Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tragedy . . . What Can I Do?

I almost never watch the news, mostly because I spend enough of my day on a computer, and I get the news that way. The day before yesterday, however, I turned on CNN to find out what had happened in Blacksburg, Virginia.

What a tragedy. For everyone.

As is my habit, whenever I do watch the news, I found myself praying. Praying for the situation, the sadness of it, the madness of it, the senselessness of it, the uselessness of it. For those who died, for those who survived, for those who were wounded, for those who knew them, for those who don’t, for all of us.

Then something happened which stopped me cold. I realized, right in the middle of my heartfelt prayers, that I was hopping mad. Mad mad. Angry. P.O.ed. Ticked. Furious. Kicking-something outraged.

The commentators were doing their best, I realize, to sound sympathetic and compassionate, and to be gentle with those who were on the scene. It took a little bit, but I finally realized what was making me mad. I quote: the worst shooting in the history of the United States. Really?

{Even though I’m going to let my temper rise here, you don’t have to go with me. Just witness it!}

Really? I asked. Really—not, I answered. How’s about we consider the Civil War? Or the casualties of either World War? Vietnam? Or, consider this . . . Iraq? The worst shooting in the history of the United States? I don’t think so.

Oh, maybe they meant unrelated to war. Random shooting. I’m sure the Pennsylvania Amish who were so loving with the family of the man who killed their children and himself could think that theirs was the worst. And don’t even get me started on 9/11. (Yes, I know, not shooting per se.)

Anyway, I have to admit it took me quite a while to get a handle on my anger and calm down. Here’s what I came to for myself:

Every shooting, any shooting, is the worst shooting—always.

It doesn’t matter who is involved—it could have been any one of us, anywhere.

For me, shooting is never the solution—never, ever.

So now there will be various sightings and spoutings of various anti-gun politicians about how our country needs to regulate gun ownership more. There will be various holier-than-thou fingers pointed at those who were in charge calling for what they should have done and didn’t, or what they did do and shouldn’t have. There will be families and friends who go through the painful experience of mourning possible futures they won’t get to have with their now-dead loved ones. And the media feeding frenzy will continue.

To what purpose?

There is a purpose in events like these, you know, whether we like it or not. I believe that there is a purpose in every single thing that happens. EVERY single thing. No exceptions. What could the purpose be in these killings?

I think this happened so that we who remain will look closely at violence in this country. I mean, really closely. At what violence is. At how violence happens. At possibilities for learning from violence. At ways to deal with violence. Real, genuine interface with violence and its fallout.

I got an email this morning from The Peace Alliance for a U. S. Department of Peace. A group of well-meaning citizens have created this campaign to establish a Department of Peace as part of the regular cabinet of the President of the United States.

In the email, they addressed the issue of how we as a country handle violence (part of the Campaign is consideration of non-violence as a viable method for resolving conflicts). A Department of Peace would at the very least give our country a place to take a tragedy like this one for resolution.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the Department of Peace Campaign, go to this address:

And as for Blacksburg, oh dear one, pray. Pray for them. Actually, pray for us all. Here’s a mantra to get you started:

Peace, Sweet Peace.
Peace, Sweet Peace.
Peace, Sweet Peace.

I’m saying it, praying it, and crying, right along with you.

P.S. I watched turned on MSNBC last night, after I'd written this, and Keith Olbermann, bless his heart, is asking a similar question to mine. To paraphrase: We are horrified and outraged at the senseless deaths of 32 young people in Blacksburg, Virginia yesterday and somehow we are not as horrified nor as outraged at the same number of deaths of similar young Americans in Iraq in the past 10 days. Why?

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