Really, WTF? Has people shooting at strangers become a sort of national pastime? Are we supposed to get used to this? Worse yet, have we gotten used to it? Really, what am I supposed to say? Once again we are in that place of knowing that people have been killed and injured for no apparent reason.

This time it was in the Washington DC Navy Yard rather than a school or a movie theater or a foot race. Once again a shooter is dead. Once again we are scared, grieving, confused, angry. Once again we are looking for explanations, wanting to know who to blame, wanting to know why, wanting some reason to think that this won’t happen again. Once again the horror is real and deep, and the answers frail or non-existent. So what are we supposed to say to make sense of it, to fix it, to make meaning out of the horror?

Damned if I know. I could blame our national obsession with guns, and I do. But these shooters could very well be military personnel, and any conversation about getting guns out of the hands of the military seems like a non-starter. I could blame the glorification of violence in our society, and I do. But I could hardly claim that any given movie or video game or song lyric is to blame for any of these violent incidents, and I wouldn’t be willing to institute censorship even if I thought it might do some good. I am always perfectly open to blaming racism, poverty, social inequality and environmental degradation for a broad assortment of troubles, but I’d be hard put to bring any of them to bear in this particular instance.

And so, once again, we’re left with nothing to do but grieve. No less for the dead and injured in this tragedy than for the last one – or the one before that, or the one before that. I do not believe that we are supposed to simply accept such brutality as part of everyday life. We will lose some of our humanity if we become so habituated to the violence that we just shrug our shoulders and move on. But there is no one right way to grieve. All I can suggest is this:

Hug your child or your spouse or your friend or your cat or your dog or your pillow. Go for a walk. Breathe. Breathe again. Call someone who you would miss if you couldn’t talk with them again. Light a candle. Breathe. Breathe again. Practice non-violence. Walk away when you get mad. Breathe. Breathe again. Hold those who are wounded and dead in your heart. Open your heart to their families. Hold all the unknown others lost to violence in your heart. Open your heart to their families. Hold all the people who are grieving in your heart and know that you are not alone, that there are open hearts everywhere holding the grief and confusion and pain together. Breathe. Breathe again. Breathe again.

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  • Jean McIntosh

    Personally, I blame it on the stigma of mental illness and the severe lack of services. People feel disenfranchised, there’s no place to go and no one to talk to, so when the frustration level gets high these people grab their guns because the guns get other people’s attention, and we’ve got another shooting gallery.

  • AnaisSaisNin

    Our country has been on this path a long time. I am a woman of the circle. This is part of my Native American Christian Beliefs. Everything is connected. What effects one part effects the other. And all facets of life, human, nonhuman, have a commonality. We have to take care of each other. Like it or not, this planet is all we have, until God presents us with another one. But sometimes I feel we’ve lost this type of respect along time ago and the “chickens have come home to roost” so to speak. Today was another sad day for all of us. And it sets another bad example to the rest of the world. Who are we to go in and save the day for another country, when we are not really able to go to our jobs in peace. But still, compared to many other nations, this still is the best country to live in. And I know, we can do better. No, WE HAVE TO DO BETTER! If only to leave something better for the generations we hope will come after us. But right now, we’re not providing a very good example are we? As far as Mental Health Issues are concerned, yes, unfortunately, there is still a stigma. If you were suffering from heart disease, or high blood pressure, wouldn’t you seek help? Then you should also, no, you must treat mental illness the same way. But, I will continue to pray for all of us, and I hope everybody will do the same.

  • Scott Schumacher

    My take on your questions. NO, this is not a national pasttime and we are not and are not supposed to get used to this kind of tragedy. However, as long as the human condition has existed, there have been atrocities against human life – through violence, war, genocide, holocausts, etc. Before guns there were swords and before swords there were rocks. We are still learning the greatest question in our existence. Will we choose love, or will we choose “significance”?

    In the absence of love and nurturing (and we see this in gang violence), we often turn to the want of “significance” – and if we can’t get it through love, approval, or community, we find other ways. The greatest tragedy is the lack of compassion, love, and forgiveness playing out to a last chance desperation to be seen – to be “significant” – and a quick and large way to achieve this is through destruction, violence, and the senseless killing of others.

    If there is anyone to blame, it is US – ourselves. How often do we separate our neighbors, label others, pit neighbor against neighbor, make judgements against our fellow human beings (even for their thoughts, political viewpoints, etc). We are all CAPABLE of love and WORTHY of love. In the tragic absence of love, we often see violence play itself out to the tragic end of the senseless loss of life.

    Blaming guns, politics, video games, cultural or political difference, etc is another cop-out excuse for us to withhold love and compassion. it is US in this great human experiment that we need to blame. We each have to ask ourselves how we will move forward. Will we divide our fellow humans based on perceived divisions, or will we reach out in love wherever and whenever we can?

  • Mark Richards

    WTF? Why The Fear? The underlying cause of this trend towards violence is the upwelling of fear that we are experiencing. Is it fear of economic collapse? Is it fear of cultural reorganization? Is it fear of more atrocities? Our immediate response is to escalate the problem by propagating more fear … fear of more guns, fear of fewer guns, fear of those who are supposed to protect us turning on us instead … fear that we will not be able to let go of our fear. Go out into the street and let someone know that they need not fear you … it’ll probably scare them to death. But fearing the outcome is no reason to withhold the action. Help people overcome their fear … you will conquer your own in the process.

  • nanomanoman

    350 million people and as many guns. Statistically it is surprising it does not happen more often. Quite possibly, as society becomes ever more atomised and solopsistic (in part thanks to the internet) it will happen more often.

    The very things that can bring us together, pull us apart. While it is easier now to find solace on-line, it is also easier to travel down your own road without regard to anyone else, perhaps finding individuals who share, encourage and exacerbate your personality disorder that may have otherwise been balanced by engagement with the “real” world.

    In Brave New World the TVs were on 24/7 in the hospitals of the dying and the Epsilons rioted for want of “soma”. How different is that from today?

    There is of course “no going back” from “progress”, unless we ask ourselves – is this progress at all?