This strife among ourselves wastes our energy and destroys our unity. My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: Take your guns, your knives . . . And throw them into the sea! —Nelson Mandela
According to Arthurian legend, the Fisher King is one of a line of keepers of the Holy Grail that is wounded with a wound that will not heal. The Fisher King’s wound is symbolic of the wound in the land. As the king is unable to perform his duties and suffers from his unhealing wound, the land he is responsible for also suffers. It is this unhealing wound that launches the quest for the Grail.
On Sunday, November 20, 2022, the world awoke to yet another horrific attack that claimed five innocent lives and injured dozens more. So began, once again, the recurring question: “Why?” The attack occurred in Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in Colorado. The state has a long history of gun violence: Columbine. The Aurora theater shooting. A Planned Parenthood clinic, also in Colorado Springs. This has happened in supermarkets, Chuck E Cheeses, places of worship, schools. All places, including Club Q, that were considered places of necessity, leisure, and sanctuary. Places where those who went there did so to enjoy themselves, to meet their most basic human needs, and to feel safe.
I realized this morning that it’s possible that the Fisher King’s unhealing wound was grief.
I think about that day in 1999 when I heard about the attack at Columbine High School, not knowing that decades later, I would call Colorado my home. I think of those who experienced that attack over 20 years ago…and I feel it is likely that their wounds were opened again. Reminders of that tragic day, never far away for those directly impacted, were brought back. Even memories of that day, which was very bad for me for a number of reasons, come flooding back to me these many years later, wounds that seemed to have healed but were opened again in an instant.
The patrons of Club Q describe it as a safe haven, a place where they could go to be their authentic selves without fear of shame, ridicule, or judgment. I recognize the privilege that I have in that, there are many, many places in Colorado Springs where I can go to be accepted and not judged, ridiculed, or shamed, starting in my own home with my family and extending outwards to an almost infinite number of places in my community. However, the patrons of Club Q don’t have that freedom, including not within their own homes and families. And now they have one less. And that keeps the wound open for me.
The shooting at Club Q reminds us of all the other acts of violence across our country: the Pulse Nightclub. Sandy Hook. Uvalde. Marjorie Stoneman High School. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Tops Friendly Market. It reminds us of the idea that those places where we or our loved ones go to learn, to recreate, to worship, those places that we consider safe locations, sanctuaries, can quickly become anything but. It reminds us of lives and innocence lost and of trauma that seems to continue. And that keeps the wound open for me.
Perhaps the Grail that may heal this wound is the possibility of a society where anyone can go anywhere and feel safe from the threat of judgment, shame, and ridicule. Where we can live our lives and be our full authentic selves without being in danger of harassment, intimidation, aggression, or violence. A society where a single individual does not have the ability to rip away the sense of safety and community from anyone at any time. There are many conversations about how this happens, but there should be very few about why this should happen.
Being wounded with an unhealing wound, I continue to search for that Grail, as do many of us, because to do so otherwise would be to admit defeat. We keep searching because we have to, and we keep searching in honor of those who are no longer with us.