probably everyone is writing this weekend about yesterday’s shooting in connecticut, and for once, instead of shying away from a popular topic or waiting until everyone else blogs about it to say something, i actually have something to say now.
i wanted to tweet it, but wasn’t sure the inherent brevity of twitter would lend itself well to what i was trying to say, and i was more concerned with saying what i have to say properly than saying it immediately.
i thought a lot about the july 2011 mass shooting in grand rapids, mi as i sat on twitter reading and talking about the shooting in connecticut. a man killed seven people that day, injured others as he drove through downtown and the major highways shooting at people, crashed, and took refuge – and if i remember correctly, hostages – in a nearby home.
i was living in GR at the time (i count this a blessing because i think i would otherwise have been terrified to go back to school. ironically i grew up & still live in metro detroit, which is more dangerous.), so obviously this hit close to home. but GR is a pretty large city. i could have been clear across the other side of town without anything to worry about.
instead i was only up the street from the first home shooting when it occurred. i was teaching. we put the center on lockdown and did not let a single child, even the older ones, outside the center without their parents.
when i drove home, i drove the exact same stretch of highway the shooter would drive less than fifteen minutes later. i saw twenty to thirty cop cars on my way there and they actually shut down one of the highway ramps to check every car going through there to see if the shooter was in one of them.
late that evening, the shooter committed suicide after releasing the hostages he’d taken.
i saw a facebook status that night that said, “thank God, the shooter killed himself.” i about exploded right there.
thank God that not seven, but now eight lives have been taken? eight filthy, sinful lives that were nevertheless precious to Him? seven is already a high death toll. now it’s eight, and we should be grateful?
i say this with measured determination: i think it is incredibly easy for us to point the finger at criminals who gain national notoriety and say they are evil. they are terrible. they are, maybe not hitler, but close.
how quickly we forget ourselves.
i don’t believe in calling a spade anything other than a spade. killing people is wrong. end of story.
but i also don’t believe in calling a spade anything other than a spade. i am a killer too. end of story. i may not have taken life, but Christ makes it clear anyone who has hated their brother has committed murder in His sight. and i have surely hated my brother, & so i have killed.
so really, i’m no different than either of the shooters in either GR or CT; i have killed, they have killed. the only difference is the evidence of their murders are bodies laid to rest and families ripped apart and the only evidence of mine is my broken, gasping heart which i am well capable of keeping carefully tucked away.
i told a friend once i felt the sins i struggled – and still struggle – with are the ones that are easy to keep hidden. she said that was a good thing, and i told her, in fact, it wasn’t. the sins we can keep hidden are the sins that strangle us soonest. i have held on to anger and to bitterness and my heart keeps stabbing, shooting, taking life. i have found myself trapped by that, broken, desperate, unfathomably angry.
i thought yesterday, we can’t imagine what kind of a place, what kind of a hell, must someone be in who chooses to take life in the physical way. what goes through someone’s mind that the instinct upon which he acts is the most primal? the one that feeds us the lie that our survival, for which we are most basically wired, is only assured at the demise of another? where do you have to be, mentally, to decide that taking life is the only answer?
i have never been there. i hope to God i never am. but until we know that place, until we have known it and have been granted Christ’s victory over it, i don’t think we have any room to be calling spades hoes, if you get my drift.
so, yes, someone who takes the lives of others is a killer, a murderer, a criminal. but i don’t think there’s any room for calling him evil or a terrible person or should go to hell. because really all of those hateful names we’re carelessly flinging are words that apply to us as well.
so to be angry at the gunmen (both GR & CT) for committing suicide, to condemn them as cowards, to say they’ve escaped justice? i don’t think that’s necessary. there is no greater justice than the Almighty’s and if a gunman takes his own life rather than to wait for it to be taken from him, he has only met justice that much sooner.
and to be grateful? twenty-six lives in CT were taken; already an incomprehensible number. did it really have to be twenty-seven? was that life not precious to God as well?
i’ve studied sociological approaches to analyzing tragedies and i know i’m encroaching on the sacred time and sacred space that exist after a tragedy, natural or otherwise, in which our focus is solely on the victims. and i am not suggesting we turn away from them. this time is important for their healing and for ours.
but i am suggesting that the dialogue that happen from here not be one about issues. this is not about “the gun control issue.” this is not even about “the mental health issue.” none of any dialogue should be about “issues.” (i digress, but what even are issues, exactly? it’s like the word things. such a vague term.)
instead, this is about people. this is about people whose lives were senselessly, violently taken. this is about people whose children weren’t tucked into bed last night and who will be planning funerals instead of christmas festivities. this is about school staff whose foremost objective, providing a safe learning environment for young children, went so far as to demand their lives.
and this is about people who perform acts of terrorism we can’t possibly understand, for reasons we can’t possibly fathom. i think meredith said it best: “[t]here needs to be less of a dialogue about gun control and more dialogue about how to love people.”
because, as those of us who have close friends or those of you who are married know, loving someone is giving them all the emotional ammunition they need to destroy you and trusting them not to.
and after yesterday i would say, loving someone is giving them access to every model of gun in the world, too, and trusting them not to turn even one of them on you.
so how to love, i think, is probably the only “issue” we need to be discussing from here on out.
*when i was trying to decide on a post title, “how to love” were the first words that popped into my head. the melody that accompanies those words in lil wayne’s song of the same title ran through my mind immediately afterwards.