I am not a psychologist, a priest, a teacher or a parent. I am not an expert in anything. When I first heard about the recent horror in Newtown, Connecticut, I responded with the only thing I really have experience in: being human.
I sat in traffic dumbfounded.
I prayed for the victims and their families.
That’s all I really could do.
My experience of true disaster is limited. By human standards, I’ve lived a sheltered, safe and secure life. Natural or man made disasters have never touched me directly. My only experience of anything even close to what happened on the east coast on Friday, December 14th is either academic or second hand.
Listening to the report on NPR, I found myself at a loss. I wanted to say something about the shooting. I wanted to do something that would help. But I didn’t have the words. I didn’t feel I had the right. I was on the other side of the country sitting in my office watching events unfold.
I posted a message on Facebook.
“The world gives us horrific acts of violence and tragedy every day. It is always shocking and senseless to me. My heart, thoughts and prayers are with the community and families of Newtown. Do not give in to revenge, hate, fear or despair! Make every act and moment of life one that brings hope, joy, forgiveness and peace. It is the only way we will ever overcome this kind of evil.”
Having worked for news media in past, I knew what was coming. Pundits, talking heads, policy debates, anti-gun and pro-gun advocates, and a review of the event. Over. And over. And over.
I expected the social media response. I was not the only one who was driven to say something. My feeds were filled with the thoughts and opinions of friends, family members, and acquaintances. Posts were shared and forwarded; memes of all varieties became patchwork quilts of opinion.
What I didn’t expect was the amount of hate. I suppose there was already blood in the water. It makes sense that cannibalism followed.
People began to make statements about violence, or gun control, or god in school, or mental health, or politics, or revenge. Those that disagreed reacted immediately. There was arguing, ad hominem attacks, and unfriending. The intellectual part of me understood points on all sides, even if I didn’t agree with some of them. The emotional part of me didn’t give a shit.
26 people are dead. 20 of them children.
Nothing will bring those lives back. Nothing will ever fill the void left in Newtown, Connecticut. All our vitriol does is make those deaths even more painful.
We have a right to be angry.
We have a need to be scared.
But let’s bury our dead first.
Let’s mourn as a community and nation. Let’s come together to remember lives lost too soon. Let’s hold our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, and let them know that we’re here. We understand. We hurt. We’re human. Let’s begin the healing process.
Then maybe we can create some real change that will help move us away from insanity and closer to our shared humanity.