I began writing a weekly letter to my teenage granddaughter, thinking that teenagers need support, and my writing helps me to think. My granddaughter is no longer a teenager, but the letters continue. Here is part of last Saturday's letter. Perhaps it will interest you.
Since last I wrote to you there has been the shootings and killing of those members of the Tucson AZ community. Nine-year old Christina. The judge. The husband who blocked the bullets for his wife. Others, and the congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. That was followed by the take down of the shooter by other bystanders who were just regular folks in the community, including an 80-year old (?) woman who wrestled the shooter's next clip of bullets from him. There was also the mild mannered, humble, very large man who was a member of the congresswoman’s staff who jumped to her rescue and held her head trying to stop the bleeding from the bullet that she received. And there are the trauma specialists and trauma surgeon who used all of their skill learned on the battlefields in the mid-east to help save the congresswoman’s life. Finally, there was President Obama’s speech at the community memorial service on Wednesday. I think that it was the best speech that I have heard him give. Among other things, it encouraged me to pick up a volunteer activity as my offering to the support of those in our community who need more help. For some reason the events of this week have resulted in me expressing more emotion about the deaths and injuries from this event. Have I been more deeply affected by this tragedy or am I mellowing and allowing my emotions to express themselves more fully? I don’t know yet.
Perhaps, hopefully, writing more about my thoughts and feelings will result in a better understanding by me of these events.
The shooter. Evidence indicates that he was mentally spiraling down and out of reason and rational thought. That our community’s safety net did not capture him and begin a process of healing and repair is both sad and yet somewhat understandable. He had not reached the level of major concern by those who need to identify such individuals. Certainly there are others in our communities and nation who are more radical, perhaps more insane, than he is. He must be insane in order to be able to plan and attempt such an awful event.
The families and friends of the victims. None of us are guaranteed that our lives will be free of such violence and tragedy. Should we all avoid community gatherings where such events might happen? A family living on a single-family farm in a rural setting is much less likely to experience such community violence, but it won’t guarantee a life without tragedy. Besides we can not all live on isolated farms. It is better that we work with our community to build healthy relationships between disparate factions so that we can disagree and yet respect the dignity of each individual. I heard a statement last evening about civility. To be a civil society, a civil community, we need to nurture civility within the community. And, civility is not a trait that can be learned in isolation. We need to interact with others who have views that are different from our own in order to grow in our understanding and acceptance of others that differ from us so that peace among us can be nourished and grow.
The victims that are still alive. Their lives have changed “forever.” Whether they are the individuals who received bullet wounds, or they are the family, friends, or co-workers of those who were shot, their lives have changed. How will they cope? How will they live with and heal from the tragedy in their lives? What will they do to help prevent such events in the future? How have these events changed their faith?
The community leaders who realize that such a horrific event could happen to them personally. How do they go forward? Are armed body guards now to become either normal or required? Will they isolate themselves from their constituents in order to be safer? Will the knowledge of this event cause others who were thinking of devoting their lives to public service and community leadership decide to avoid such roles in their communities resulting in fewer leaders who are committed to listening to the residents and bettering our society?
Guns and ammo. Is this a call to make major changes to guns in our communities? If we allow individuals to own guns “for sport and personal protection” do we need to allow semi-automatic weapons that can fire a clip of thirty bullets in seven seconds? What kind of “sport” does that cover, or what kind of personal protection does that provide? Has our culture encouraged higher levels of violence through the sports that we watch (our national religion), the movies that we view, the computer games that we play, and our encouragement of winning at all costs that results in the acceptance of guns and killing in our communities?
Can we pass laws that will prevent all of this?
Will our personal interactions change to more civil, more moderate, and more understanding of those who differ from us?
I only have questions, mostly, with few answers.
What can I do? I recommit myself to listening with my full self to the views of those who differ from me. I will try harder to understand the thoughts and experiences of those who have different values than I do. I intend to pick up volunteering in my community again in order to try, in some small way, to assist those who need the help that I can give. As much as I may want to avoid hearing the news about what is wrong with our country and my community, I recommit myself to studying the news, listening to commentators who try to make common sense out of events and trends in our culture so that I can act for the betterment of the world community. Of course I will continue to vote, but I intend to do more than that.
How does a Christian respond to these tragic events? Pray, certainly. Pray for the victims and their families, friends, co-workers, and communities. Pray for the shooter, and his parents. Pray for the responders and medical personnel. Pray for our communities to “get it (more) right.” But more than praying, I must act. I must change my activity so that I can help change our society so that we lessen the possibility of such events happening again.