What to Say

Yesterday: driving around Pittsburgh, seeing digital billboards projecting the Star of David with the word “Unite.” I saw it and I instantly felt better. Maybe people will unite, I thought. Maybe something good will come out of this. That feeling quickly collapsed into meaninglessness. A media company slogan. No action attached to it. No nothing.

I call a close relative. She saw that there was a vigil for the victims of the synagogue shooting. “What’s a vigil going to do?” she says. “Another shooting. People say the same things. Nothing changes.”

I hang out with my friend. She was on the bus earlier, heading home from work. A black man got on, clearly drunk and disoriented. Not harassing anybody. Two white women took it upon themselves to change the situation. Threatened to call the cops on him. Found a bottle of booze in his bag and dangled it in front of him to lure him off. “They were so proud of themselves,” my friend says, angry and exasperated. “What the fuck is wrong with people?”

I read the list of victims and wasn’t surprised to note one familiar name. Pittsburgh feels like a small town, especially when you’ve lived here a while. Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. I didn’t know him, but I worked for nine years in HIV research and he treated many of our clients. There are just a few doctors in Pittsburgh who are known to be good with HIV-positive people. He was one of the few, and a seemingly well-loved one. Did he deserve to die like that? I know it’s a cliche. Nobody deserves to die.

Trump is in Pittsburgh as I write this. Surreal is not the word. Gaslighting is. Nothing means anything. Actions have no consequences. Reality is whatever you want it to be.

I live in a country built on genocide and denial. I come from a race of people who’ve covered this beautiful earth like a plague and turned it to shit.