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William Rivers Pitt: An Open Letter to You
"At Eternity's Gate," Vincent van Gogh.

William Rivers Pitt: An Open Letter to You

"At Eternity's Gate," Vincent van Gogh.

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There are days, now and again, when I feel as if my skull is going to seethe through my face, as if I want to eat my teeth, and I want to simply lay waste to everything, because the absolute worst I could do would be better than leaving the current arrangement intact.

Tuesday was such a day, because of three things I never wanted to hear.

The first: there is a guy named Tom Brower, who lives in Hawaii, and he really hates homeless people. He hates them so much, in fact, that he smashes the belongings of every homeless person he can find with a sledgehammer. He is happy to be videotaped obliterating the meager possessions of this society’s most vulnerable citizens because he is “disgusted” by them, and calls his actions “justice.” He wears an Armani hat, and calls himself a Christian.

“I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets,” said Brower after one of his rampages. “If someone is sleeping at night on the bus stop, I don’t do anything, but if they are sleeping during the day, I’ll walk up and say, ‘Get your ass moving.'” Mr. Brower has not been arrested for this brazenly sociopathic behavior, and he never will be, for Tom Brower is an elected official, a state representative, and a Democrat to boot.

“Blessed are the meek,” Scripture says, “for they will inherit the Earth.” Mr. Brower, the Christian, should probably pray that the New Testament is fiction, lest he find himself at the mercy of Earth’s inevitable inheritors – in the fulfillment of prophesy, of course – on the losing end of his own sledgehammer.

The second: someone made a video game out of the Sandy Hook massacre. I need to write that twice: someone made a video game out of the Sandy Hook massacre.

It was originally posted on a website called, but was eventually taken down after the families of the Sandy Hook children who were shot up so badly that they were scarcely recognizable begged the operators of the site to locate a shred of basic humanity, which they eventually did. The game is out there now, though; do a Google search for “The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary,” and you’ll find it.

But here’s the twist: the game’s creators made the thing as a statement against gun violence.

“This game,” said the NewGrounds administrators in an explanation for why they took it down, “had a certain level of artfulness and craftsmanship to it. There was a visual and technical quality that revealed a serious level of effort and passion. It also had a political message I personally agree with; a statement on gun control and the problem of gun violence in the US. It attempted to demonstrate how things can play out differently with changes in our gun laws. It made you feel and it made you think. It did so, however, in the context of the Sandy Hook massacre, recreating the event and putting you in the role of the shooter.”

And so matters have reached the point where someone felt the only way to make a dent in this nation’s pornographic obsession with guns was to create a computer reality where you can actually experience what it is like to slaughter your mother, a few teachers, and 20 first-graders with an assault rifle before killing yourself…and the game gets shouted down, while the mechanisms that allow such bloodbaths to happen in real life remain safe and sound behind the stout walls of political cowardice.

The third: in the midst of the Occupy Wall Street upheaval, a photograph made the rounds of a blonde woman with a smiling go-fuck-yourself look on her face holding a note up to the camera. The note read:

I am a Hair Stylist. I cut your hair, your kids hair, your parents hair. I am accomplished at this and love what I do. I pay my rent, my bills and my taxes yet own nothing but a car. I love my life, even love my old car. I take care of myself and my health, however…

Last year I was diagnosed with Aggressive Inflammatory Breast Cancer and had no medical insurance. It took me 3 months to start treatment while it spread to my lymph nodes. Thank god my income was low enough I got accepted to Medi-Cal since without it I would be Dead right now. One year later and I am still in treatment which had I started right away would not have been so extreme. But, I am alive today!

I am the 99%

Her name was Stephanie. She was beloved by friends and family. She lived in grateful awe of the wonder that is life, and was extraordinary because of that simple, awe-struck wonder. She was joy transfixed and translated, astonishing and astonishment well met.

She died on Monday morning of a disease that could have been controlled and killed had she not been forced to wait for treatment. She didn’t have the money needed to save her life.

Stephanie did not have to die. That she is dead daggers a finger at the system that let her go. Any society that calls itself civilized would declare her murdered, and would hunt her slayers down with dogs and torches until they were run to ground and brought to justice…but this is America, where health and sickness are a for-profit industry.

Stephanie’s killers will eat well tonight, and sleep in beds plush enough to suit God. Stephanie sleeps in the ground tonight, and those who knew and loved her are forced to cope with her unnecessary absence, cold-comforted by the words that announced her passing: “She died peacefully.”

This is where you live.

This is who you are.

It is my job to articulate things. Some people build houses, some people sell spoons, some people fix cars. Noble endeavors, all. I put words to facts and feelings in an effort to explain what is…and this is one of those days when I am out of words. I hover over my keyboard, and nothing comes, because of everything. Because of everything. I do not adequately possess the vocabulary required to explain my sense of horror at what we have allowed ourselves to become.

I am, perhaps, preaching to a hollow room.

After all, I speak to a country that elected to statewide office a man who smashes the pathetic belongings of the homeless with a sledgehammer while calling himself a Christian.

I speak to a country where a video game is made about the massacre of children, and the makers of the game are condemned and censored while the circumstances that allowed the actual massacre remain unmolested.

I speak to a country that let a wonderful woman die of an entirely treatable illness because she didn’t have enough money.

I hope it is not a hollow room, a hollow country, a hollow soul I speak to, because these three stories happen all the time, and every day. This is where you live, and this is who you are. If you have a conscience, it makes you feel dirty in your heart.

We are responsible for this. We are all part of this thing that is dismantling our basic humanity brick by brick.

We can un-make it. We simply have to.

Freedom begins with a “No.”

We are better than this.

Prove it.


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