Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tentative thoughts on Sandy Hook

mine/all rights reserved
When I first heard news of Newtown, I covered my face and wept. As a mother of a child who is the same age as some of those children at Sandy Hook, my heart broke—and kept breaking.

I am heartbroken. 

I move from fury to sobs to numbness and back through it all again. 

And I am grasping for ways to process it all. As I talk with others and read what others had to say, a couple of things are emerging that are helping me as I grapple with this horror.

One idea I keep running across is that how I respond to Newtown and who or what I blame for it probably has a lot to do with my own lenses and experience. Rightly, my heart is wrenched. Rightly, I express outrage and fury at such a horror. Rightly, I seek for a way to prevent such a horror from happening again. But what I think best to do about it has a lot to do with things of which I may not even be aware.

As details about the shooter started to emerge, I began to resonate with those processing the “whys” as a mental health problem and a broken mental health system. In her long career as a nurse, my mother worked for many years in the public health system. My mother-in-law has a doctorate in psychology. The experiences and stories of both these women have become a part of how I process the world.

I also process through my faith. I have been a God-believer for four decades. My faith is deeply rooted in my soul, inseparable from who I am. It is the largest lens through which I see the world and how I understand horror, darkness and suffering.
                         
Some of those I know are responding out of similar experiences and lenses. But for others, it is different. A broken education system, lax gun laws, a violent and broken down society, failed parenting, lack of ethical training and education—the responses are as varied as the passions and burdens in the hearts of those I love.

Understanding that my own response has its roots in my experience and the lens through which I look has started helping me listen to and actually hear others as they process. It’s humbled me, I suppose. It releases me from judging others through my own response and lenses and frees me to simply mourn with my friends as they—just like me—grapple for ways to respond.
                                                                                                        
The second thing that has helped me is the realization that the “whys” behind horrors like this are probably complex—and that isn’t what I want. As Carson Clark put it on his blog: “We Americans are imbued with pragmatist DNA to our core such that we want to know the cause. We tend to like short, simple answers because it’s readily understandable and relatively addressable. The trouble is, that’s seldom the way the world works. We need to embrace the multicausal complexities as they exist.

This is also helping me listen to and process with others. It helps me actually consider what they say because, frankly, I want to get to the truth of this horror. If we can understand the complexities that led to it, we will be better able to reduce the number of times it will happen again.

But it will happen again. At least, that is what my own experience and understanding tells me. The lenses through which I process tell me that the world and the people in it are broken—some so horrifically that they massacre children. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it. No matter what we believe about why the horror at Sandy Hook happened and how to prevent it from happening again, we can mourn together and work with each other towards repairing and restoring this world we live in. 

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