Tuesday, 18 December 2012

In the face of evil

I was on holiday in Greece at the time of the Columbine High School murders.  I read a paragraph or two about that massacre in an English language newspaper for tourists, but it all seemed so remote, so far away.

I was flying from Tampa to Denver when the news first broke about the slaughters of the innocents in Newtown CT. A passenger in the row before me had paid to use the in-flight T.V., and as he flipped channels I heard no more than “killings in Connecticut”.  And that was all I knew until Sunday morning, when I read about this horror as I went on line to print a boarding pass.

Back in my hotel room in Tampa I switched on CNN and began to get more of the story.  I had a sense of irritation with CNN and the scores of other T.V. stations who had their vans, their cameras, and their reporters in that small town.  I thought that such a huge presence was less than helpful and more than harmful to the residents of Newtown in their awful grief.

“If only” the television media moguls could agree to “pool” their reportage of such tragedies so that (say) no more than three broadcasters and their accouterments were assigned to places of tragedy, disaster and evil.

At home again on Monday my Facebook page was flooded with comments.  I was glad that I had been “Facebook-less” for a few days, and that I had not been tempted to add my two cents worth.

I noted two comments from friends which I believe are worth reading. My guess is that both authors are “sorta centrist” in their politics.  They are each in their mid to late twenties.

I knew S.S. as a worshipper at St. James’s, Cambridge, MA when he was a student at Harvard College.

M.S. was a member of St. Stephen’s Parish, Pittsfield, MA. I knew him as a young child, and as a teenager.

How unloved must one feel to be driven to such evil? We may never know what was raging within his mind and soul, but I think our biggest failing was in allowing one among us to slip through the cracks and fall to such depths of despair. We never know what those around us may be silently struggling through - we must *genuinely* love our neighbors, our brothers, our sons, and our selves, to nurture respect for the dignity of human life.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that, when some sort of a tragedy or a major incident/situation/event occurs, I need to write in order to find some sort of psychological and spiritual release. The recent catastrophe that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut -- a small New England town that provides flashbacks to my upbringing in Massachusetts -- would certainly justify an appropriate circumstance for me -- and many others -- to write and reflect upon in order to attempt to physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually process what exactly happened and to attempt to make some sort of sense out of everything.

This is highlighted on the heels of a very powerful, emotional, and appropriate interfaith memorial service remembering those children, educators, and a mother that have been murdered, and also for those law enforcement, fire department, emergency medical services, and other public safety personnel that fought through the numbness and indescribable grief in order to do what they needed to do (or were brave enough to admit when they couldn't). 

I've been reading some comments and cheap political shots about how the United States is a "Godless country." Quite bluntly, I am engaged by this pompous arrogance, and I would appreciate an explanation about how this is an accurate and realistic portrayal of our nation. Is it because of who we elect as President? Is it because we were founded and mandated as a country to be tolerant and "politically correct"? Our country was NOT perfect, and is NOT perfect, but we have come A LONG WAYS in over two hundred years in regards to individuality, community, and society. 

Do you want to know where God is in this country?? God was present when we said that no, people can't be enslaved to other people as property. No, people can't be denied basic HUMAN rights and dignity because of the color of their skin, how old they are, who/what they choose to worship/believe in or not worship/believe in, what private and personal choices they decide to make, and who they love. 

God has been present in every tragedy, situation, disaster, and incident that this country has endured, suffered through, and prevailed throughout its history in and through God's people -- be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Democratic, Republican, Independent, EVERYONE! 

God has been present in all of the "signs and symptoms" that God reveals to everyone, everyday. It is OUR responsibility to recognize, decipher, interpret, and utilize them in the service to our human community. In the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, a community that I and others on here can relate to because I/we grew up and experienced communities just like it, perhaps God has revealed a costly consequence of not discovering the "signs and symptoms" when we are indoctrinated to the ignorant concept that psychology, psychiatry, social work, and criminology are "quack professions" for only overly-dramatic people that just need to stop being babies and grow up and take responsibility for themselves. Are there overly-dramatic people out there? Of course there are, but for every five of these type of attention-seekers, there are at least one or two or three or more of people that genuinely and quite simply just need professional and qualified help. When we stereotype and generalize ALL people, we FAIL. 

God is also present in good people from ALL walks of life that own firearms, are educated well in them, and use them responsibly and with respect. We have been given numerous "signs and symptoms" -- the most recent have involved the innocent blood of children -- that perhaps we need to sit down and communicate with individuals from all political spectrums on how to approach firearm violence prevention without infringing on the fundamental rights under the Second Amendment. There is a way, and I know we can figure it out. We are Americans after all.

These are just a few examples of why we are NOT, and NEVER WILL BE, a "Godless country." The President, along with Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Atheists, Agnostics, Lutherans, the Jewish, Muslims, Congregationalists, the Baha'i, politicians, children, educators, friends, acquaintances, parents, and loved ones from ALL demographics reminded us of that common sense FACT tonight. 

For all the "Mike Huckabees" out there: grow up, open your eyes, and remember that you live in one of the most tolerant, compassionate, and diverse places in the world. Remember that....always...."We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..." This stems from a concept that was not originally embraced by everyone in our country, including our Founders and other historical figures; but, through compromise, civility, well-intentioned debate, "agreeing to disagree," and mutual respect and friendship for each other, this concept was eventually ratified as our Constitution. Those that sit in the chairs once occupied by our Founders and some of the greatest minds in history (from ALL political ideologies) should do well to reflect on this. The future of our country depends on it.


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