I participated in an act of faith today.
I took my babies (and the baby of another family) to school.
I walked them in, tears welling with every step, making sure that I smiled and told them I loved them (yes, your baby, too, my friends) and that I hoped they have good days and work hard. I used the excuse that I was bringing cookies for the office staff (which I do every year), but the real reason was that I needed to hold on to them for a few minutes longer. I needed to be silly for them and be the mom that I wish I always was and often fail to be.
And I needed to hug their principal. She needed to hug me, too, and so we stood there in her crowded office and hugged and every single adult in the room--in the building--knew what complex emotions were in that hug.
We all knew, the adults, what we were all thinking. I met the eyes of other parents who smiled ruefully at me: this is what we have to do. I met the eyes of the teachers and staff who smiled at me in the same way. This is what we have to do.
We can't forget what happened, those lives lost. We can't forget the fear and horror that struck us when we saw the first bulletin and then the slow grind toward a sort of numb hopelessness as we realized what it was that had happened and that drove many of us (like me) to drive to our kids' schools and pick them up and wish that we could pick ALL of them up. But we have to go on.
Forgive me for what I'm about to say. Forgive me, but this tragedy, those dead teachers and administrators and children, they are worse than 9/11 for me. Because this is an unexplained thing. The enemy here was a United States citizen, subject to the laws that allowed him to take his mother's guns and kill her and twenty-seven other people. We can't go charging off into another country and bomb a few terror cells and say, "We're winning this thing." We can't address this incident from a legal standpoint at all without considering our Constitution and how it applies to law-abiding citizens, the mentally ill, our sweet babies. This is harder than 9/11 because we are the enemy and the things that we hold sacred are, perhaps, partly to blame for our war.
All of that stuff...gun control, care for the mentally ill, hate crime and hate speech laws, the right of free expression of religion...it has to be discussed now. It has to be hammered out and thought about and pared down into the best tool for all of us to use and the discussions and debates that will follow will be awful and difficult and long-winded.
But...we have to go on. We MUST do something different, and our laws must follow this different direction. That seems only logical. We have to do it. The question is whether or not we have to guts to do so.
This discussion can't exist within the parameters of one religious faith or one interpretation of the Constitution or one ideology regarding weaponry. It must encompass all of us because all of us are affected by it. And so it must be done in a different way. And THAT, more than words about gun control or God in school or mental health care--that must be where we start.
If we are to go on, we simply must do a better job of being fellow citizens. We must do a better job of being fellow human beings. We have failed each other for decades in the way we talk to each other, in the way we judge each other. We don't stand up for each other. We don't stand up for ourselves in a way that teaches our fellow citizens that we love them enough not to accept anything other than their very best.
We expect people to be jerks when we disagree with them and when they are, we just grind that knowledge into their faces. We expect them not to know as much as we know and we punish them for their ignorance. We look at their clothes or their jewelry or their tattoos or their hairstyles and we make those things mean everything about our neighbors. We revel in the accolades of people who believe exactly the way that we do when we lay zingers on those that don't share our opinions, as if the sting means more than the balm.
Much has been said about how the Winter Solstice will bring about the end of the world. "No, no," say some of the folks whose spiritual beliefs line up more cozily with mine, "It will bring about a new consciousness." This morning, as I sat in tears in the school parking lot, afraid to drive away from all those babies and the men and women who help me teach and care for my children, I railed at the Universe.
Because for one awful moment, I thought, "Are those people who are saying this was a celestial judgment right? Is this what it will take for us to do better by each other? Is this a punishment from a loving deity who has been telling us all along that we must love each other and we DON'T? And if it is, how DARE you, Universe? How dare you make us afraid and heartbroken?"
My faith won out, but not my faith in an unseen deity or in the frightened words of some of my fellow citizens. It was my faith in US. We are capable of so much more good than we are of evil. In the gigantic scheme of things, for every Hitler, how many Mother Theresas have their been? For every one insane human who gives in to the darkness, how many millions of good, brave, imperfect humans rush toward that darkness to fill it with light? SO MANY MORE.
Maybe there will be a change of heart, a change of consciousness in us. I pray that there is, and more than that, I have faith that there will be, because I cannot accept that horror and fear and hopelessness are more powerful than joy and love and hope. I won't accept that.
I have faith in you, my friends. I have faith in the people who drive me insane with their religious rhetoric. I have faith in the people who wear their apathy like flannel shirts. I have faith in the bus drivers and teachers and drug store owners and garbage men who are different than me, but who get up and take care of me and my family and my friends every day because that is WHAT WE DO.
I just think we can do it with more grace.
I think we must do it with more grace.
I have faith that we can.
Because we have to.