I have so much to say, and for reasons that I think will become obvious, I don’t want to say any of it.
Since the news broke today about the mass murder in Connecticut — so many children killed — it’s been consuming my Facebook feed, the airwaves, the conversations of people around me.
I’ve seen people crying. Keep in mind that I live nearly 800 miles from where this all happened. In fact, so far, among the people I know here in Indianapolis, I’m the only person who actually also knows someone who lives very close to there. (Her family is fine.)
I didn’t cry. In fact, I didn’t even read much about the story. I got my fill of reading stories like this back at 9/11. (By “stories like this,” I mean stories of senseless violence and death; not just gun violence or violence at schools.)
I didn’t cry. I cry at commercials, people. But for this, I didn’t. I couldn’t. It hasn’t registered. I won’t let it.
Today, I watched friends on Facebook post hundreds of things about gun control. Most of my friends are in favor of it, but several are very much against it. I watched friends post a number of things about access to mental health care, and how it’s important for us to refuse to label the killer as a “monster” because by doing so we make him something “other” and not one of us who is badly broken. I watched friends post links to satirical articles that I know help some of us cope — dark humor is dangerous, but for some of us it’s a salve. I watched friends politicize it, I watched friends criticize those who politicized it, I watched friends criticize those who wouldn’t politicize it.
Today, I remembered conversations I’ve had with others who suffer from mental diseases. I remembered times when I have wanted to hurt others. I remembered a dear friend, after Columbine, admitting to me quietly that while he certainly couldn’t even remotely condone what the killers did, he at least felt like he could understand it a bit because of his own experiences in high school with feeling marginalized and minimalized. I remembered nodding, in complete agreement with him, when he said something about how he never had access to guns in high school and that was probably a good thing — and then feeling completely horrified that I had faced the darkness within that would have been capable of taking a life, and admitted it.
I heard people talking about how they wish the killer had lived so that someone could kill him. I heard people talking about how they would do it themselves. I heard people talking about how the kids who died were “the lucky ones” because the survivors would suffer for the rest of their lives. I heard people talking about all the various reasons the killer could have done these things.
I got pissed off.
Not at the killer. Not at the system that failed to protect the children, because if you can look at it honestly, there is no system that allows us freedom and protects us completely. Not at the system that failed to help the killer to try to prevent this, because I don’t know what his situation actually was and whether or not any amount of help could have stopped this. Not even at America and our gun laws, which — I will readily admit — I personally wish were more restrictive.
I got pissed off at all of us for the way we were talking about it. Finding things to blame, getting angry with politicians or with attitudes or with anything we could think of that would help us take our minds off of the actual issue, which is that dozens of people are dead.
And I know, many of you who have posted things will argue that what you posted was because those people are dead, so of course we have to do something about guns or mental health or this or that… but to me, that’s all indirect.
If your house burns down, you don’t want me talking at you about fire extinguishers and zoning laws. If your dog is hit by a car, you don’t want me talking at you about automobile safety features and poor training.
I want us all to stop talking.
And I am fully aware of the irony here, which is that I am taking the opportunity to beg everyone to shut up, when all I am really doing is exactly what I am complaining about others doing — redirecting the focus and the fury to something else.
It’s easier to talk about gun control and access to mental health than it is to come to grips with what actually just happened. And in the same way, it’s easier for me to complain about the fact that people are talking about those things than it is for me to stare into the abyss again and think about parents who won’t be able to tuck in their kids tonight, or ever again.
It’s easier for me to complain that we need to find a way to stop this from happening than it is for me to think about the survivors, who will be forgotten by news media in a relatively short time.
It’s easier for all of us to get on Facebook or WordPress and write about how screwed up things are than it is for us to do anything.
And I know. Some of you are doing things, either by donating or praying or working to change something politically. Good. Thank you. I’m not trying to suggest that everyone out there is just a self-serving do-nothing. I appreciate that the ultimate concern everybody has is that they want things to improve — that this sort of thing is just plain not acceptable.
But when I tried to figure out how I, as a parent now, would try to explain this to my child, I realized that if my child were old enough to see what everyone was putting on Facebook, I’d have to explain that, too.
So, yeah. I want us — myself included — to stop talking.
I want us to take time, instead, to love. Love your family, love your friends, love your neighbors, love your enemies. Love.
I’m sorry this post is so hypocritical. I want us to stop talking, yet I’ve written over a thousand words on the topic just now.
I have no solutions. I’m angry with myself as much as I am with anyone else.
My only suggestion, I will repeat, and I mean this as an imperative — not an abstract noun, but a command, a request, a plea.