After a day of exploring we came back to the pool to swim and have a few drinks before dinner. There was this kid with Justin Bieber hair and I said he looked like an asshole. We found an inflatable ball floating in the deep end and tried to keep it in the air for as long as possible, which wasn’t very long.

After a while the kid came over to us. He was 13 years old and from Texas and on vacation with his grandparents and so he didn’t have anyone to play with. My wife asked if he wanted to hit the ball around with us and he said sure, so this barely post-tween spent his time on vacation hitting an inflatable ball around the pool with two thirtysomethings.

He had trouble in the water, not just moving through it but staying afloat, so my wife taught him the three basic strokes: the crawl, the backstroke, the breaststroke . He took to then quickly, but they seemed utterly new to him, like pushing through water with your hands cupped was something he’d never even heard of before. “How did you learn this stuff?” he asked.

"I took swim classes. Didn’t you ever take swim classes?"

His head dipped under the water and he gulped and spat. “I have a lot to do for school. I’m too busy to take swim classes.”

I tossed the ball to my wife, she set it to the kid, and he slammed it back at me, way too hard, over my head and onto the deck. Maybe he didn’t understand how the game worked.

I enjoyed the WWI focus in the Arts section of the Sunday Times. This piece, by Ed Rothstein, wonders why people reacted so negatively to the carnage of WWI when they hadn’t done so to almost equally horrific carnages, like that of the US Civil War. It seems to me that one of the biggest changes in cultural attitudes over the last 200 years involves not only the value but the meaning of a human life. Before modern medicine, death is so frequent, arbitrary, and unavoidable that a life must mean less, or else we would have spent all our time in grief; there must be life after life, or else we have surely been shortchanged by our meager lifespans. As medicine and standards of living improve, a cult of mourning emerges that gives more meaning to life by extending it past death in the lives of the still-living, while at the same time recognizing the inevitability of death. Death has meaning, even if life does not. And then the Great War provides the first widespread example of technology being used to end life at the same time technology has the capacity to safe life. This was not the case during the Civil War: if you didn’t die on the battlefield, you were almost equally likely to die at home. Now, no more. If a human life becomes something we can preserve, it becomes something we must preserve. The idea that we have a duty to prevent all death (seen, for instance, in calls to prevent mass shootings by making it easier to involuntarily commit people with mental health problems) seems like a moral inevitability, but it is very much a historical development.

Went whale watching yesterday. Saw a SUPERPOD of orcas, both the ones who live here and the ones passing through. Also saw like 20 breaches. It was great. Here’s a panorama of Friday Harbor harbor as the ferry was pulling in.

Today I was waiting to pay at the supermarket and the clerk in the next line over started whistling “All Star” by Smash Mouth. He was doing it very deliberately at the guy bagging in my line but I couldn’t tell if he was being friendly or aggressive. It was a little of both. He whistled the entire song front to back, all the verses and all the choruses. It was the cruelest thing I’ve ever seen another human being do.

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Last weekend, two men were shot in Seattle’s Central District: Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said. I did not know Said, but Dwone, a student of mine a couple years back, was talented and kind, and his death is horrendous. No motive has been identified, but both victims were gay. In April, there was another homicide only a block away from where Dwone was killed, and two others in the neighborhood that same week, but there was not enough police presence in the area last weekend to deter the assault. Police only identified one suspect after his brother phoned in a tip and only made an arrest when the suspect voluntarily turned himself in; another suspect is still at large.

Dwone’s shooting fits into a pattern that has been largely ignored by the national media descending on Seattle this week in the wake of the SPU shooting. The Seattle police were censured by the Justice Department for a pattern of civil rights abuses. Dwone was shot a block away from where another man was shot just over a month ago, and near two other murders in April. Yet there were no police near him Sunday morning, no one to deter the fourth and fifth murders in that same small neighborhood within a month and a half. While there are certainly large-scale factors leading to crimes like this, we know that a greater police presence results in lower violent crime. If you go up to Capitol Hill on Saturday night, you’ll have no trouble finding the police; if you call yourself an anarchist and organize a march through Capitol Hill, the police will turn out in riot gear and put up barricades. But if you live in a poor neighborhood and there are repeated homicides, you can’t get enough police presence to stop two young men from getting shot in the street. 

City officials have promised changes in the wake of last weekend’s shootings. They have cut down tree branches to improve visibility. They will also install three new streetlights. Dwone was twenty-three years old.

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