Ancient civilizations and failures of imagination

A couple of months ago, the BBC reported new findings on puquios, which  are spiralling holes scattered across Peru’s Nasca region. Through satellite imagery, a team of Italian researchers deduced the purpose of the once-mysterious holes: based on their placement and proximity to settlements, puquios seem to be part of a complex water retrieval and distribution system.

The BBC report carries a standout quote from the lead researcher:

“What is clearly evident today is that the puquio system must have been much more developed than it appears today,” says Lasaponara.

There are a lot of other notable quotes regarding this breakthrough, but that one dredged up a memory from one of the anthropology classes I took in college.

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Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells These Stories: Orlando and Narratives of Trauma

“There are no words.”

There’s also no counting how many times I’ve said that in response to various facets of the Orlando shooting: first, the burst of reports; then the rising death toll; then the slow unraveling of each victim’s biography; and then, the aftermath, the responses — in forms both heartwarmingly compassionate and shamelessly opportunistic.

The extent and range of those responses isn’t surprising. Forty-nine people died and 53 were injured at a mass shooting in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. This is the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and the shooter targeted the LGBT+ community, a group that — despite significant progress in recent years — remains a minority in every sense of the term. Many members of the community have already spoken about how jarring, how traumatic this attack has been; many more have continued to speak about how subsequent responses have been disrespectful, exploitative, damaging, or unhelpful at best.

I found myself unable, somehow, to join those engaged in the former. So far, the most I’ve been able to do is retweet messages of support and guidelines for volunteers, because secondhand sentiments are the only things I felt comfortable posting about the matter. Let me be clear: 140 characters, no matter how many sets I retweet, will never be enough to articulate the grief, anger, and despair I feel about this attack. However, shameful as it is to say so right now, 140 characters are more than enough to be a potential breach in the illusion of safety that stems from being a straight-passing, low-key member of the community.  (more…)