A long, dark night

My head is spinning. I’ve tried to get to sleep several times and I keep thinking about all the comments I’ve read about the Connecticut tragedy. Many are calling for stricter gun laws. Many are asking “Why?”  They are shouting at elected officials to  “do something!” Do what? The shooter is dead. The shooter’s mother is dead. We aren’t going to get answers to why because the only person who knows is dead. His mother probably couldn’t answer even if she wasn’t dead. This isn’t a movie, where everything is tidied up in the end. Life isn’t TV, or a movie or a YouTube video. Life is messy and painful and full of questions no one can answer.

Shouting and shaking our fists at the government doesn’t help the families who are shattered. They are dealing with the kind of loss most of us cannot imagine. They are staggering, their hearts ripped from their chests, still beating. How can we help them? How can we show them that while we can’t feel what they feel, we can empathize? I wonder how long it will take the strongest of them to begin the long road back to their lives. How long will it take them to get up and go to work without collapsing midday? Will their colleagues understand and let them go home without resentment? Will their boss understand and keep signing a paycheck? Will their neighbors and friends understand and forgive them?

Some of these parents and family members will, after a very long time, be able to work full days, care for their other children and partners, make dinner, and do the laundry. Some of them will begin to focus on their lives and work to make it meaningful again. Some, I fear, will not and their lives will become a very long night of anguish.

Knowing this, what possible law could help? We cannot legislate morality, empathy or common sense. The shooter’s mother registered her guns, took her son to the shooting range and apparently tried to be a responsible gun owner. I don’t know how responsible it is to teach a disabled person to shoot-maybe she thought he wouldn’t be a victim if he could defend himself. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this country think defending yourself requires a gun. It didn’t work out that way, did it? I don’t know what was in her mind, and we won’t ever find out. Still, what law could have changed what happened? She would simply have done whatever the law required for her to own a gun, and the boy would still have had access.  At the same time, I think stricter gun laws is a good idea, and long overdue. There’s no reason to give unbalanced people access to weapons that can take so many lives so quickly. The NRA has bought too many government officials, had things their way for too long regarding gun control. Make owning guns more difficult. Make owning illegal guns even more difficult.

Still, I don’t believe there is any blanket solution to the problem of violence. Any change we make we must make individually. Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Yes, we want to see a change, right now, this minute. It doesn’t happen that way. True change is slow, and starts with individuals. As individuals, we must do the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Sure, let’s do something about gun control. But don’t stop there. We must look at the environment that creates a lost soul like Adam Lanza. Fractured families, isolation, lack of community, and meaningless lives are all part of the problem. We can’t fix them all with a law. We have to start individually, in our own lives, in our families, our communities. Otherwise we will all be trapped in this dark night of anguish.

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