It was three o’clock in the morning, and the baby was screaming. We were trying to get him on a regular schedule for his early morning feeding, and he was not cooperating. It took him a little time to wake up, and to get over his annoyance at being woken up, before he would start eating. He would eat like a champion, and burp like a longshoreman, but it would take him a long time to get settled down to go back to sleep. So I would end up swaddling him, and holding him to calm him down, while Emma tried to get back to sleep. I was idly clicking my way through the channel lineup, and stopped when I got to CNN.
Breaking news. Orlando. Active shooter. Gay nightclub.
"Oh, my God," I said.
"Is he okay?" Emma asked muzzily from the bed.
"He’s okay," I said, "but there was a mass shooting in Orlando."
"Do what?" she asked.
"Come and see," I said.
And we watched, and saw the scene outside the nightclub, and the police cars, and the earnest voices of the CNN anchors telling us that we don’t know very much just yet.
"Can you hand me my phone?" I asked Emma.
"You shouldn’t look at your phone," she said. "You’ll be up all night because of the bright screen."
"I need my phone," I said. "I need to get on Twitter and shape the narrative. You know. Gun control. Criticize the NRA and the Republicans. Call them out on their thoughts and prayers, you know, that kind of thing."
"It can wait until the morning," she said. "Try to see if you can put Richie down in his crib."
"I thought we were calling him R.C."
"Richie sounds cuter for a baby."
"It sounds like Richie Rich."
"So?"
"The kids at my middle school called me Richie Rich."
"Too bad. They called me Emma Dilemma."
"Really?"
"I was in a talented and gifted program. Put the baby down and see if we can get back to sleep."
I took the baby down the hall to the nursery, and placed him carefully on his back, and watched him as he settled into a deep sleep. I went back into the master bedroom, and Emma was on the edge of the couch, staring at the TV.
"What happened?" I asked.
"They finally said the name of the place where the shooting is going on," she said.
"Okay," I said. "Why is that important?"
"It’s the Pulse," she said.
"Never heard of it," I said.
"I have been there," she said. "A couple of times."
"You hang out in gay nightclubs?" I asked.
"Okay, I mean, not regularly," she said. "Not since we moved up here, of course. But a few times in DC, you know. Adams-Morgan. And this place. Whenever we did a girls-only trip to Disney, we’d go to the Pulse the night before we left. I mean, we used to have to buy our own drinks, usually, but it was always a lot of fun going out there and dancing."
"That’s terrible," I said.
"I mean, some of the guys I danced with could be lying dead in there. That’s just frightening."
"And that’s why I need to go online and say something about it," I said. "Let everyone know who’s responsible."
"And who is that?" she asked. "You don’t know who the shooter is, or why he’s doing what he’s doing."
"It doesn’t matter," I said. "Somebody shoots up a gay nightclub in the South. I mean, how obvious does it has to be? It has to be some right-wing gun-nut with a grudge against the gays."
"What if it isn’t?" Emma said. "You thought that about the San Bernardino shooting, and it turned out to be a Muslim couple. This could be, too."
"It doesn’t matter," I said. "Say it is a Muslim terrorist. Doesn’t mean anything. He’s either a product of this gun-saturated, violence-sick society, or he’s rebelling against it. Either way, we still have to hang this around the neck of the Republicans and the NRA."
"If it was just you saying it, I mean, if you felt you had to, I wouldn’t stop you," she said. "But you are running for Congress. You can’t just run your yap at three in the morning before you know what any of the facts are."
"Never let a crisis go to waste," I said.
"Justin, for God’s sake. You do not understand. I just told you I was frightened, and I still am, a little. A lot of people probably are. And people don’t want to talk politics at a time like this, or I don’t, anyway."
"This stuff has to be politicized," I said. "Obama said so. It’s the only way we’re going to move forward."
"You’re playing on people’s fears," Emma said. "How is that different from what Republicans do?"
"There’s no moral equivalence between who we are and who they are," I said. "You know that."
"All I am saying is, there’s time tomorrow. Tonight, I want to go to bed, and I want you to come with me and help me feel safe. Okay?"
I was going to argue with her, but then we both heard the baby stirring, and we went into his room to check on him. Thankfully, it was a false alarm. He yawned a big yawn and went back to sleep. Emma and I went back to our room, and she emphatically turned off the TV. We went back to bed, and I held Emma close. She never cried, but she shivered a little, and at length she turned over and went to sleep.
I wanted to get up and grab my phone and scour Twitter for people who needed to be ridiculed and shamed. But I didn’t. I wasn’t afraid, of course. Social justice warriors should never be afraid to speak their minds. And I wasn’t worried about anyone’s pieties about the bodies not being cold yet. But I was thinking about my son, and the kind of world he was going to grow up in, and whether it was right to bring a child up in an environment where his dad would jump on Twitter to have political arguments with strangers every time a madman decided to shoot up a public space.
At any rate, I thought, it could wait until the morning, so I went to sleep. I had gone the distance enough for one day, and I would arise the next morning, rested and ready to enter the fray.
*****
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
Week Twenty-One: The Blessed Event
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