When tragedy strikes, what can we do?
There are few things more wrong in the world, than the death of a child. Children are more than our future; they are living beings of the best parts of humanity. Open, kind and authentic in a way few adults are capable of. They are love incarnate and belong to us all—for we were all once one of them. Children remind us of the beauty we still carry hidden in our centers, like pearls under calcified layers of a closed sea shell.
A short while ago, a living nightmare came to Newtown, Connecticut. This blog is not about the horrors that were felt around this event. I will not dishonor the real people there by attempting to speculate what they could be feeling, and the life they live now.
Rather, this blog post is about the effect this event, and others like it, leaves the rest of us with.
Time and time again, we accept our killings involving guns. We are shocked at the violence, only to see an increase of it at a future date. We break apart to look at specific pieces, citing our own solutions, rarely getting together to put the fragments together to discover the Big Picture. We are color-blind artists, yet insist we are using the full spectrum of colors.
Most of our current (tragic) affairs contain the same limited hues; poor mental health, media and guns. I personally don't think any one issue is solely to blame, but use them as a palette and you are forced to paint something gruesome.
Until we can stop sensationalizing our tragedies, I don't see much hope in improving the intensity and frequency of them. We all share a part in this, for we are either observers or reporters, and they cannot work without the other. I am no different. I listened about Newtown on MPR, read about it on-line, and watched it on the 6:00 news.
As I comfortably sat on my couch in Fridley, Minnesota, my world still fully intact, I was acutely aware that I was privy to the worst day of someone's life as it unfolded in real time. I was given mementos of the most horrible kind; images of the suffering of others burned my insides, photographs of a pain I hope to never know, of stunned and raw devastation, faces stretched thin and laid bare on national television in high definition. It didn't seem right for me to have access to such personal loss. I stopped “following” the direct story of Sandy Hook after the first day.
There must be a better way to express concern and interest than to use the anguish and sickness of others as the portal to the front page.
I don’t think guns (themselves) are strictly the problem either. Truthfully, I know plenty of responsible, healthy people who own guns. I've handled one myself at the shooting range. However, guns are the common denominator in all of our current massacres, and I don't think that should be ignored. The suggestion of simply adding more guns, be it via teachers or trained persons, seems nothing short of outrageous to me.
We are killing each other with guns. We are killing our children. A thorough examination encompassing all aspects of guns must be made. I believe our dead are owed that much.
Just as guns cannot be ignored, neither can mental health. Clearly, people who gun down others in public are not in their right mind. Our awareness of others, as well as our how we treat others is equally important.
Guns are around, and will continue to be around in America. I have no illusions about this. So what can I do in this context? I can make sure I have meaningful discussions with my family and listen to their perspectives. I can help my children learn to be aware of others and teach them that a person's behaviors often reflect their state of mind. And that a person's state of mind can change worlds forever.
I can be an advocate for mental health and youth intervention.
I can start having talks with other people. Hard ones. Do they own a gun? Where do they keep it? What are their views about gun safety and gun control? To the best of my ability, I can surround my loved ones with respectful, healthy people who are responsible should they have weapons. I can learn more about our gun policies and procedures, and make efforts to change the ones I think need improvement through my elected officials.
I can be a part of the solution.
We’re good at debates, at defending our positions with aplomb. We’re not as good at having conversations. I’m not any better at it. I listen to someone who genuinely believes more guns are the answer and it’s difficult for me to be open. But, if there is ever going to be any kind of improvement with shootings in this country, I’m going to have to get better at listening and talking with an open mind. We all are.
We are the creators of our works, each contributing something. I can see my brushstrokes as well as anyone else’s, and I don’t like the current portrait. But I believe we can choose to make something worthy—if we can find a way to expand our palette and be willing to learn new techniques.
The Next Place, USA