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It happened again and we are not surprised. It is a strange time to be alive. We have access to so much information all the time; we are bombarded with it daily, if we allow ourselves to be. I find myself riding the waves through the stages of grief every time. Splash, I am angry. Splash, I am looking for someone to blame. Splash, I am numb. Splash, angry again. No, I did not know anyone that was killed in this shooting, but why does that matter? When tragedy strikes, I feel it as though it has happened to me. It is not hard to connect to the terror, the loss, and pain. Having profound empathy is my ever-present gift and curse.
There is a predictable reaction cycle when this happens. My friends on social media have commented on this phenomenon. Trauma is immediately publicized, politicized. One side claims better gun control, another adamantly insists that it isn’t about the guns; it’s a mental health issue (as if the two are mutually exclusive). People voice their grief, thoughts, prayers, opinions, share straight-forward and punchy statements to make their side known. Long comment sections follow, back and forth, dancing around the issue. This goes on for days. Then, something else happens that draws the crowd’s attention away, and eventually, our grief and impassioned opinions are redirected. And the victims continue to hurt and less and less people think of them. And nothing changes.
Why do we keep doing this? Why do we insist on letting everyone know how we feel and what side we are on? Maybe it soothes us a little. At least we said something; at least we feel something; at least we aren’t like them. We think things like “how can they honestly think that way? They are so blinded.” Maybe it helps us to process and makes us feel more human. Maybe it makes us feel not so alone.
The truth is these are just our ways of trying to feel like we are in control of something, that we are secure. We crave to have something, anything, to help us make sense of something so unconscionable. We wrestle to understand why all the while dreading to think about the why. And we hate to admit that we could at all be responsible. We cannot admit to ourselves that this person who committed such an atrocity is also a human, just like us. We fail to see our likeness, only the differences, to try to separate us as far away as possible from them, so that we do not feel at fault. And then we sleep soundly.
We have failed. We may not have pulled the trigger, but we all contribute to the society we live in. I hear people blame society, as if society is a person or an entity, locked away in a room somewhere, raining mayhem on all of us, forming our biases and corrupting those in power. I’m sorry, but no, we cannot be off the hook from understanding our impacts so easily.
Our choices matter. Every decision ultimately contributes to something greater, even if we never ultimately see the impact, there is an impact. So do what you must to process and heal, but do not stop there. Post your thoughts, rants, say your prayers, comfort each other, exchange viewpoints, kiss and hug your family and friends more tightly, but do not stop there. Understand your capability and do what you can to make this different. No matter your economic status, religious affiliation, political stances, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or age, what you do matters to someone. So stop repeating the lies and excuses that lull you into complacency. Do not be paralyzed with despair and fear, because we can do better.