The last couple of days have had a bunch of photos of Draylen Mason circulating, the kid who was killed by the somehow suddenly sympathetic bomber in Austin. You can guess all my feelings about that last part.
But these photos of Mason … I find them so moving and so difficult to look at, captivating and important.
It struck me this morning, as I woke up and rolled around, that they are just so delightfully dorky and happy and good, and for that reason have a strange, haunting temporality. They are photos that, when I look at them, I immediately think of how they would look to him, his family, and friends in twenty or thirty years. That way we all see our teenage photos and laugh, tear up with nostalgia, see in them so much (or so little) of what he had become, maybe get teased, and it’s such a unique, real, and amazing pleasure. There is something about so many of these photos that for me already belong to the future. They already look like the photos you look back on.
His death seems especially real and terrible in this moment. This is true of all the victims. They all have those photos too. I am talking about him because I love the photos of him so much, they are so perfect, even as they are impossible to look at for more than a fleeting second. But I think it is important to look. To look closely. To look hard. To look until eyes blur. Because that is his humanity drawing and repelling our look. His humanity mattered. It mattered a lot, and no you do not need to know him to know that.
How it came to be, for our media presentations (which are always ideological arguments), that the textured life of the white mass murderer proved more important, to matter more, is, in the end, the story of our country.
But in these photos, I swear, there is plenty of resistance to that obscene argument about the murderer. It’s not militant resistance. It’s the precarious, yet powerful, resistance of the time of the photograph: belonging to the future, which would make the present already kind of the past, while the present is also that moment in which the future, his future, no longer is.