WTF? September 16, 2013

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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