Anger, grief and love. Feelings (not thoughts!) on a tragedy

It’s a dangerous time to have a thought.

In the aftermath of a tragedy, for whatever thought you have, there are plenty of people willing to tell you that it is wrong. So everyone who has offered today that the shooting in Newtown was because there is too easy access to assault rifles or because teachers weren’t armed, or because of mental health or that we shouldn’t just focus on rich white kids or what about the Syrians or what about abortions or why can’t we be more like Australia – all of those people have been shouted at by someone. Which is why unless I am around someone I know will assume I mean well, I don’t share my opinions after tragedies.

The internet is not a place where people assume you mean well. I’m not sure I have any thoughts right now. My intellect, where my thoughts reside, faded into the background as my heart and guts took over my response. I may not have thoughts, but I have feelings (though they too may be wrong).

I should have felt fear, or at least worry. But I know somewhere deep and unfortunate inside of me that we’re never really safe. Terror shows up where you don’t expect it, people you love or people you don’t do terrible things, if someone wants to hurt you they will. That conviction has settled over me like dust, coating my heart so that apprehension can’t quite make its way in.

Maybe I’d feel fear if it were closer. Maybe I’d feel fear if I had kids. Yeah, that feeling (or lack thereof) is probably wrong, just like all my thoughts.

You’d say you feel sadness, but it’s deeper than sadness, a weariness that comes when you feel like you’ve seen it all before. When things like this happen we shouldn’t use the word “another”. There shouldn’t be “another” school shooting, or another massacre of children.

Everyone I talked to felt anger. What kind of monster wears a bulletproof vest and carries assault rifles to the ultimate “soft target” (a term I wish I hadn’t learned today)? Even the anger has a surreal quality, because no one really wants to believe this could have been malicious. He must have been mentally ill. He must have had a psychotic break. There MUST be some explanation, because our frail hearts cannot comprehend that someone would do this with all their faculties.

After the attacks on 9/11 I immediately felt a longing for God, but not just for God’s consolation. I understood the hope in the Second Coming. Sometimes I think (though if I’ve learned anything today, it’s that thinking is dangerous business) that the eschaton is our only hope now, as tragedies pile up around us.

Another feeling that’s probably wrong is guilt. But when someone does something terrible, we are confronted not just with the actions of an evil person but the wages of a broken world. And I can’t help but wonder: in what ways have my small evils contributed to the larger one that manifested in Newtown today. My brain knows that the blame lies solely with the perpetrator. But my heart says the world might not be quite so cruel if I had never been cruel myself.

Perhaps all of these mixed together are grief. How do we grieve for people we don’t know? Do we, really? Or do we grieve for the world that has shifted under us? Do we grieve the myth of safety? Do we grieve the possibility that the world might right itself? Do we grieve the ignorance we had before we knew another horror? And all the while trying to pay respect to children. Defenseless children.

The part I really don’t understand is that behind it all is love, damn it, the one emotion that doesn’t make any sense when the world is black. But somehow, it’s the only emotion that makes sense. I love you, Newtown, I love you, children. I love perpetrators and victims, I love the people who mourn both far and near. I love you, amazing, broken world, and lament that I cannot love you back into wholeness.

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9 Responses to Anger, grief and love. Feelings (not thoughts!) on a tragedy

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