A stranger asked me a scary question after I told her I was from the US.
“Are you scared to go home?”
I was confused.
“Well, just because of everything that’s happening. You might get shot somewhere or blown up or bombed by North Korea.” She said it nonchalantly, like it was as foregone conclusion.
And I just stared at her. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. How do you respond to something like that?
And I wondered, “Should I be? Is that the kind of place the US is turning into? Where people need to be afraid?”
I realized that I already am.
I didn’t go see The Dark Knight Rises in theaters because I knew there’d be copycats. Not that I really seriously thought I would get hurt, but the thought of going to see it made me sick.
And though I tried not to think about it, I was scared some days at school while I was student teaching. The school didn’t have locks on many of the doors and teachers didn’t have keys to their doors for part of the semester. One of the side doors was always open, so students from the other campus could get in without hassle.
And that scared me. Not because I ever once felt unsafe at East Campus. Not because any of the students seemed dangerous. Not because of any particular reason at my school, but because the world has shown how scary it can be.
My school was a safe, welcoming environment with such great faculty and students, but so was Sandy Hook. And so were so many other places that have been ravaged by violence.
There’s been so much violence in the past year, my head can’t even think about it. I can’t even read anything about the explosions in Boston. It’s just too much.
I got a text from a friend that said, “I can’t handle this coverage on the bombing. I’m going to bed.”
I am saturated. Full. Done. My heart can’t take any more of this. We, not just as a nation, but as a world, have been through too much. People weren’t made for this. We are being bombarded with wave after wave of death and hatred. It crashes over us, eroding us, dragging us down.
And in the face of such a terrible force, we come together. We stand united. We pray. We send care packages. We raise money. We do all things we should to help those in the wake of the horror.
We fight evil. Our prevailing goodness shines through. We read (or perhaps are a part of) the stories of the heroic people who rushed toward the explosion. The kids who raised money for the survivors. The churches that went on missions to help rebuild.
We see the light overcome the darkness, and try its best to heal the deep wounds on our society. We are strong. We endure. We carry on.
And we say never again. We draw up bills or regulations that inevitably get stuck somewhere in the government machine. We make speeches, make videos, write blogs. We sit and debate. We try to make progress. Maybe we even make a few steps. But then the next wave comes, and it feels like nothing has changed.
We say if we had better gun control… If we were better at dealing with mentally ill people… If the “system” didn’t fail...
If… if… if…
And though I strongly believe we need reform in areas like gun control and the culture surrounding mental health, it doesn’t take a gun to kill someone. And it’s not only mentally ill people who do harm. We are fighting deeper problems.
And after so much senseless violence, we all desperately want to make a change. We want to do what it takes, whatever it takes, to heal the brokenness. To put stopping force behind our “never agains.”
We all desperately want the same end results. We want peace. We want the safety and security, the love that we are all entitled to. And so we ask ourselves, I ask myself, how do we end this?
There isn’t an answer. There’s no magic fix. The safety we want can’t be found simply. It will take a profound shift in our culture to make it a reality.
Whether you seek it out or not, violence is everywhere in our world, and I don’t mean just the US or just the Westernized world. On the news, video games, movies, books, advertisements. There’s no end. I know violent video games aren’t why people shoot other people. But enactments of death, destruction, power, and greed saturate our entire lives. And they are and valued in our culture, making millions in all types of media. I’m not blaming the media exclusively. I can’t say whether the media reflects us or we reflect the media, but in what is being shown there, you see the roots of our extensive problems.
We can’t ban violence from the media, and even if we could, it wouldn’t make the problem go away. I’m not naïve enough to think that stopping kids from watching R-rated movies or playing violent video games will fix the problem. I know it won’t.
Instead, it will take all of us, choosing light over darkness, valuing all life, all life, above all else and respecting all people.
One of my favorite quotes touches on this idea: “We must live by the conviction that each human life—even the humblest—is of infinite worth. Each soul is an icon of Christ.” Sophia House.
It will take all our strength and conviction to make this happen. We must choose to fight against the bullies, the racists, and those who seek to harm us. Ignoring the problem is no longer enough. It’s not going away. We have to stand above the violence, meeting its hate with our love.
I ask myself, how can I help? How can I actually make my idealized version of life a reality? What can I do that will make a difference?
I don’t know. I wish I did.
But I know the answer doesn’t lie in waiting for someone else to start the movement, letting someone else show love and compassion. We each have to make the decision to show everyone love, and it won’t work if we all don’t change. I have faith. I believe that the goodness of people can conquer the evil we are faced with, if we choose love and life.