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What We Must Learn From Sandy Hook

December 21, 2012

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s.

I have been an extremely fortunate young man so far in life.  I was blessed with fantastic role models, a loving family, and a great deal of opportunities.  I have largely been spared the throes of grief that accompany a great loss.  Certainly, I have lost loved ones.  And yet, these losses seem abated by the fact that they were the types of losses that one is taught to expect.  We know that we will lose our grandparents, our parents, friends, and mates.  These are the hardest realities of life, but we learn to accept them because to make it in this world, you kind of have to buy into the entire process.  Yes, we know loved ones will leave us, but we deal with it by contriving the idea that  we will exhaust from life every bit of happiness, love, and contentment that we possibly can.  To buy into life and love is the ultimate contradiction.  It’s a raw deal.  But we do it because somewhere along the way, we find people that inspire us, we find passion, we find purpose.  These things are tough to come by, and when you find them, you better cling to them with everything you have.

I am not a parent, and therefore, I could never begin to offer any semblance of true perspective into what happened last Friday in Connecticut.  The torture and the grief are outside the range of emotion that I can even begin to wrap my psyche around.  To fling your anger and despair and woe into the cosmos in a search for answers that will never come, as all of the parents, friends, and family of the deceased are surely doing, can be nothing short of the ultimate agony.

We’ve seen a lot of this in the past, unfortunately.  Since 1999, mass shootings have been an inimical part of our social landscape.  But this one seems to hit home the hardest.  It could be the nature of the shooting, that the victims were helpless children, or simply the fact that we are just sick and tired of all of the terrible stuff that keeps happening to innocent people in our country.  After all, isn’t this supposed to be the single greatest nation on earth?  Aren’t we supposed to feel safe here? To take it a bit further, SHOULD we even feel like this is currently a great country? We’ve become a country that has let fear and insidious behavior define us.  We are still fighting poverty, crime, civil rights infringement and a host of other afflictions everyday here.  We have allowed our motives and our actions to be dictated by things we are afraid of, not things we all believe in.  Yes, what happened last week was terrible, and yes, I personally hope that things change soon.  But for that to ever happen, we need to look at ourselves on an individual basis, because that is what our country is founded upon and that is what our future hinges on.  We can collectively waste away and point fingers or we can rise up and hold ourselves accountable.  Those are the only two options at this point.  One is easy, and one is not so easy.  I still believe in this country, and I’m hoping that we don’t take the easy way out.

I’ve experienced a lot of different emotions in regard to the shooting last week. Initially, I was upset and bewildered and angry, just like everyone else.  And then came the slew of blogs and Facebook posts and small-talk conversations where blame has been flung from one end of the cultural and social spectrum to the other.  People said if we get God back in schools, this wouldn’t happen.  People said that you can’t stop evil people, and the responsible ones shouldn’t have their guns taken.  The gun lobby was blamed.  Mental illness and its subsequent care in America was blamed.  And I couldn’t help but to feel totally infuriated by all of this.

First of all, how is this a religious question? Do people really think this has something to do with our schools and their relationship with faith?  These same people that say God was not in the schools because we pushed him out are the same people that use their faith as a tool to suppress individualism. So which is it, folks? Is God vengeful, loving, all-knowing, or powerless? Draw your line in the sand or shut up.  Because when you get right down to it, this is a cop out.  Mike Huckabee and the like can say what they want, but it doesn’t pass the litmus test.  A lot of faithful individuals have died knelt in prayer, and it’s pretty  easy to place the blame on our government or school systems for removing religion from schools.  Being faithful does not ensure a safe, happy life, nor does it entitle one to blame the tragedies of our time on the lack of others’ faith.

And then we have the gun/mental health issues.  Regardless of what I personally think about guns in America, they aren’t going anywhere.  We might see some tightening on permits or a new ban on assault weapons, but how effective would it be? You aren’t going to pull those guns out of homes at this point, not without a good deal of civil discourse and backlash.  It would get really ugly really quickly.  But we had guns in this country for a long time before Columbine, and we certainly weren’t having this debate in 1950.  The fact of the matter is, no matter how ridiculous it is to believe that the government will collapse and we need an arsenal of private guns for when that day comes, you aren’t going to convince the massive amount of gun owners that this isn’t a risk.  And that’s sad, but it’s also true.  Mental health is also a big issue in this country, and one that needs to be addressed.  But it also needs to be destigmatized, and we sure aren’t getting that done when we only talk about it after stuff like this happens.  It’s surely tough to live with any sort of mental illness, but tons of Americans do it everyday and live productive lives.  On top of that, these shootings aren’t being carried out by poor individuals who do not get treatment.  It’s mostly people that have at some point had treatment, so these people are more likely to slip through the cracks when assessing who is dangerous and who isn’t.

So where do we go from here?  I don’t know, honestly.  The worst part of all of this isn’t something that has been talked about much.  This would have been nearly impossible to prevent, and deep down people know that.  We saw evil incarnated, and it rendered us as a nation helpless for a moment.  Sometimes horrible things happen, and it is awful, but sometimes there isn’t an an answer as to how we could have done things differently.  You can bring mental illness to the forefront of the conversation or pass gun control laws or bring prayer back into schools.  And then what do we do when this happens again?  Because it will.  Really bad stuff happens, and we are often powerless to prevent it.  That sucks, but it’s something we have to live with.

What we can’t do is let fear control us any longer.  We need to stand up as people and live our lives differently.  The government isn’t going to do that for us, and frankly they shouldn’t.  It’s easy to point fingers, but it gets us nowhere. We have to be more proactive.  If there is a cause you believe in, stop thinking about it and act on it.  If you have let relationships drift away, then do what you have to do to make them right.  If you don’t like yourself, change things to the best of your ability.  And by God, squeeze every second of passion and humor and love and curiosity that you can out of this life.  Because if you’re alive right now, regardless of what you’re going through, you are blessed.  Hug your friends, kiss your mother, and give back to those around you.  When we face evil as we have in the past week, our best defense is to show it that it will not break our spirit.  It can bring us to our knees, it can break our hearts, but it can not crush our spirit.  As a people, we’ve come too far to fold to fear.  Until we can address the issues that cause these unspeakable tragedies, we have no option but to stand tall and be brave.  We must be different, as a nation and as a group of individuals.  We won’t ever be the same, but how we change is our decision.  We can become more fear-driven, less trusting of others, or we can learn how to accept each other and to sincerely participate in life.  We’ve been pretty backwards as of late, and I think now we have to learn to look forward.  If not now, then when?


From → General

  1. Blake, I Love your blog .!! You have a passion
    For writing.!! Keep up the good work .
    Love reading it.!!! Deb

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