Maybe I have the words I didn’t have when I pulled this quote. Maybe. Because maybe it’s enough to blame Set for a natural death, to put the devil on trial there, but there are times this is not adequate, there must be co-defendants. (And I am pondering my thoughts here in relation to this post on blaming the devil.)
On a cosmic level: put the ur-murderer on trial. Sure. Rage and scream and tell Him we hate this and that He has done something we cannot forgive. Let us do our rituals to cast this out onto Someone who can take it, and who can take it away, the holy scapegoat of our tradition.
But we do not live on the cosmic level. And if we listen to Him, we can be certain that He will agree with another chaos force and say, “OH. WELL, THEN STOP.”
Put it on trial.
Put on trial a culture, religiously influenced in this regard but not religious, which considers it acceptable to treat LGBT people are subhuman, as less than. A culture where the hospitalised survivors of the Pulse are at risk for losing their jobs because they were outed by their choice in club. A culture that means that there are people who have to find places where they’ll not be treated as zoo animals, places where they are safe to be themselves for a little while, because the rest of their lives cannot provide that. A culture where the sight of a loving couple kissing can be blamed for a mass murder, and where that reason is not a shock. A culture that has forgotten the Upstairs Lounge, besides.
Put on trial those religious cultures that condemn. Put on trial the world where a man can be shocked that homophobia fed his son’s mass murder and protest “only God can punish homosexuality”. Put on trial the churches and leaders who last week were crying out for something to be done about “the gays” and this week cry their crocodile tears now that someone did. Put on trial the beliefs that might make a person twist around his own theorised desires enough to drive him to commit bloody slaughter on those whose pains from the world do not prevent them from seeking an honest joy.
Put on trial the waves of racially directed hatred that might feed into targeting Latinx Night at the Pulse, that made the victims primarily Puerto Rican. Put on trial and acknowledge how hard it is for many Latinx people to come out, how important it was to be able to be there and queer and brown and among their people. Put on trial the “they’re bringing drugs and crime and are rapists” thought, and put on trial the wall.
Put on trial the cultural acceptability of transphobia, that might feed into targeting a night a trans performer was headlining the Pulse. Put on trial the bathroom bills and TERFs, the gatekeepers and those who demand perfect passing, the assumption that a trans death is barely worth noting, especially if it is a trans woman, especially if it is a trans woman of colour.
Put on trial everything that degraded those precious, irreplaceable lives, that meant someone could do the math that traded them for a bucket of bullets.
Put on trial every single impulse to wipe those away, to say “This was an attack on the American way of life” or “This was an attack on Orlando” or “this was an attack on” something other than it was – these communities, these intersecting communities. The only “American way of life” that was under attack was the one that lets marginalised people scrape out a little space where they can be, for a little while, the important ones.
Put on trial a culture that doesn’t recognise the problems of a history of domestic violence. Put on trial a culture where over half of shootings with more than four victims are domestic violence, for that matter.
Put on trial a culture that pretends that military weaponry is useful for hunting or self-defense. Put on trial a culture that excuses the deaths of LGBT people at a club, that excuses the deaths of children in a school, because those precious and irreplaceable lives are somehow a reasonable price to pay for access to weaponry that a Marine veteran of tours in Afghanistan recognised immediately when it fired – recognised and started getting people out, out, out because that is no accident, that is war.
Put on trial a culture that only recognises war when it is perpetrated by someone who says “Daesh”, even when the tools are the same. Even when the effects are the same.
(And put on trial all the things I have forgotten to include from this, or did not know, of which I know there must be many. Put on trial that which means I can’t see all the patterns, all the intersections, of how my siblings must navigate the world.)
Put on trial the thing that says nothing happens now. That all the above is an unchangeable law of nature, part of the Natural Order, that there is nothing to be done. It may not be maat, but it is hopeless.
But no. No it is not.
Let us put Set on trial, let us cast all these things out, let us put them on his back as Wesir’s bier is carried to the place of mooring, let us convict him, let us convict ourselves of our places of complicity, the places we did not see, the places we may have helped arm the evil to do its worst.
And then let us call on Set, Great of Strength, who takes these things and transmutes them, who becomes strong from the weight of the evil He carries, who becomes the force that can be brought to bear against all such evils, who stands foremost in the prow of the Night Boat, who in the dark night of the pain of loss and of recognition can raise His spear and say, “NO” and turn the annihilatory aside.
We must be both.
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” – Mother Jones