Fatal Wallpaper

On his deathbed, Oscar Wilde said, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”

          In every organization I have been associated with there have been policies or processes or people that were ongoing irritations, that seemed to get in the way of how I thought I should do my job or where I thought we all should be going, and that I was powerless to affect. I found it helpful to think of these things as is they were wallpaper, part of what I encountered each day that was not going to change; it was up to me to decide whether that wallpaper pattern—the frustrating electronic medical record system, the seemingly tone-deaf administrator, the unproductive committee assignment—was hideous enough for me to decide I could not live with it. To make that decision in a healthy way, to avoid facing each day with dread because of my focus on the irritations, required me to see reality as it is, name the conflict.

          Over the past couple of weeks, horrific acts of violence, especially those in Buffalo and Uvalde, reminded me of the wallpaper metaphor. As a society, we seem to have become so accustomed to tragedies like this, feel so impotent in the face of such evil, that we have reverted to dealing with them as an ugly wallpaper pattern, something we hate, something we wish were not there, but something we have decided to live with. But before we move our attention on to the next news cycle event, maybe we could look honestly at the wallpaper patterns we have decided we can’t change:

  • One pattern is what bullets from an assault rifle can do to the body of a fourth grader, the grieving relatives asked to provide DNA samples so that authorities can identify which pieces of flesh and bone belonged to which child.
  • Another is that of politicians offering their thoughts and prayers and arguing the same points they have for years, beholden to their campaign contributors, while polls show that nearly 9 in 10 Americans want them to actually do something about gun violence.
  • The final pattern is the one we see in the mirror. Each of us is part of this society, each of us contributes a bit to our culture, so each of us owns a bit of responsibility for the carnage. This post is my feeble effort to acknowledge my piece and to encourage others to look in the mirror also.

Our national wallpaper is dripping blood. How long are we going to keep trying to avoid looking at it?