October 4, 2015

Enough is Enough. What Can We Do in the Wake of Tragedy?

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Yesterday nine people woke up, drove, walked or biked to their community college campus and went to class.

What could be a more ordinary day?

And then, they were fatally shot.

I don’t know anything about these people. I imagine some were teenagers who perhaps woke up and whined about having to get out of bed instead of getting a few extra hours of sleep. A few, probably, were adults looking to change their careers or create a better future for themselves and their children, shoehorning in classes amidst work and life responsibilities. I can imagine the casual conversations over breakfast:

“Does this shirt go with these pants?”

Shall I pick up some milk on the way home?”

Or, worse, an argument over something inane that will now never be resolved.

I will never fully understand their situations, even as we learn more about them in the coming days and mourn as a nation their lost lives and potential. How stupid and petty so many things seem in the wake of such a deep loss.

And yet, life goes on, as it did after Sandy Hook, after Columbine and after Charleston. Closer to home, for me, in my quiet little college town, three young students were shot to death, execution style, at an apartment complex, maybe over parking spots and maybe over the hijab the women wore. We used to call ourselves the southern part of heaven, and somehow that rings hollow to me now.

There is no excuse, there are no words, and, yet, we need to find the words to heal, to support each other, and to collectively call for changes that will stop this epidemic of shootings at schools, at movie theaters, at apartments and all of the other commonplace areas where we would least expect tragedy.

A friend of mine who lives in Germany posted on Facebook this morning that her son does not want to go to college in this country because he is scared of getting shot.

Last month, I wrote about resilience. During this time, we need to be resilient, to support each other and to move on. However, there is a difference between being resilient and forgetting. There is a difference between moving on and ignoring. So much comes at us every day that it is easy to shield ourselves, to close our hearts and to inoculate ourselves against all of the tragedy, all of the specifics. To be resilient means to feel and to hurt, and then to find answers and solutions.

I wish that I had the answer. I don’t, but this is what I know. We need to rise up and make our voices heard. We need to say that this is not ok. We need to engage in constructive dialogue within our communities and in our nation. We need to challenge our politicians to find better answers. We need to challenge ourselves to reach out to those in need and support them. We need to vote.

It would be easy if there was one answer or one person to vote for or even one safe place to live.

There is not.

We need to be a community, we need to talk to each other, and together we must find answers, because this is not ok.

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I have always focused on the change the world part of that statement. I think maybe I’ve been missing the point. I now see that it’s about a “small group of thoughtful committed citizens” to bring change.

We need to work together. We can only do that if we are already a community. We won’t randomly join together and figure it all out. We need to create strong community so that, in times of crisis, we can turn to each other and find answers as well as solace. Margaret Mead worked globally in the world, and like her, we can look for answers across the nation and the world.

We need to be thoughtful. Throwing vitriolic statements, sound bites and trite sayings back and forth fixes nothing.   We need to find time and space in this country for thoughtful, meaningful debate; to find a way to engage in deep and meaningful conversations rather than focusing on the six words or twenty second video that will be treated as a defining moment.

We need to have faith in ourselves and in our abilities. We need to never doubt that we can find answers if we work together.

Margaret Mead is right. Without the strength of community, without thoughtful dialog, and without the belief that it is possible to effect change—which is the essence of resilience—we will continue to flounder. The events in Oregon once again show us that the cost of not changing is too high.

Be a part of the change that is needed in the world. And, to the beautiful souls that died in Oregon, may you rest in peace, may your memory be a blessing, and we are so sorry that we did not do right by you.



Break the Numbness & Get Loud: a Response to the Oregon Shooting.

I Am Tired of School Shootings. What’s it Gonna Take to Stop Them?


Author: Wendy Kuhn

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: Beverly/Flickr

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