Saturday, December 15, 2012

in the shadow of friday

This morning as I read various reports and reactions about what happened in Newtown my thoughts slide past the grief and sadness. For better or worse my life is a bit saturated with those emotions and I don't have much room for more right now. The sign on the door of my heart directs me to my head, so that is where I go.That explains the irritation that arises when I see the graphic-gone-viral that misspells Newtown, omitting the second w.

For most people Newtown is a now-familiar dot on the map, but to me it is a place I  know. I've spent time in Newtown. My best friend in divinity school lived there with her family, and I was a regular guest in their home. I ate at restaurants in town, visited the library, the local video store and other businesses. Getting ready to graduate I interviewed at the Episcopal Church whose stone spire is visible from the road after you get off the highway and head up the hill to an intersection anchored by a flagpole boasting the American flag. The person through whom my spiritual journey was forever altered, the trajectory of which led me to the Episcopal Church and all that followed was once rector of that church. Newtown is not a dot on the map to me, it is part of my story.

I listened to an interview with one of the teachers from Sandy Hook Elementary about how she protected the children in her care. Locking the door. Keeping them quiet. Insisting when the police arrived that they prove who they were by pushing their badges under the door and demanding that if they were "the good guys" then they would access to the keys to unlock the door. Hearing the details of her experience gave me fresh ears when the usual "the tragedy could have been minimized if the teachers were allowed to carry guns" argument came out of the brush. I don't think so. In a case like this one can protect or one can defend, but not both. You cannot soothe the fears of children and draw them into a huddle when you're busy pulling your piece out of your coat pocket to confront a maniac armed with multiple weapons and wearing protective gear. Chances are better than good that an armed response by a teacher or staff member might distract an assailant for a moment, but would likely end up a casualty. Worse, that posture would leave children unsupervised, and very much to their own devices. One young student noted, "I know karate, I can go..." You can imagine how that would turn out.

To all those people who are posting that this action is somehow connected to constitutional restrictions on prayer in school, that God isn't there because God isn't allowed to be there, stop it.  Such a suggestion diminishes God at every level.

Yet again the call has gone forth to do something to end this kind of violence through gun control. Many have pointed to statistics about gun-related violence and death. I'm in your corner. I'm not a fan of guns. I have, however, been listening over the years since marrying a man who grew up hunting, spent a career in the military, and as an avocation is a student of human behavior (at least in certain quarters). Our constitution ties our hands considerably when it comes to matters of gun control. It seems to me that the solution lies less in controlling weaponry and more in nurturing human beings. We are a violent society because we encourage and stoke the primal part of our being that seeks power and control. Yes, we are "free" to do so, but that freedom runs roughshod over any attempt to encourage the responsibility that is the flip-side of that privilege. Being bullied is a normative experience for many because the ethos of our culture, especially for boys, cheers the "top dog" who uses any means necessary to reach that pinnacle. Intimidation and physical prowess find reward where the values of compromise and consensus are left in the dust. When our  nation's leaders look to point fingers rather than take responsibility how can we expect our citizens to act differently? When we demonstrate a value for decency and respect, perhaps that behavior will begin to emerge as prevalent.

In his facebook post this morning Tom Ryan (of Following Atticus) shared a reflection to yesterday's events, and offered a quote from Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning. The quote reads, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” I second that. If we are not already doing so it is time to make some different choices. Honor one another. Learn from differences. Value diversity. Love everyone. Bless the world with so much love that we almost burst from the light. Put prayer into action. Do one thing to add beauty to the world today as a way to honor the lives that were lost, not just in Newtown but in every corner of our broken world. We have to do this together. We must.

1 comment:

The Bug said...

Oh Well Said! Your closing paragraph reminded me one of the verses of the hymn I was talking about from our wedding:

Pour out Your Spirit on all now assembled before You.
May our diversity here be a means to adore You.
Women and men—Young, old and youthful again,
Make us as one, we implore You.

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