I’ve been staring at this post for several hours, trying to decide whether or not to put it up for your reading. Since you’re seeing this, you know my decision.
I’ve been hesitating because the rawness of the most recent school shooting still hovers in the air. The horror and sadness are palpable, not just for those in Lancaster County, PA, but for a nation that’s beginning to comprehend that vengeance, bullying, and social dissaffection are having violent consequences beyond what we can ever control with school resource officers and metal detectors.
I’ve been hesitating because I know that what I wrote below will be uncomfortable for some of you. Maybe even make you angry. I don’t usually hesitate to speak my truth but find myself doing so this time, as I search for the right words to convey myself in a way that can reach your heart before resistance sets in.
I’m not the first person to notice the frequency with which friends and neighbors of killers have said, as someone just did on CNN, “He was so mild mannered” or “He seemed so nice, not the kind of person who would do something like this.”
What is the kind of person who would do something like this? A person like you and me.
This is not to say that there are no psychologically aberrant individuals. But it is to say that we all carry the capacity to go over the edge. Most of us don’t. A few of us do.
We make ourselves feel better by separating ourselves from the people who went over the edge. We say, he was nice, but there must have been something terribly wrong with him that I didn’t notice. I must have been living next door to a monster in disguise. Thank goodness my loved ones aren’t like that.
By separating ourselves from the people who went over the edge, we make ourselves feel better, but we do little to address some of the fundamental problems that contributed (perhaps not caused, but contributed) to their unraveling.
By separating ourselves, we put the responsibility to “fix it” on people whose job it is to manage those we’ve labeled aberrant. People like law enforcement officers, school superintendents, and psychiatrists.
By separating ourselves, we allow ourselves the luxury of not being responsible for what it may really take to address the problem of violence by people who have been shoved aside, disenfranchised or bullied. We permit ourselves freedom we can afford less and less with each new school shooting. Or workplace shooting. Or neighbor-on-neighbor violence.
The hard and courageous act may be the one where we stop separating ourselves to create false comfort in our lives. The act where we say to ourselves and those around us, there, but for the grace of my particular God, go I. The act where we say, what can we do to build more school, home and work environments where children and adults learn to stop dismissing and separating ourselves from those who are different or act differently, where real dialogue is valued, and where another metal detector doesn’t become the latest temporary Band-Aid. The act where we say, how can I better hear the cries of people before they go over the edge, the cries of the equal humans next door?
Joining you in our national grief,