May the Holy Fire not be a harbinger

Dear President Trump,

Yesterday evening I saw an HP piece on the man, Forrest Gordon Clark, who is accused of intentionally setting the Holy Fire in California. Intentional fire setting is something that deeply freaks me out, and this particular act of arson, should it prove true, has me even more unsettled than most. Clark’s social media feed is full of conspiracy theories and QAnon and he apparently told people that things were going to burn. We’ve seen how scary it can be when paranoid people move conspiracy theories from online contexts into the physical world, but if it’s true that Clark set the fire and was motivated, at least in part, by QAnon or other conspiracy theories, this is a whole new level of dangerous sick.

The reason this particular way of angrily acting out is so dangerous and sick is that anyone can set a fire. You don’t need special equipment, just some matches. You don’t need special know how, just the ability to light a match. You don’t need an elaborate plan, just dry conditions and a place where no one is around to watch. A five year old could do it. Just carry that book of matches around in your pocket for as long as it takes to find a suitable isolated spot, light a few matches, toss them into the dry brush and walk (or run) away. Simple. And beyond f*cking scary. Maybe I’m the paranoid one now, but intentionally setting forest fires out of protest or to fulfill some sort of end of days fantasy is the kind of thing that copy-cat sickos would love to repeat. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that this level of sick is so rare it won’t catch on.

I realize that in our country we are supposed to presume innocence until guilt is proven. We don’t do it very well, but it is still an important aspirational goal (albeit one I have let go of when it comes to you). So for now, we have to presume Clark is innocent and he has to be allowed to defend himself. And, at the same time, I’m really glad his bail was set at a million dollars. In situations like this where the stakes are so high, it doesn’t make sense to give the person enough benefit of the doubt that they are free to wreak havoc if they are so inclined.

May we be safe from wanton destructive acts.
May we somehow make space for happiness even now, especially now.
May we find healthy, sane ways to work out conflicts.
May we hold the dry, vulnerable, holy places with reverence and love.

Tracy Simpson

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