I was so sad when I heard about the shootings in Las Vegas, the attack on the police officer and pedestrians in Edmonton. On top of that, I was saddened by the death of two people in my community, and Tom Petty. What a week! Like many, as I reeled from one story to the next, my grief compounded.
So I do what many others do. I look for answers: how could this happen? I remember: stories of the person, or (in the case of the attacks) similar events. I look for community: who else is sharing this sadness with me? I look for strength and hope: what do I learn from this person’s life, or from this incident? Because, ultimately, for my grief to be effective, not paralyzing, I have to integrate it; I have to ask ‘how shall this affect how I live?”
I spoke with family and friends, listened to music, read websites.
But I was disturbed with a trend I saw. Remember the June ’16 attack in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub? That single shooter killed 49 people; it was called a “terrorist attack”, by many. The Las Vegas shooting, which killed more people, also carried out by a single person is not being called a “terrorist attack”. The attack this weekend in Edmonton is it being called a terrorist attack; why?
Don’t get me wrong: I am appalled by the violence. It may be driven by ideology. But I am more appalled that we live in a world where violence is an easy response – and I fear it’s beginning to be the first response. Is this because a person doesn’t know how else to dispel their grief and anger? Anger, often, is a grief turned outward; when our life is not unfolding as we want or think it should we explode. Literally.
I, too, am seduced sometimes by violent-think. I’ve said “would somebody just shoot [this person] and relieve me of my misery?” Maybe it is, too, because I am deeply saddened, and cannot see a different way to alleviate it?
I wonder if we are quick to identify bad actions as “terrorist attacks” when they are done by people with particular flavour-of-the-year names*, while we dismiss other bad actions as the work of disturbed people? And I wonder, when we denounce the violence quickly (rightly so), why we aren’t as quick to understand what in the world would push someone to such grief, such anger?
So what do I do with this grief? How will it help my spirit live? It leads me not to take this day for granted; who knows how it shall end? It leads me to actions which help cultivate peace; can we avoid yet another generation (here and around the world) which sees no option but to explode rage outward? It calls me to compassionate listening because don’t we all grieve sometimes and need to have that sadness heard and shared? “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will receive comfort.”
* It feels like someone picks a “bad guy” every year. In my lifetime the names have been Arabic, Korean, French, Irish, Russian, Pakistani, Iranian, Chinese and even some anglicized names associated with nations indigenous to Turtle Island.
Thanks, listchallenges.com for the image!