Ten years ago, I would have spent my early afternoon reciting al-Fatihah at least four times, chanting Allah hu akbar seemingly endless times to mark my transition from motion to motion. Today, instead, I say the names of people I don’t know, people whose lives were cut short: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Clementa Pinckney. Cynthia Hurd. Tywanza Sanders. Myra Thompson. Ethel Lee Lance. Daniel L. Simmons. Depayne Middleton. Susie Jackson.
It isn’t that I think religious believers are apathetic when it comes to justice (quite the contrary), or even that I didn’t care about tragedy when I was a believer. It’s more that, without feeling like I know that justice will eventually be served and that the victims are in a better place, my immediate reaction involves a lot more anger. There is no way to immediately soothe myself, just a rawness and a sense of loss and of being lost.
Embracing that reality of loss may not feel initially good, but for me, it ultimately honors grief in a way that the denialism of comfort never did. I can say that a bad thing happened, that people were murdered in cold blood, that the killer was apprehended alive and is being both humanized by news outlets and used to perpetuate ableist notions about violence. I don’t have to feel bad that I’m feeling sad. I can say their names with full-hearted sadness instead of guilt: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Clementa Pinckney. Cynthia Hurd. Tywanza Sanders. Myra Thompson. Ethel Lee Lance. Daniel L. Simmons. Depayne Middleton. Susie Jackson.
Today, the portmanteau “Haramadan” is not a joke for me. It is a way for me to acknowledge that the ways by which I cope with the worst of the world have changed. No death is a good death to me anymore. There is no comforting knowledge that all will sort itself out and be well in the end. Instead, I face the reality squarely and ask what can we do and what can be done to end the hatred that leads to such egregiously awful acts.