t it, to require white veterans to register and check in monthly at their local VA, based on the violent terrorism of one white veteran? That would be un-American, wouldn’t it, to limit the civil liberties of white veterans after a white veteran goes crazy and shoots people while they worship?
About the author: Keith Howard used to be a homeless drunk veteran. Then he got sober and, eventually, became director of Liberty House in Manchester, a housing program for formerly homeless veterans. There, he had a number of well-publicized experiences – walking away from federal funds in order to keep Liberty House clean and sober, a contretemps with a presidential candidate and a $100,000 donation, a year spent living in a converted cargo trailer in Raymond. Today, he lives in a six-by 12-foot trailer in Pittsburg, NH, a few miles from the Canadian border with his dog, Sam. There, Howard maintains tinywhitebox.com, his website, works on a memoir, and a couple of novels while plotting the next phase of his improbable life.