I had a pact with myself to blog, blog, blog–books, books, holiday books, usual ramblings–beginning this weekend, but the events Friday just made blogging seem meaningless. In fact, after finding out about what happened in Connecticut (no link required), I have made a concerted effort to avoid all media–social media especially–and spend each precious moment I can with my friends and family.
It isn’t important to me to know every detail of what happened. The fact that it happened is all that concerns me. I don’t need any further “updates”, and most of all, I don’t need–or want–to hear each one of my “friends” opinions on why this happened, how it could have been avoided, how angry they are, and why their point of view is educated/superior/backed by statistics/correct. Everyone in the world, it seems, needs to weigh in on this. Everyone knows, with clarity, what is right.
I don’t know what is right, but as usual, there are a few disparate quotes floating around my head.
The first quote is one of many featured here. “I need feminism because my university teaches ‘How to Avoid Getting Raped’ instead of ‘Don’t Rape’ at freshman orientation.” Likewise, as a culture do we spend more time on the message “How to Avoid Getting Killed” than on the message “Don’t Kill”? As a nation, do we accept violence so much that our only viable way to secure our safety is to live our lives in fear, behind locked doors and bullet-proof glass, weapons at the ready? Is this what we call freedom?
The second quote is from Azar Nafisi, writing about her experiences with various political movements during the sixties and seventies in Iran.
My family had always looked down on politics, with a certain rebellious condescension. They prided themselves on the fact that as far back as eight hundred years ago–fourteen generations, my mother would proudly emphasize–the Nafisis were known for their contributions to literature and science. The men were called hakims, men of knowledge, and later in the century, the Nafisi women had gone to universities and taught at a time when few women dared leave home. When my father became the mayor of Tehran, instead of celebration there was a sense of unease in the family. My younger uncles, who at the time were university students, refused to acknowledge my father as their brother. Later, when my father fell out of favor, my parents managed to make us feel more proud of his term in jail than we had ever been when he was mayor.
The relevance of this? It is always something I go back to when I feel pressured to have a political response to a human situation. A cop-out, some would say, but political solutions are not always the answer to cultural problems–human problems. Is it wrong for me not to have a political response, but a human one?–Disbelief? Grief? Is it wrong for me to look for answers someplace else?
In this time of so much anger and vengeance, and opinions and calls for action, all I feel is sad–the kind of sad when your heart feels as though it is stuck in your throat and you might choke on it. I feel sad for parents who have lost their children, for children who have lost their parents, for all those who have ever lost anyone, anywhere, anytime, in any circumstance. But after sadness, we must move on, (obviously much easier for me to say when my children are upstairs sleeping in their beds right now, without a clue that the possibility of such violence exists in our world) and how we chose to move on is where I take my stand. Do we move on with fear and hatred in our hearts–for the man who did this, for his parents, for his family, for politicians we don’t agree with, for Facebook friends who don’t agree with our political responses (or lack there of)? Or do we move forward with compassion and understanding? Do we say to ourselves–today I am going to put myself in someone elses shoes; I am going to think like they think, to feel like they feel, to give merit to their ideas and biases, to feel the possibilities of life?
The last quote is from my daughter’s second-grade teacher:
I am sure you are all holding your children even closer this weekend in light of the terrible events in Connecticut. As a parent and a teacher, I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than such violence befalling children at the place where we hope for them to come every day with a spirit of trust and openness to the world and its experiences, growing toward the future. I hope that our children can be spared any awareness, the images and fears, which are surrounding the shooting, and that school can remain a safe and loving place for them. I am also aware, however, of how bits might trickle down, that the tragedy lives in the ether of which these children are so attuned, and that our work together involves facing hardship and working our way through them into the light. My colleagues and I are in conversations about how best to address the Newtown school tragedy with the school. At this point, the high school and grades 6-8 will address it in small groups tomorrow morning, following the regular assembly. For the younger children, we want to steer clear of the details but be open to what is living with them. I will be thinking more deeply on my approach this evening, but invite input from each of you, beginning with knowing whether or not your child is already aware of the events and/or how they have been discussed in your home. I am developing a therapeutic story, should the need arise, which will contain a character that, through sadness and confusion, acts cruelly and harms others. The focus will be on the other characters in the story, who choose to be helpers to those hurt, countering the pernicious gesture with a benevolent one. These would be the only elements which reflect current events, so there would be no straightforward addressing of them done in the classroom. Together, we can lovingly guide our children through this difficult time.
I feel lucky that my daughter is going to wake up tomorrow and go to a school without metal detectors, buzzers, lock-downs, or “intruder drills.” I feel lucky that she is being given the message, “Don’t Kill”, not the message “How Not to Get Killed”. I feel lucky to be alive and able to listen to this tender feeling that tells me to stay away from Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest, and instead to revel in my family, my friends and their physicality. This-this small action, this real connection–does not feel like an escape to me. It feels, quite frankly, like part of the solution.