The carnage is shocking, sad and apocalyptic. In this year alone, across the nation, there have been 113 mass shootings, leaving 132 dead and 418 wounded victims. Is this the new normal? Is this what it means to be an American? Is this the fruit of the land of the free and the home of the brave?
We turn toward almost any distraction just to get some space, release, and hope that this isn’t really happening, that we can switch the channel and it will be all better. But it’s not all better. It’s only been six months and already there are 550 victims, with their families, friends and communities crying out, “How long before this madness stops?”
The carnage is shocking and leaves us numbed and frightened, certainly feeling powerless and bewildered. Where do we turn for answers? Where do we go for sanity, healing and a way to begin again? Is there any explanation for all this rage? Is there any wisdom that can make sense of this outbreak of mental illness, of disconnection from community, of utter lack of empathy? Is there any plan, any solution, or clue as to how to tame this violence?
It’s like there’s a virus but no antidote to keep the virus from spreading. Indeed, what we now all have in common is the blood of innocents. In every state, red or blue, in every family, conservative or liberal, and in every community, rich or poor, we are all sharing in the sober national fear that anytime, anywhere, those we love might not come home tonight. The foundation of life has been destabilized.
President Obama tries to comfort us with speeches and posturing and the encouragement to enact gun laws. But this is the same guy who has brought untold misery throughout the Middle East with his itchy drone fingers. In our own state we can’t even get legislation passed that would enact rather lame background checks for gun owners. In other states you might walk into a grocery store only to see AK-47s slung over the shoulders of those who think they are thereby protected.
The virus isn’t out there; it’s inside our own heads and hearts. The virus is what we watch on our screens, it’s how we entertain ourselves, it’s how we talk with each other. It’s like a hole in our heart that we try to fill up with something, anything to curb this unrelenting anxiety that we feel, anything to stop the aloneness that dialogues in our head, anything to help us connect and touch and feel as if we are actually, truly real. As if we actually, truly matter.
The problem is more complex than the shooters and is deeper than the pursuit of an ever elusive “Why?” The problem is about something in us as a people. It’s time to search for our soul.