Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Knew Someone Who Knew Someone

On the first of this month, I received an email from my friend Kate. She was upset over the death of her friend Brad, an activist who had been murdered by a paramilitary group in Oaxaca, Mexico. Brad traveled around the world for Indymedia documenting political and social struggle in areas ignored by the mainstream media. He was on the lines of a teacher's strike in Oaxaca when the military opened fire, and was killed by a single shot to his abdomen.

Kate had included a picture of Brad with her email and after clicking on the file, I thought "My God, he looks familiar. I think I met him." I got my current apartment through Kate. There was a birthday party for her the last December she lived here...three years ago? Four? (At what point did time begin moving so quickly?) Anyway, it was at this party that I met Brad. I had a nice conversation with several people there but can't recall if he was one of them. It may just be that his presence was noticable whether you spoke with him or not. He was tall and lanky and cheerful.

The cover story of the Village Voice this week is about Brad's death. Appearantly he was well known enough and his work was respected enough within progressive circles that his death has been quite a shock to that community. I emailed Kate to warn her that she might want to avoid the Voice this week. Losing someone you cared about is difficult enough without having to be reminded of their death every time you pass a newstand. I also understand that grief, despite how it feels at the time, is not eternal and told her I would save a copy of the issue for her. It is something that she may want one day and this is a case where reading paper is more satisfying than reading online.

The cover of the issue is a painting of Brad but you don't have to be a lapsed Catholic to recognise it's also a Christ image. I put it on the pile of things "to be read" in my kitchen, but I find it too eerie and heartbreaking to have the paper facing up in the same room where Brad relaxed and laughed with friends just a few years ago. I turned the paper over and lit a candle.

8 comments:

erin said...

Hey John, I'm sorry to hear about Kate's friend. That's a hard thing to go through. How's she been doing?

k.c. said...

she's been nauseous for 23 days but has stopped sobbing at her desk at work. thank you for the condolences, erin.

thank you for this, johnny. god, it is strange to think of that village voice sitting in my old apartment, where he spent a considerable amount of time, alive and happy.

i kept meaning to pick it up this week but didn't, and i think the act of failing to pick up a ubiquitous village voice says more about my wanting/not wanting to see it than my saying "of course i don't mind seeing it."

seeing brad's death mentioned so frequently hasn't bothered me so much. in fact, it's kind of a relief. i expected no one to give a shit, in part because he was an indymedia journalist—i.e., "just an activist," "not a real journalist," and in part because no one gave a shit when my father was murdered. i still think no one will be punished for brad's death, in part because duh, the government hired the people who did it, so what, the government is going to punish them? but i also wonder if it's in part because the man who murdered my father wasn't put in jail; that is probably coloring this experience. and the politics around brad's death just keep getting uglier—the government is now trying to pin his murder on APPO, the group of striking teachers and their supporters that brad was with when he was killed.

anyhow, what has bothered me is trying to grieve the awful, untimely, violent death (brought to me in full color via his own video—he filmed his own murder, and that video is everywhere now) of a close friend who has become an international martyr. the complexity of this is far too much for a comment on The Hanged Man, and i've said enough already.

but thank you for thinking of this and of me enough to post this. brad's death has really knocked me flat. and as i come out of the initial shock/incapacitation phase of the grief, i stumble into moments of just simply missing him.

Iva said...

Dear Kate (via John),
I am so sorry to hear about your friend Brad's death. Trying to find a reason for or make sense of such a heart breaking tragedy is almost impossible, but please know that your grief touches others who shed tears on reading your message. We will remember Brad in our prayers.
John's Mom

the hanged man said...

It goes without saying that that is one video I will never watch.

Kate - I am glad that you posted, though heartbroken at how difficult things are right now. I was walking around Manhattan yesterday and kept seeing the Voice everywhere; each time was a fresh punch in the stomache. I moved the copy I picked up to the closet so I don't have to see it.

In time, the moments of simply missing him will increase and the physical ache relating to how he died will be all but gone.

k.c. said...

dear iva,

thank you so much for your kindness. i'm a big fan of yours, you know: you raised a son who has the rare ability to make me laugh so hard i can't breathe, which, while potentially fatal, is singularly wonderful.

johnny, thanks. as strange as it might sound, that video helped me; there was a comfort in seeing where brad was and what he was doing when he died.

time heals and there's no choice but to keep going, even if it's with ugly scars. that's life, right?

let's meet up soon. xoxo

Iva said...

Dear Kate (via John),
Thank you for loving my son and thinking that he is wonderful. I am one of his biggest cheerleaders. From the time that he was a little guy, he had the rare ability to feel what others feel and I treasure him for that.
He has valued your friendship more than you can know and your grief has been echoed in him.
Again, I want to tell you that I am so sorry about Brad's death. God give you strength and solace.
Love you,
Iva

k.c. said...

dear iva,

can't thank you enough for the warmth and kindness. i am a lucky, lucky young woman to have hanlons in my life. thank you so, so much. johnny, please give your mom a bunch of big hugs from me when you go home for christmas.

love from
kate

Carol said...

Oh shit, I feel tacky bringing this up when your last post was a personal and moving tribute to someone who died to young.

But hey, fear of tackiness never stopped me before.

Where TF have you been, Hanlon? Making New Year's resolutions to update your blog more frequently, I hope?