Today, I was with my youngest daughter at school when our teacher told us about the tragedy in Connecticut. For a moment, time stopped. I remembered the previous times–Columbine, my first year teaching; the Amish school shooting; Virgina Tech; Deer Creek Middle School, again in Littleton. And those are the ones which came immediately to mind. So many others, in the intervening years; too many others.
I don’t know how to make sense of these deaths, of the grief the parents must feel, of the horror the community must be enduring. How does one get up in the morning, go about one’s day in an environment which is supposed to be safe, and not make it home at night? I could expect this kind of stress from a law enforcement job or the like, but when a tragedy hits so close to home, in a place that is supposed to be safe, how does one begin to understand, to fathom it?
Immediately, the social media outlets lit up. Most of the posts I saw were respectful or factual. People passed along news updates amidst a flurry of moving memes and photos memorializing the victims. Within a few hours, the niceties were devolving slightly, with some people posting items along the lines of, “Mental health services are harder to obtain than guns.” Still, not too bad (and that point is a true one). But then people started getting nasty. They blamed the shooter’s parents (also victims, it appears at this point). They blamed the slow response of emergency personnel (still trying to figure that one out). They blamed the lack of God in schools and nation. They said it was God’s judgement against atheists.
Isn’t this how it works? Something really bad happens and the way fundamentalists explain it is a lack of God or as God’s judgement/dislike of something. Hurricane Sandy? Oh, God hates America. Katrina? God hates America. Virginia Tech? God wants to be in schools. Amish school shooting? They believe in the wrong God. Columbine? Atheists and death metal mock God and he’s really angry.
I can’t even begin to understand the logic leap it takes to go from a tragic event to God is judging or hates -fill in the blank here-.
So I have a challenge of sorts. Let’s all take a step back right now. Let’s publicly condemn those who try to use this moment to spread a message of hate and judgement and let’s reach out. Let’s reach out to the victims and the community. Let’s reach out to our families and friends. Let’s reach out to our own communities. And, yes, let’s reach out to our leaders and say, “Enough with the hate and judgement. Take action so that those in need of help in our communities are provided that help, take action so that we can prevent these types of tragedies from happening in the future.”
If we do this–if we live, in whatever creed we chose, as humans who are connected and dependent on one another without judgement, without malice–perhaps we can get to a day when we can see one another as humans first. Humans, deserving of love, compassion, and support. Because good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, and we can’t really make sense of it. We can’t. There’s no sense to make. It is a tragedy of epic proportions, a tragedy which likely could have been prevented in a number of ways, none of which are related to who believes what in the spiritual realm.
So let’s put aside this hot-air-exercise of judgement and hate. Let’s get down to building a better world, a safer world, for ourselves, for our children.