This morning, the local NPR station devoted an hour to the psychological effects of a campus shooting. Four years ago, there was a shooting on the Case campus in which one person died, so they had members of the Case counseling staff talk about how they helped affected people cope on and with that day.
The first caller I heard on the program did exactly what I knew someone was going to do: he said that the tragedy would have been much more limited in scope if others had been armed, if students and faculty and ordinary citizens routinely carried concealed weapons. The very next caller, inevitably, put forth the view that stricter gun controls would prevent such tragedies from ever happening.
In both cases, the host cut the calls short, saying that the goal was to talk about the psychological effects of campus shootings, not start a debate on gun control. But that’s exactly what was happening. Those people were trying to mitigate their personal sense of horror by focusing on ways to fix some underlying problem, to prevent such things from ever happening again. They were trying to make the unthinkable thinkable.
It’s understandable. We’re a results-oriented, can-do-focused society. And by locking our attention on what we fervently believe to be solutions, we can shut out the grief that we feel for strangers miles and miles away, ignore the horror and anger that wells inside us.
So far as I know, nobody I know has even a tenuous connection to the events in Virginia. But all I can think of is the parents, children, spouses, and relatives who will never see their loved ones again. In my throat, I feel a faint shadow of the freezing, nauseating grip of despair and anguish they are experiencing. Behind my eyes, there is an echo of the ache of tears that will not come because shock has stopped them cold. In my guts, there is a small tear that mimics the gaping, ragged void that must be felt by a parent whose child is suddenly dead.
These dead are not my dead… but they are all our dead.
Some other day, perhaps, it will be a time to think about and discuss ways to fix whatever problems lead to or permit such horrors. Perhaps. Today I mourn those who died and the death of all their hopes and plans. I grieve for those left behind to cope with a shattering new reality. It is not what we’re taught to do, but it is the most human thing any of us can do. We forget that too easily.
It is no solution, but for me, this is not a day for solutions. It’s a day of sorrow.