Mass killings have claimed four or more American lives every week for the past six weeks, leaving 48 dead and eight wounded in their wake.
Why do we keep killing each other?
Why are we choosing to live in an ultraviolent state, ruled by domination and aggression?
Why are we risking our children’s lives? Black lives? Brown lives?
Why are we shaping a culture that demands we numb out so that we aren’t crushed with grief?
Why aren’t we talking about toxic masculinity?
Why aren’t we treating white supremacy as terrorism?
Journalist Jonathan Thompson recently observed this pattern of trauma by saying, “Each incident tears at the fabric of society and the collective psyche. The epidemic of mass shootings in America is perhaps the most effective act of terrorism ever inflicted, in that it injects us all with a little nodule of terror that re-emerges every time we send our kid to school or our spouse to the grocery store, vaguely wondering whether they’ll come back.”
What a heartbreaking reality we have created in the United States. Because of our manufactured fear of one another and our greed for power over others and our planet, we have shaped a culture steeped in abuse, trauma, and grief. Surely we want more for ourselves. Surely we want more for our children?
Philosopher and environmental activist Joanna Macy once told a story about working with a community devastated by the Chernobyl catastrophe. The people living in the impacted areas struggled to talk about the trauma. It felt too risky. Here’s what she said to them:
“I have no wisdom with which to meet your grief. But I can share this with you: After the war that almost destroyed their country, the German people determined they would do anything to spare their children the suffering they had known. They worked hard to provide them a safe, rich life. They created an economic miracle. They gave their children everything—except for one thing. They did not give them their broken hearts. And their children have never forgiven them.”
This is my great fear. Our children will never forgive us. They shouldn’t, for we are creating a world where their lives are in endless peril.
To stop this devastating cycle, we must share our heartbreak…at allowing fear to drive us to division, greed to drive us to oppression, and ego to drive us to violence. In not facing what we have created, we deny us all the chance to correct what has gone awry between us.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, the commandment that spoke to the world as God dreamed it to be, Jesus gave a clear response: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Read that once more.
Let’s give it a try together.