Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grief, Survivors, and Defending Us

For two days I've felt a profound sadness. Only like usual, it wasn't the sadness I was told to feel. It came from something hidden within the stories themselves. An undertow. A sign of what our culture has become.

I'm distraught and wondering if it's possible to change the thought process of a culture. People tell me no, you can't do that. So I write this post in futility. It may not change anything. But I'm hoping it will change me. Because until yesterday I think I was part of that thought process. Part of a culture of 'survivors'. I don't want to be that now.

See, there were lots of stories floating around yesterday. Most of them seemed to hover around one theme; I survived.

I looked down the barrel of the gun.
I stood feet from the gunshots.
I looked into his eyes.
I crawled over the dead.
I never went to the theater.
I knew a victim.
I saw a story.

Do you see the pattern? Or is it just me?

In our culture we think of life like a bulls-eye. 'I' is in the center, then we spiral out in our thoughts. Family, friends, acquaintances, all the way out to the strangers on the fringes of our consideration. It’s a normal viewpoint. In fact we even talk about these spheres at Church. We call them oikos, our spheres of influence. Yet, all the while we rotate around the 'I' and we limit our own possibilities.

I could easily jump on the gun-laws bandwagon today. Because I have and always will have a MacGyver-ish hatred of guns. I want to dismantle them, destroy them, and toss them aside. They are made for one thing, to kill. Yet most of our 'food' isn't killed by guns. People are killed by guns. At an alarming rate. But I've hated guns for far too long to believe that one incident will change things. It won't. So what will?

Well, here’s the image I got when reading firsthand accounts... It won't be popular. But understand that my standpoint is one of the crowd. I too would have tried to survive. It's natural and I would have had no other plan. I would be victim to my survivor instinct.

What I see now is this. I wish that we could stand up as a collective and say, we're not going to accept this. We are not going to live in fear or let our children live in fear. We are going to take back the moments of our lives. Fight for them. Protect them. We will not sit back and wait for someone to make it safe. We will make it safe for each other.

What if we didn't think like survivors? What if we thought like martyrs instead? Not the suicide bomber kind, but the 'I' on the fringes kind. The ‘how can I make this better?’ kind.

What if six people in the front of that theater had rushed that gunman? He couldn't shoot them all at once. Yes, it would be suicide. Some would die. But how many? Six people could have taken him down. People would still die. No one can stop someone from killing when they set their mind to killing. But would he be our focus in the end? No. His name would be nothing. Because the names of those six would be on our lips. His thunder would be silenced.

Think about that. Six people who said, 'this is wrong, we cannot let it happen.' Six people who decided in a split second, 'today is a good day to defend us all.'

Would that have been me? No.

Will it be me in the future? I can't say yes. But I hope the chances are better now than they were two days ago.

I understand there was confusion. No one could have prevented death that night. It was certain to happen. But perhaps a daughter would still be here. Maybe a father or a son could have gone home to their families. Maybe a few more people could have given up the title of victim.

You can only become a survivor by first accepting to be a victim. I don't want to be a victim. I don't want to say 'this is wrong' and run away. I want to say 'this is wrong' and run forward. I want something inside me to fight against atrocities.

I have children. I've known since the day they were born that my compass swing changed. Little magnets were placed on my casing and now I always point to them first. I would survive for them. But would I die for them? Of course I would directly. But what about not directly, but indirectly? Not closest to my oikos, but on the fringes?

If I survived I would come home to hold my children close. I would cry and thank God for every day. Yet I would have done nothing to insure their tomorrows. They would have me, but where would their assurance in society be? Torn to shreds. Because I would have shown them that they are not safe. This world is not safe. And no one will protect them.

What if I didn't come home though, but I was one of the six who stopped a wrong that was being committed? That is what I would want to teach them. That is the world I would want to leave for them.

We have become complacent. We see strength as 'living through'. But is that all we’re made of?

I thought about it. About being the first one to charge him. The first one to die as they tackled him. Because surely you would. But maybe as you fell, another would rise, and another.

We are waiting for laws to protect us.

They won't.

We are waiting for the government to save us.

It can't.

We are waiting for the world to get better.

Forgetting that we are the world.

Society has been replaced by Twitter and Facebook. Faces, ideas, names, people we almost know. But are we really connected? Would we stand up and take a bullet in defense of those ideas? Would we stop a wrong if it was happening before our eyes? Or would we just Tweet about how wrong it was? Because tweeting is great. It's a way to connect, share, know and understand. But it won't stop a bullet.

Maybe the strongest statement should come when one tweeter is silenced.

I hesitated writing this. My views could be taken wrong. I feel pain for all the victims and the survivors. We are all one or the other. It is how we live. It is our society. I am one of them.

What I wish we could learn is something much tougher to expect than laws changing though. We need to learn as a society how to stop being victims and survivors. We have strength in ourselves to stand up and say 'you can't make me take this, you can't use me to become your showcase, your symbol, your statement.' We are Americans. Born of a desire to defend, our rights, our liberties, our people. Let's start defending. Right here, at home, amongst friends strangers and countrymen.

I will. If I am there, I will charge him for you. For your children and mine. Will you follow me?

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