In times of sickness and trauma, my first instinct is always to watch cop/detective shows. I don’t know when this urge started, but there was this sense that no matter what evil or illness existed in the world, Jerry Orbach or Shane Vendrell or Elliot Stabler or Michael Westen would fix it. Especially if I was home sick — if someone was robbed in the first few minutes of Law and Order, I knew that, even if I fell asleep, when I woke up, Sam Waterston would make it all okay. After I broke up with Aaron, my boyfriend of six years, I watched SVU in my friend Jim & Ian’s room because Det. Benson was a comforting presence. And three nights before my wedding, I was up at 2 a.m. watching The Shield because I was nervous and Dutch Wagenbach always makes me feel safe when things were stressful and scary.
But today’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, and last week’s at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, not to mention the near-constant stream of fatal shootings by police, generally against black men, it’s hard to watch cop shows — especially The Shield (sorry Shane, Dutch, Lem and Ronnie*) — and root for the Men With The Guns.
I don’t feel safe anymore. How can I, how can anyone? We’ve now had more mass shootings than days in the year. People aren’t safe at the movies, at church, at malls. Kids aren’t safe at their elementary schools. And we wring our hands and we say “what can we do?” There’s LOTS we can do, but no one has the balls to step up and do it because this nation lives in constant fear of the Drunk Uncles that yell and scream the loudest.
Three years ago, there was a shooting two days before Christmas in Cooperstown, America’s Perfect Village. Not the first, but it was right down the street from my office. My boss told me to go downtown and cover it. I refused. I was scared. A manhunt ensued, and for the rest of the day, SWAT teams hung around our building. But I didn’t feel any better. If there was a shootout — no one knew that the gunman was already halfway to Virginia, where they caught him on Christmas Eve — those bullets were going to go right through my window. Gun violence is gun violence, whether it’s the “good guys” or the “bad guys” firing. Bullets don’t discriminate.
(My boss covered the story, because he is scared of nothing on this earth.)
So I turn to TV because TV numbs me in a way that music can’t. But tonight maybe I’ll watch MST3K or Parks & Recreation, something that’s warm and safe. Because I just can’t right now. I just can’t.
*Not Vic Mackey though. I hate Vic Mackey, although I was watching The Shield on Crackle over the summer and they had a commercial for the new Fantastic Four movie and I felt genuinely sad because Michael Chiklis was not The Thing, a new guy was The Thing and he was interrupting Chiklis’ ten-year-old cop show.