Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook Is A Call For Kindness

I hadn't even heard the news of the shooting before reading several new political rants about gun control and other things. In fact, it was these rants that informed me of the days events, and upon reading of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the rants faded into the background completely.

I stared at the headline: "26 Killed, Including 20 Children In CT Elementary School Shooting."

I was horrified, and I cried. I couldn’t scroll down to read the story for at least a full minute. I didn’t need to know the details. It was a moment that felt like an eternity, when the need for the ‘why’ is overshadowed by sadness so great, you want to believe it didn’t happen.

I thought it hadn’t, at first. In that eternity of seconds, a war raged within me. I could see this happening in a movie, right as the hero is the most lacking in his faith. I could see it happening in a dream, where I get to wake up and ponder what it meant in the comfort of reality. But this happened in reality.

I finally scrolled to read the details, none of which stuck out to me at the time. I still had my Facebook open, so I returned to post a status about how I felt, and then went for a walk.

A storm system that arrived after many dry months in Southern Arizona had just peaked. Tucson was covered in a dark blanket in the middle of the afternoon from one horizon to the other, and it all felt terrifyingly synchronistic. 

I had a lot to think about. 

I thought about how this would change our world and specifically our country. I thought about how it would change me. I thought about the devastation of those parents and teachers directly affected.

I was shocked to realize that this shooting affected me more than 9/11 ever did. We all knew 9/11 was big, and it changed everything. But somewhere deep down, even as a high schooler watching the footage of the towers live, I always knew something like this could happen. I knew there were bad people who would stop at nothing to get what they want, and to destroy us.

But Sandy Hook was different. It is still unclear why the killer did it, but I don’t really think it matters. There is no reason that would make sense.

9/11 made sense, in a jingoistic sort of way. But this makes no sense. I cannot understand what the thought process would be of a person who would slaughter not one, but twenty small and screaming children. Even as I type these words, my hands shake.

It upsets me that we blame each other for this, too. In times like these, we bargain and blame, because we can’t make sense of it as a society, either.

And I was also angry. I was angry at the blame game I saw on my social network. The bodies of the victims were still warm, and already the drumming had begun for one political agenda after another. If only we had less guns… If only we had more guns… If only we had universal healthcare that covered mental health… If only we hadn’t turned our backs on God… If only we hadn’t chosen to follow God… If only…video games. If only…the parents. If only…public education. And on and on and on.

I would have jumped into this constant torrent of opinion, and it was my first instinct to do so when I first read the headline.

But this one is different. It is too serious for that. The truth is, how in the world could you treat someone who disagrees with you politically as if he was one and the same with this killer? I don’t care what your political stripes are, nearly no one is this evil. This is as evil as it gets. 

Even the most insensitive, selfish TV pundit would never do anything like this, and so it’s important to place your very genuine and legitimate rage where it belongs: the killer.

This is the exact sort of event that should bring us together, not give us cause to turn on one another. There is no doubt we will learn and grow from this tragedy, but it is in vain to do so if we disrespect these losses with our own selfish preaching.

And I have to be honest: I have been guilty of this, too. It is so easy to hear a story and take the bits from it that serve your purpose, so that your reason for relaying it has less to do with its own significance and more to do with your own ego. I have sinned big here in the past. I have been part of the problem, and it is my wish that my friends would smack me down if ever I do it again.

I also learned another lesson: Even I can forget the goodness of people. Though some people on Facebook took to ranting, most did not. Most offered up condolences and prayers, and nothing more. Some of them are those who are otherwise very political people, and it tells me a good deal about them that they chose not to do it now.

As an optimist, I tend to see the good in all people, and I believe most people are good. When a tragedy like this happens, our tendency is to give the killer the most face-time, but I believe this changed with the Batman shooting. The majority of those who posted stories about that killer were met not with approval but with indignation and criticism.

I responded to the news of the Sandy Hook shooting by going to a movie. 

I don’t have children, but if I did, I would have played with them instead. What I do have is movies. It’s why the Batman shooting hit me as hard as it did. As Kevin Smith explained: for fans and makers of movies, the theater is like your sanctuary, and an event like that shooting is like an attempt to rob you of something sacred.

I saw The Hobbit in the new HFR 3D format, and even as I had the massacre in the back of my head the whole time, I reveled in the magic that was the next great evolution in cinematic technology. I might as well have been in a pre-historic forest during a cold night, huddled with others over a fire and listening avidly to the storyteller, whose story offers yet another account of that rebellious, beautiful and kind human spirit.

When I got home, that was when I discovered the backlash on Facebook against those seeking to politicize the events. It seemed more and more like I was not such a loner in my genuine grief, or in my stubborn reluctance to cave to cynicism.

And I’ll end on that note: The love of people for each other will eventually conquer all. The cliché is accurate. We are capable of such great and beautiful things, even if we are capable of acts as heinous as this shooting. I won’t say what I think needs to be done just yet, but one thing is almost certain: more kindness. We’ll never know if a pat on the back from a respected elder or a genuine hug from a sibling or peer would have been enough to remind a killer like this what kindness feels like, but it couldn’t hurt.