I've struggled all weekend to come up with something to say about the school shooting last Friday in Newtown, CT. I could say something about gun control, but smarter people than I can better argue that. I could say something about mental health, but again, more intelligent people than me are already supporting that cause.
We all ask, "how did we get here?" Each shooting like this is more shocking than the last. We look around for someone to blame. Was it the mother? Society? The media? Was he bullied? Most of the time we will never know what goes on in the minds of these killers.
Since we can't understand why, our next question is how do we stop this from happening. I know many people say gun control, but we're naive to think that's the complete solution. Drugs are illegal, yet drug use is rampant in this country. People will always find a way to get what they're looking for. We have to make them stop wanting to look. How do we do that?
We live in a country so heavily fractured among racial, income and theological lines that we are actually broken. Our society is broken!
We've replaced empathy with apathy. Kindness with cruelness. Encouragement with ambition. We live in a society that says "succeed at all costs." A society where talking heads on television can openly show hostility to the President of the United States. A society where religious leaders can preach hate from the pulpit and say certain people should be put to death. A society where reality television shows glorify greed and manipulation. A society where corporate leaders are given million dollar salaries and bonuses while their workers earn minimum wage and go without healthcare. A society where people people with HIV can only afford to take their meds every other week, if at all. A society where The Westboro Baptist Church can picket soldiers funerals because "God is punishing us."
As long we accept these things, we are all part of the problem. The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, but it does not say that speech can not be held accountable and have consequences. When the Westboro Baptist Church picketed a young gay man's funeral (Matthew Shepard), a friend, Romaine Patterson, organized a group of "angels" to block them. That's what we need. They showed love and kindness in the face of hate. And it worked.
This kindness doesn't have to be at a global level. It starts locally with each one of us. To start, simply look people in the eye when you walk down the street, and smile. Say "hello." You'd be amazed how few of people are used to that. Most will probably look away, afraid you're going to bum money from them. Isn't that what we all do? We live in our lonely shells and don't let people get too close. We're afraid they might want something. They do. A connection. Even a momentary connection with another human being done in kindness can change the course of a whole day. You might even be saving lives.
"You can say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will live as one." ~ John Lennon, Imagine