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Friday, December 14, 2012

On shootings and pain and judgement

I heard about the shooting a few hours after it happened. I was at work, I was busy. Very busy. As so, at first, I was fine. I was chatting with customers, most of whom hadn't heard anything about it. I was running internet orders, I was pricing books.

But we slowed down around lunchtime, and then I got to reading and I got to thinking. I read about the prayers of my friends with children who were still in school. I read the quotes on Twitter from various political pundits about the need for a national conversation on gun control. I read commentary and then scrolled to the top of the news site to watch the death count rising. I saw the first announcements that many, many children were dead.  I felt pain. And then customers and more orders flowed in and again, I was more or less fine.

And again, as dinner time rolled in and business slowed I got back to reading. More prayers, more news, a death far away from the school in the same incident, more calls for gun control. The President cried as he spoke and Mike Huckabee explained that this was the fault of those who took God from school. As if God wasn't everywhere in everything. As if we humans could just "take him out" of a place. As if God wasn't there with every single person who walked away from the horrific scene today. The media was offering interviews with 8 year-olds who had been inside the school. I was revolted.

My work for the day was, by now, completely done. Clean store, priced books, no mail to answer. So I started really digging into the social sites I frequent. I wanted to say something to express my horror. I wanted to talk about how gun violence inside schools has killed a stunning number of children since the 1800's (you can research this at Wikipedia by typing school shootings into the search bar, but I really don't recommend you do it today). I wanted to ask my friends who love their guns so much if it's worth it to be able to shoot at animals and cans in exchange for this. I wanted to express my profound rage at Gov. Huckabee's shameful comments. But I sat there typing long, angry screeds and erasing them over and over.
Because as I was reading and typing and researching and thinking I started to notice this OTHER type of post coming up: the kind where a person would complain about how others were responding on social media to this tragedy and then criticize that response. And of everything wrong with today, this is the one thing I feel completely qualified to speak to. Everything else has overwhelmed me utterly, but this one thing, I can talk about. So I erased my comments on gun control and my comments on Mike Huckabee (well, some of those got un-erased later) and I just posted this:

Having written and erased about ten posts here, I'm just going to keep the majority of my thoughts inside and go with this:

Process your pain in the way you need to but don't judge how anyone else processes theirs. Some people need to talk a lot and loudly. Some people need to rage angrily and say things they don't mean. Some people will cry silently and hold their loved ones close. Some will curl up under a blanket and stay as still as possible. Some will celebrate their own life by being outrageously loud and happy at their own survival. Some people will simply act as if nothing is happening. They will go about their day and not say a word, not behave a hair differently than they would any other day. This is not only a normal response, it is a healthy way to process something of this scope. Sometimes the brain needs time to absorb what has happened. But please don't shame people for not acting the way you think they should. Our entire country just suffered a violent, shocking, un-endurable loss. And we are all trying to figure out how exactly we can endure that. And we're all going to do that differently.

I'm not talking about the media, shaking their microphones in the faces of 8 year old victims, and I'm definitely not talking about Mike Huckabee who is simply an appalling, opportunistic jackass masquerading as a man of God. I'm talking about all the people here and everywhere else on the internet and in our daily lives. On top of all my pain at seeing the behavior of the media and the politicians, my pain in the thought that a very troubled person killed members of his family and at least 20 children and my rage at the thought that this is what it takes for people to start yelling about gun control, I can't take seeing another post on Twitter/ tumblr/ Facebook that criticizes the way another person is behaving today. As if there is a right response, as if we all get a little card that says "in case of the mass shooting of babies, do XXX". Just let each other be, hold each other close, whatever each of us needs, let's just be that for each other today and let all the rest of it fall away for a bit.

And whatever knee-jerk reaction I have to every person who is blithely posting pictures of their cats and promoting their self-published books, I'm going to go try to follow my own advice now. For anyone reading, I'm glad you are safe. I hope your families and your friends are safe. Stay safe, stay sane and grieve in your own way. I hope we all find peace in one way or another.

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