We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This


We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

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  • Theodore Seeber

    Oregon had another gun tragedy over the weekend. A 9 year old girl shot while playing in her backyard. Freak accident really, if you can call an Iraq war vet playing “Quick draw” with a loaded weapon inside while a child played outside. Mother’s boyfriend had just gotten a job as a security guard and wanted to practice. Shot went through a wall- he wasn’t aiming for the child at all.


  • Maria McClure

    Beautifully put. thank you.

  • pagansister

    Yes, we have to learn to live with this type of event, but NOT accept it. We must continue to go to work, clean house (doing that today) etc. in spite of this recent horror. I find your analysis, Rebecca, that we are raising “psychopaths”—–interesting. I agree that there is and has always have been abused and neglected children. Do you think that now those children are the “psychopaths” you mentioned? With respect here—is it your belief that if children were raised in a religious environment that they wouldn’t become the killers that some do? Some killers find the reason to kill inspired by their faith, or their interpretation of that faith—–9/11 being an example. We don’t know a motive for yesterday—yet. It is a changing world—news with good and bad happenings are almost immediate. Yesterday brought out again the strength, caring, love, selflessness of this country with response shown at the site of the bombings. It appears that those who continue to do these killings don’t understand that.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      These things always do that, and we must never lose that. I’m not saying we should become indifferent; far from it. I am saying that these things keep happening and it appears they are going to continue happening for the foreseeable future. We’ve got to find a way to not let them bowl us over every time they do. Think of London in the blitz.

      “Yesterday brought out again the strength, caring, love, selflessness of this country with response shown at the site of the bombings.”

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      Yeah, not to speak for Ms. Hamilton, but I personally don’t think the outward forms of religiosity are any guaranty, by themselves, of producing healthy children.

      But to take the Ms. Hamilton’s point back to Sandy Hook, how can we legitimize violence against unborn children, and even speak plainly of “post-partum abortion” and “physician-assisted suicide” and wonder when people decide to kill other people?

  • Dale

    Kevin Cullen, a columnist for the Boston Globe, gave an interview today for the NPR program “All Things Considered.” He mentioned that he had spent much time in Northern Ireland covering The Troubles, and was in Omagh after the bombing in 1998. According to Cullen, the feelings in Boston today are very similar: deep sadness mixed with defiance. He added, ” if the person, or persons, who put that bomb there think they were going to break this town by doing something like that, they have a profound misunderstanding about this city, about the resilience of the people here, and about our reaction to this.”

    Later, he stated “we only care about three things in this town: sports, politics and revenge.” He framed that bit of humor by saying that “the revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

  • Sus

    One of my first thoughts after I heard about the Marathon was how glad I am that my kids are on spring break with my parents at the beach. They are busy having fun and away from the TV. I’ve checked the news when I got up and will check before I go to bed. Otherwise, the TV has been off.

    I read this wanting to vehemently disagree because I don’t want to live learn to live with this. But, Rebecca is right again! We have no choice.

    It’s heartbreaking though. I know that area really well. The Marathon is sacred. It was one of my favorite days when I was young. Hanging around and cheering the runners coming in is a lot of fun.

  • FW Ken

    My best friend was in the schoolyard when a deranged man came to enroll the son he had kidnapped. He set off a suitcase bomb, killing himself, his son, the principal, a janitor, a couple of other kids, and injured a bunch more, including my friend, who lost his leg. That was in 1959. Earl grew up to be a faithful Christian, a pillar of his church, and father to two fine men (my godsons, so I’m prejudiced)

    My point it’s that these things have gone on for a long time, and God has brought good from evil. He is greater than our sins.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Let’s not jump to conclusions. We have not experienced frequent terrorist attacks on our shores yet. I will say that if this goes unpunished then it will breed more. It will lead to some thinking they can get away with it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      It’s not just foreign terrorist attacks I’m talking about. It’s these repeated mass murders and the trauma they inflict on all of us. They don’t seem to be stopping. In fact, they seem to be coming more frequently.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        That is true. Evil is on the rise, at least in this country.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Chances are this is a domestic attack. Even if it is al Qaida, this bomb design was printed in Inspire Magazine (an English production of al Qaida) two years ago. Inspire is for American Muslim audience.

  • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

    We did in Italy. I grew up in it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Years_of_Lead_(Italy) – a poor summary, but good enough to give an idea. AND WE BEAT THE BASTARDS, TOO. Over the long haul, belief in democracy and the rule of law proved stronger than revolutionary fanaticism and criminal ruthlessness. Most of the murderers are now in jail or out on parole after decades inside; a few are abroad (to the everlasting disgrace of the governments of France and Brazil); a few are even in monastic communities, especially those who victimized a heroic and saintly gentleman by the name of Giuseppe Taliercio, and ended up shamed and converted by his martyrdom. Terrorism is a long hard struggle, but democracy and the rule of law have the weapons to beat it.

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      I remember those years Fabio. I didn’t live in Italy, but I am Italian-American with family members there.

  • Bill S

    The security in Boston today is just over the top. Airport like screening is being performed on people going into my wife’s building to work. The chances of being impacted by a terrorist attack are miniscule. The chances of having our lives permanently disrupted by over zealous security personnel are much higher. I don’t want to live like that. As they say in New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”. I’d rather take my chances, as I do when I fly, then live in a police state.

    • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

      I agree. And as I pointed out above, I know about this sort of thing.

  • Becky

    I personally find it kind of chilling that an elected official’s solution is “we just have to live with it.” I get that we have major societal problems, and I appreciate that you’re (unsuccessfully) attempting to make a distinction between “live with” and “accept,” but seriously. What do you propose that we do to stop creating psychopaths? Obviously, parents/families have the biggest role to play, but surely you think government could do a better job creating incentives to healthy family formation, etc.? Just throwing up your hands and saying society is sick seems like a major abdication of responsibility.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Becky, I guess I didn’t make it clear in what I wrote, but I’m not advocating throwing up our hands and doing nothing. What I’m saying is that, if past is prelude, we’re going to have more of these tragedies. We’ve had three big ones now in about 9 months. If that’s true, we need to learn how to handle it without going over the top emotionally. We are, as a nation, going to have to learn to maintain an even strain in the fact of these repeated tragedies. The example of I used in another comment was the British people during the blitz. Another good example would be the people at the bomb site in Boston who immediately started doing what they had to do to care for the injured. If they’d stood there wailing instead of taking action, more people would have died.

      As for what elected officials can do about this, I’m sure that there will be a plethora of laws and that some of them will help. However, no law can possibly keep us safe if the people we govern are not basically good. We will end up being hermetically sealed in a police state with no freedoms at all and we will still have this violence to contend with.

      As for raising up psychopaths, I think that is so obviously what our culture is doing that I’m actually kind of surprised that some people are disturbed by the statement.

      I do not not if this latest tragedy in Boston is home-grown or foreign. But I imagine there will be another tragedy down the road. The time between these tragedies is growing shorter. Haven’t you noticed?

  • Birthday girl

    We get this kind of society by treating people as things. Take all the atrocities you hear about, put them next to each other, notice the pattern. People are things. Regardless of the particular “religion” or philosophy that instigates each particular atrocity — and I’m not targeting muslims and I spit at thy political correctness if that bothers you, but more — people are treated as things in all those philosophies. That is what we have to change. I don’t know how. I just try to love all the people who drift into my orbit and teach my children to love. Which does not mean warm fuzzy emotions of “luv”, but choosing to do good for others. How can we teach that on a mass basis? I don’t know.

  • Mark D

    I’m a retired history teacher, and I am sorry to report that it was ever thus. (I would urge you to research the history of mass killings, not only in our country, but in the world.) Evil abounds in every age. We must resist it. We must battle it… This fight will continue until the end of the age.

    But to pretend that our age is somehow different will lead us to ignore the wisdom of the past. Yes, we know some things that those who went before us did not know, but they know much that we have forgotten.

  • pagansister

    Mark D: Unfortunately some folks have short memories.

    • Dale

      Pagansister, I think we all have short memories. Or, at least, we try to. Its the only way we can move forward in life. We need a world which is predictable for us to plan for the future. How can we raise a child or buy a house, thinking that on any day, today even, our children or house will be blown up?

      • pagansister

        Exactly, Dale. I said some folks do, but I think you are closer to the actual fact—–

  • http://www.thoughtsfromanamericanwoman.wordpress.com Patty

    Thank you for this article, I needed these words to help me come to terms with what is going on in our world. I will never understand the hatred that is all around us. You are right we need to get up in the morning keep the tv turned off, go to work or school, do our errands, love our families and “live”etc…most importantly we should always pray. God bless!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Patty.

  • midwestlady

    Unfortunately, and this is very sad, these things have always happened. And it’s always been shocking, however, now we are protected from death and sadness to some degree by the cultural structures we’ve set up around funerals and so on, so people view these things as isolated events and are bewildered.

    I don’t know how true it is that we have more psychopaths now than we ever had. I think more people are diagnosed and word travels faster when something happens, and that adds to the perception that things are worse.

    If there’s any aspect that’s causing things to be worse, it’s that neighborhoods and families aren’t as tightly knit now as they once were and so people are more isolated when they try to understand and cope with these things. And honestly, faith is on the decline so peoples’ personal resources may be less robust. If anything is increasing right now, perhaps it’s fear over things associated with that. It’s not good for people to be that isolated from each other.

  • midwestlady

    You said, “Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.”

    This is true. Check with your neighbors now and then to see how they are. Put a smile on your face and care about those around you. This event showed us the scary side of life, but it also showed us how many innocent people there are in society who really care, and it also showed us how many heroic people there are. I’ve seen pictures of people who ran to help others when they didn’t know what the risks to themselves might be. They refused to leave someone on the sidewalk. People aren’t all bad, far from it. We need each other.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Excellent points midwestlady. Thank you.