Awash in national grief and a strain of simple shame we search for words to describe what happened in Euvaldi, Texas and Buffalo a short week ago. The actual reality of wholly innocent children at that age along with their caretakers and people simply picking up groceries for self and family dying by gunfire is nearly too painful an image to call up. That said, like it or not, bearable or not, thanks to the media we are all witnesses.
We are in a cycle as a nation for which we are all, in parts and pieces, morally culpable. Even the news commentators seem at a loss for words to help describe the insanity, realizing they too are trapped in a deadly repeating pattern that has become actually commercial. They know the networks would never suspend the snappy car insurance commercials, and cures for skin disorders out of respect for the gravity of what is going on. Quite correctly we almost choke now on the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ are with you. Perhaps the cringe reflex is appropriate. We are being disingenuous with ourselves and the victims. At this writing we were less than 24 hours from the horrifying event and people are already plotting to using this event for political advantage. We appear as a nation no longer capable of truly grieving these deaths but rather seem to have adopted a simple rolling strategy of ‘moving on’. We are relying on the media, our storyteller, to help us leap over the grief by providing a more distracting less chilling tragedy next week. The issue of guns is like all the issues of importance that appear to be escalating these days. The issue is complex. What we have here with guns is a massive, fully documented, complex, pubic health crisis.
Nicholas Kristof published an opinion piece on May 25 in the New York Times called; How to Reduce Shootings. It was a reprint of an article he had published in 2017 but because our nation had made so little progress on this tragic matter and in fact had lost ground, the article was still completely relevant. Kristof provides timelines on how we have over time reduced traffic deaths radically and shows how a multifaceted approach could have the same effect with guns. He describes numerous approaches, none of which include apocalyptic fantasies of gun confiscation or the magical thinking of eliminating guns. His suggestions are well thought out rational, fact-based, and feasible. Some examples include enhanced background checks, enhancing protections orders, banning gun sales to individuals under 21, promoting safe storage of guns, monitoring unusual volumes of gun purchases, banning bump stocks, researching ‘smart guns’ and more. If people who want to act on the gun problem can’t find some way to support and promote one of more of these projects I would be surprised.
If love is the most powerful force on earth, I suggest grief is the second most powerful. I experience love and grief as the partner architects in the creation of all that is good about the human species. I think we want to protect ourselves from the searing pain that flows out of these events. Liberal, Conservative, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we are all human and therefore subject to the painfully transforming energy of grief. John W. James and Russell Friedman wrote a very helpful book called The Grief Recovery Handbook; Unresolved grief is always about undelivered emotional communications that accrue within a relationship over the course of time. Our nation is unresolved because we refuse to take in and communicate the true emotional cost of these events. Our national debt to grief is becoming overwhelming. The task will be difficult but the capacity of do the long term work can begin by absorbing the true cost of what really has happened in Buffalo and Euvaldi. The internalizing of the cost of Euvaldi and Buffalo can also be called “witnessing” which is so much more than watching.