Sunday, December 16, 2012
Making Sense of a Senseless Act
Yesterday, I didn't turn on the television until late afternoon after being glued to CNN on Friday after I came back from running a few errands. I was at the laundromat washing my couch slip cover and cushion covers when the woman next to me put her hands over her mouth and muffled, "Oh, my God." Of course, the women closest to her, including me looked at her to see what was the matter and she pointed at the television set. I remember the time was nearly eleven o'clock. I made a mental note that I'd forgotten to add fabric softener to the industrial machine, but couldn't stay away from the television. Not much was known at that point.
The three women and myself at the laundromat wrestled to process and fathom how a human being could take the lives of children, any one really, but especially children. Through our brief conversations, we found out that we were all mothers and two were grandmothers. We had tears in our eyes and the eldest woman turned away, she couldn't watch anymore. She reminded me of my grandmother and how she flew back to Puerto Rico when it was clear that my mother was dying in the hospital. That stunned me, but I also understood what my grandmother was saying, she couldn't buy another daughter. I was a mother, I understood, but would be lying if I said that I didn't want her with me during that horrible time. I couldn't judge her. I hadn't walked in her shoes. Maybe the older woman at the laundromat had lost children and grandchildren, as well?
I gathered my laundry, said prayers on my drive home, and immediately turned on the television. As the night progressed, I became annoyed and surprised that parents would allow their children, students at Sandy Hook to be interviewed instead of rushing home and circling the wagons in safety. I caught my annoyance and reprimanded myself. I didn't know the circumstances, the parent did what he or she thought was right. Not the time or place to judge, I thought. She knows her child. Maybe her child needs to speak to process and heal?
Anderson Cooper was on and he said that the station had decided not to mention the shooter's name any more than necessary. I agreed with that. Then, the gun lobbyists and anti-gun folks came on the air, arguing back and forth. President Obama spoke and spoke about "meaningful" changes that had to be made. I agree with that.
After awhile, I decided to check Facebook and friends and family were posting status updates on gun control, Autism, sharing prayer requests and news links as more information became available. I shared a prayer for the children, their families and for the staff of Sandy Hook. I understood people's anger and frustration about guns getting into the wrong hands, but I felt that maybe it wasn't the time to argue about guns. Twenty precious children and six staff of Sandy Hook had been gunned down. But, then I thought...if not now, when?
Were we being disrespectful by talking about guns, mental illness, the shooter and his family and not focusing on the issue at hand - the death of innocent children and adults? I could understand people's anger and frustration, I was angry and frustrated, as well. How could this happen?
I believe most people want to do the right thing in difficult situations, but we can only express what we express because of our life's experiences. Who's to say what's right, appropriate and sensitive? We all process information and grieve in myriad ways. Who's to say what's right and what's wrong in any given situation? It's human nature to judge other's actions, thoughts and beliefs and I believe most people want to do the right thing.
"She shouldn't have said that!" "Why did he do that?" We try to make sense of other's actions and without all the facts, we'll probably miss the mark. We may never know why that young man did what he did. Some people blamed the press, his mother, others blamed our society, many blamed guns, a few said our President wasn't really crying, only looking for sympathy votes. A few said they were appalled and outraged that people were posting updates on Facebook yet they themselves had just posted on Facebook.
We are all trying to make sense of a senseless act - in our own way. With the life experiences we'd had. We all filter life and what life throws us through our own lenses. I finally posted something that has bothered me since 2010 - how children fall through the cracks in our schools in this country. How bullying can affect some children. How children can check out of residential treatment centers at 18 years of age in Maryland with severe behavioral, emotional, and mental issues. I could put two and two together because I'd seen it; I worked in one such center. I took it even further - what if these children couldn't afford the meds they really need and got a hold of a gun? It made sense to me.
Another person could read my status update and think, "How could she post that?" "How insensitive in light of what just happened!" Well, if you've never worked in a residential treatment center, you might not have share my opinion. It won't make sense to you. I thought of parents with children with emotional issues, mental issues. Their views would be completely different than my own. Perhaps, a parent saved his family because he had a gun when an intruder entered their family home. The world looks completely different from where we stand.
We're grieving those senseless and brutal deaths. The more information that comes forth, the more vivid my mental images are - of their last moments, their last breaths. As a parent, it's unfathomable to me. The parents and family's grief isn't anything I can ever know as I've never lost a child.
People immediately had negative comments about Emilie's father on the news last night speaking about his beautiful six year old daughter. Who are they to judge? We all grieve in many different ways. He's doing what he feels he needs to do. Full stop.
Is there a right and a wrong way to grieve and process information? Not in my book. We're all doing what we can in our own way with life has given us.
Peace and love,