I hope you’ve had a good week, I’ve been busy, with fall projects in full swing, and deep in writing mode.
I was in New York to see my daughters last weekend, and was shocked to read a cover story on the New York Times, written by Mitch Smith. Whatever one’s beliefs, religious convictions, or none, or political interests or not, or affiliations, from a purely human point of view, the article was shocking in the simplicity and direct hit of facts it listed. It stunned me into silence, no morning chit chat is possible with an article like that in hand. The list of tragic facts was chilling, and has weighed on me since I read it. The subject is not new to any of us, but the increase in violence this summer is heart breaking, and deserves a great deal of thought, and some comment.
The article informed us that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, almost exactly 3 months, there were 26 mass shootings in the US. 126 people died and dozens more were injured. If you average it out, that’s approximately one mass shooting every three days. The victims ranged in age from 3 to 90 years old. And I read somewhere else that the shooters ranged from 14 to someone in their 60’s. The article also stated that “in three out of four of the deadliest killings, military style weapons were used.” And “all of the suspects were male”, in each case the authorities identified a suspect. (And I believe that in several cases, the killers killed themselves after shooting their victims, and in more than half the mass killings, the shooter killed a family member or previous love interest, so there was a personal element as well, while innocent victims got caught in the cross fire and were killed too).
Twenty six mass shootings this summer. One every three days. The shootings are unpredictable, they happen in churches, in schools, on the street, in public places, in homes. Some seem meticulously planned, others appear to be an instantaneous loss of control or sanity, and they then kill innocent victims. Terrorism entered our lives with 9/11, political in goal and intent, the American public became the victims of a previously unseen enemy on their own turf. Eighteen years later, buying groceries has become high risk, going to a sports event or a concert perhaps unwise, just walking down the street, or going shopping can lead to one’s death. There is no way to predict who is safe and who isn’t. We’ve heard teenagers address us after their schools were attacked, we’ve seen the bodies of kindergartners covered with tarps after a rampage at their school. The weapons are an issue, but there is so much more involved here. In fact, none of us are safe. It could happen to you or me, or our children, or any of our loved ones, today, or three days from now, in the next killing spree. What has happened to us—-both to the shooters and the rest of us? As we stand by, and watch disturbed individuals shatter lives and families. How have we degenerated to such a degree that 26 mass shootings in a 3 month summer is something we live with, accept, and know will happen again tomorrow and the next day.
There is indeed terrorism in Europe, it’s almost always political. But what’s happening in the US has a different feel to it—there is a random quality to it, it is expected and almost casual. We go on after each killing and nothing changes. And we know it will happen again. People in Europe talk about how dangerous the US has become, and living in both places, I have to agree. I try to stay out of the obviously dangerous places where terrorists might strike in Europe, big gathering places: sports stadiums, movie houses, night clubs, I stopped going to big churches for a while, and only went to small neighbourhood ones. Terrorism has impacted all of us when we travel, as we stand on long security lines at the airport waiting to be searched. But the violence we live with now is more of an everyday occurrence. We are in danger when we walk down the street, when we buy a loaf of bread, when we stop in a supermarket to buy a magazine, in a small store or a big one, we can be killed anywhere, or the child we love whose hand we are holding. Children have drills now to prepare them if someone enters their school to kill them. We’ve all seen it and read about it.
The reality of the situation is overwhelming. Truly. The faces of the dead in the newspapers are all too real. Religious people pray about it, politicians talk about it, frightened parents talk to each other and hope their children won’t be the next victims. New laws are discussed, and old ones are supported. Both sides of the political argument cancel each other’s voices out, and no solution comes. What are we going to DO about it? Are we going to do anything? Will we and our children ever be safe again on our streets and in our grocery stores, at the post office, or in an airport. Where are we safe now? And will we ever be again?
In Smith’s article, Rev Renard D. Allen jr, a pastor in Dayton Ohio is quoted as saying, “The world we live in now is one in which no place is safe, no lives really matter, when it comes to violence.” that’s a damning statement for and about all of us.
I think we all have some serious thinking to do about how to change our world, how to be safe, how to protect ourselves and our loved ones, how to change what has become so commonplace and made it the deadliest summer. We will need wisdom, courage, patience and strength to make the changes that will make us safe again. We need to be fully awake to the dangers we live with now every single day. And I pray that a summer like this will never happen again.
Have a safe week,