(As we are all still processing this tragedy, I expect many will share here when they are ready. Here’s a start. – promoted by JDRyan)
I know this isn’t necessarily the very best place for this, but I just have so many thoughts and feelings after the shooting yesterday in Connecticut and I’d like to get them out. Maybe it’s because I live in the Northeast, or because I grew up in Connecticut not far from where the shooting happened (and still have a lot of friends and family down there) but the outpouring of grief and shock (and really reactions of almost every kind) that I see over Twitter and Facebook seems extraordinary. Seemingly this event, in my little world, has affected people more than any other in recent memory.
The sickness in so many of our hearts right now makes sense to me. While I’m sure there are details coming out that I do not yet know of (I’ve stayed away from the news coverage, and have pretty much just been on Facebook and Twitter), the random and senseless killing of so many small children- and so many people in general- in a place that we tend to think of as safe (an elementary school) is just heart breaking. The needless loss of something so innocent and precious as a child’s life is heavy enough, but then one thinks of all that these family’s will be enduring, and even more heartbreaking, during a time of the year when so much of our attention is on joy and sharing and being with family and loved ones. To be honest, my heart is just so heavy thinking of it all, thinking of the needlessness and pointlessness of such suffering. Then I think of the trauma that the surviving children, and teachers, and parents, and the community will have to try to process and move through. My stomach was churning all of yesterday, and last night as I watched my own daughter it all just brought a near numbness to my entire being. Hundreds of miles away, and yet, will I ever thoughtlessly (stressless-ly) drop her off at pre-school again? Is there any sense in feeding the anxiety’s that appear when one begins to go through all the possible nightmares that await around each or any corner? Is it possible to ignore such feelings? The tears that well-up are the only softness that dulls desolation. Yet hopelessness and despair and fear are never the most fitting response- to anything- and were likely the very seeds that began this tragedy, so I try my best to watch those feelings arise, recognize them for what they are and the trouble they bring with them, and I wait patiently for calm and clarity and strength to slowly re-warm by body and my thoughts.
So many will, or are, saying “Now isn’t the time to bring up political issues”, “Do not politicize this tragedy” and the like. There seems to me no appropriate “politicizing” of someone’s individual experience; their loss and the tremendous suffering of those directly involved. Yet aren’t politics specifically the results of everything we do or allow? or at least our reactions to the events around us? It seems most obvious that when someone choses to act in such a vicious, horrific manner such as this it’s exactly the time to ask where and how such a person can or should have access to the kinds of weapons he used to carry out the mass murder of so many people, so many children, and to ask what can we do in our communities and our society to identify and provide help for people with such homicidal notions. Political decisions allowed this person access to the kinds of weapons used to murder 20 young children. Political decisions perpetuate a system of health care which is incapable of preemptively identifying people with severe mental illness and has a poor record of providing quality services and aid to help such people cope with their troubles. It is our politics itself which defines a world in which anyone feels not only the urge to act in such a way, but feels that urge strong enough to act- feels that such an action is somehow justified, and right.
The people in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and Iraq, and Gaza (and so many other places) live with this very same kind of fear and anxiety, and grief and heartache for lost loved ones- lost children- continually. What’s the difference between a soldier carrying out the orders of sociopaths who have no regard for the lives of others in the pursuit of their aims and someone who behaves such themselves alone? Is it really reasonable to be devastated when such violence comes to our own communities yet to allow and accept that in our names our government regularly commits the very same kinds of violence against innocent people? If you begin to answer this question with some kind of justification for our own “safety” from supposedly violent terrorists or sociopaths bent on “killing Americans”, I’m afraid it may be that your own self-interests aren’t too far from the very feelings that led the killer in CT to act in exactly the same way- to justify the murder of innocent lives to do what he believed best served his own interests. Perhaps that is why our nation has lived through this kind of event before, and will live through it again (just as the communities in Pakistan and Gaza and elsewhere will too).
It seems to me that the vast majority of people the world over are not interested in killing and destroying the lives of others. It seems to me the vast majority of people the world over want to live peacefully, with the comfort of clean water and healthy foods and warmth, with a sense of safety among loved ones which allows us each to enjoy our brief time on this planet. Yet we accept a world in which the small minority who feels it OK to kill with no regard for the lives of others, in pursuit of goals which have everything to do with the enrichment of themselves only, are allowed to do so. We accept a world in which a small number of people are given the resources and weapons to carry out senseless murders- even of children- and all with the justification of protecting us from people who would be willing to carry out senseless murders.
One of the most disheartening responses that many will have isn’t that we should question a government which drops bombs and fires guns to solve it’s problems (and teaches us all to do them same)- many will say gun control or strengthening our mental health services won’t diminish such tragedy’s, because, they say, people are “evil” or are “assholes” or are “greedy” and as such this will just happen. But we live in a world where there is more than enough food, and resources, and wealth so that each and every one of us could be afforded to live a healthy and comfortable life, free to enjoy ourselves and the world around us- yet we accept a way of being that denies these things to the vast majority, allows massive excess to sit in the pockets of just a few, and then call it “human nature” when despair and desperation overwhelm and push some to behave with disregard for the lives of others.
So we should be talking about not only a world in which guns are so readily available; we should be talking about why our mental health services aren’t capable of identifying and aiding people in such dire situations. We should also be talking about a society which the news media will go full tilt in obsessive coverage of this tragedy in order to maximize ad dollars as we look to them for answers and information to help us all understand what just happened. We should be asking why it is that we live in a culture where the random killing of innocent people seems like a legitimate means towards one’s goals or solution to one’s problems. To what end and for what purpose have we handed over the entire fabric of our lives to the hands of a few who care not for any life but seek only their own personal gain? Through the media and our schools we internalize their sociopathic logic and become defenders of it ourselves, awakening briefly when the viciousness of this way of life rears its destruction close to us. But we live it ourselves in our work, in our relationships, without a thought of it because it is often all we know. How can we know a different way? this is what we’ve been taught, and this is how we’ve lived and watched our parents and friends and neighbors live for all our lives. I fear that until we are able and willing to recognize and question these things, we will merely continue to suffer through completely senseless tragedy after completely senseless tragedy. We will have no choice but to continually morn the violent death of innocence and hope for as long as we accept a world which produces such things, and for as long as we collectively believe that no other world is possible.