Friday, December 14, 2012

Kicking and screaming at the darkness

Forgive me while I rant and roar.

We're all sick of the shooting, the killing, the cruelty.

I don't know why some people feel the need to kill other people. Sitting in a mall food court. Going to a summer movie. Starting a kindergarten class for the day.

Even writing that last one makes me want to give in to the urge to curse and cry and hit and scream that there are some people who should not be allowed to live with the rest of us.

I feel no forgiveness for these people who do these things. They are monsters. I don't care how "sick" they are, if they're off their meds, if someone bullied someone, if someone's mother is a bad parent. I don't know the situation, don't know the reasons and don't really want to know.

I've seen it said on Facebook in the last few hours that people should not leap to conclusions. That we should seek answers instead of shouting at the devil.

Fine. Let's seek answers. But if someone is insane, I feel sympathy for them only up until they start shooting people. Then I hate them. Show me the switch and I'll pull it. If you kill a child who has done nothing to deserve such abominable treatment, you deserve to have horrible things happen to you.

Nonsense being spewed about how so many people die of starvation or get killed in far-off wars, or executed or persecuted at the callused hands of despotism. Hundreds and thousands, every day. And yet we don't care about them? So why should we care about these twenty children and six adults? I don't care about the shooter. He can rot in a hell of his own creation. I'm done with him.

It's a cynical age, and it's circular rationalizing like this that confuses and hardens us more and more. Don't try to deprive anyone of their right to mourn, to feel something. We live in times when it's almost a miracle to get people to care about anyone else at all, so when something so tragic happens, there's always someone saying, "Yeah, well, you didn't cry over the ones who died doing such-and-such last week, did you? So what gives you the right to cry now?"

Fair enough logic. But logic has nothing to do with it. It's not hypocritical to feel and to express that feeling. It's human and natural. We are not just thinking beings. We also have feelings.

I would like to feel something for people in faroff lands. And I actually do. But they don't touch me quite the same. See, now I'm being forced to qualify and quantify my varying levels of mourning and emotions. I won't do it. I'm not saying it all on Facebook. In fact, I turned my profile photo black today because I lacked the words to express the level of frustration and anger I feel. See, it's not just grief. It's not just that I feel bad for those kids, their parents and grandparents and other family members. I feel angry.

I always feel betrayed when one of our own species gives in to the darkness, feeds the darkness and becomes one with it.

There is good in the world. Much, much good in the world that often borders on greatness.

I spent the morning downtown today, talking to people who were enjoying the sunshine, glad to be in somewhere out of the cold, chattering happily to one another and smiling. What a great, shining moment it was, and I came home feeling that the world is good. People are wonderful.

And then I turn on the computer and find... this. This hideous thing. This monkey in an Ikea shop. This monster with a gun (several, in fact) shows what awful things we are capable of. He wasn't strong enough, so he tried to prove how strong he was. Wasn't important enough, so he tried to grab power.

But he's not important. If I could, I would erase his existence from the history books, from school records and church records, and I would burn his body and send his ashes flying to the wind without a single witness. I would train his parents and friends to never utter his name again.

But I can't do that. And I know it would be wrong. Because history, both micro and macro, is filled with atrocities whose name must be spoken so that they are not repeated. The Holocaust. Pearl Harbour. Hiroshima. 9-11. And many, many before those and since, both newsmaking and unknown.

But here's the kicker: such darkness will be repeated, time and time again, over and over again.

See, the rest of us get the message. There are hundreds of millions of us. Good people who just want to go about our lives, striving to be happy, working our jobs, making our way through a world that is, many times, inhospitable to us. But there are always a few idiots with guns who want to take away our peace of mind--and they do. They are terrorists of a sort, keeping us on edge, fearful of sending our children to school, afraid of walking the street alone at night, looking over our shoulders when we would rather be care-free.

It's not an either-or kind of issue : Get rid of as many guns as is reasonably possible. Without them, fewer people would die. You can't save everyone, so let's save as many as possible. The argument will arise, as it did last summer when that maniac bolted into a movie theatre and killed all those people: if someone in there had possessed a gun, he wouldn't have gotten away with it. But I stand by my own argument at the time: the problem wasn't that there weren't enough guns in the room but that there were too many.

Yes, we need to take more precautions to prevent and treat mental illness. No question about it.

We also need to pay more attention to each other.

And one final thing: while, until this moment, I haven't been splattering Facebook and Twitter with my dark thoughts, I wish people would stop trying to take a strip out of those who do. We live in an age where people take immediately to FB and its lesser cousin to let people know what they're feeling. It's a way of making your thoughts count, or simply working your stuff out in a way so that you don't feel quite so alone. You like to know there are like-minded souls out there. The beauty of Facebook is that it connects us. So when tragedy occurs, let's not verbally abuse people who want to feel connected at a time when it seems the very fabric of our world is ripping apart at the seams.

Melodramatic? Not really. I know the world will go on just the same after this, once the days start to pass and the healing begins. The world will keep on spinning, and lives will continue just the same. But there is something about this gunman--about every whack job with a loaded weapon who decides to take some lives--that reminds us of how fragile it all is.

And we all react according to who we are, who we've always been.

There is good in the world. Hang on to that as if it were your god. Because there are days like this when you are going to need it, no matter what your religion, no matter your level of empathy or cynicism, no matter what.

There are days when, for one terrible moment, you don't even feel like kicking at the darkness anymore. Because the darkness is strong and threatens to overwhelm you.

But that's when you need to take time and reflect. Get it all out. Scream at the walls. Hug your child. Shed your tears.

Or, if it's your wont, give a helpless shrug.

Either way, you've got to rise up and take back the world, or continue to create something that you never had but always wanted. The world has always been dark because of a proverbial handful of (mostly) men who hold the rest of us for ransom, stealing, raping and plundering their way to some sort of dark reward.

But I don't think the answer is to start shooting back. The answer is to take away their ability to shoot.

You will never take away their reasons for shooting since, as someone quoted someone earlier today on FB, insanity doesn't have a reason.

There are some people who are affronted by kindness, by happiness, and even by innocence.

Some people are just that way--either born that way or made that way.

And, while I'm tempted to leave my diatribe on that negative note, I can't--simply because kicking at the darkness is not just a stolen line from a Bruce Cockburn song.

It's what we do, what we have to do. Because the alternative is just too awful to bear.

Hug your children. Be kind to one another. Light a candle or sit by a warm fire with your best friend beside you. Say the words that make everything feel good.

Pray, if it makes you feel better. But pray without expectations for others.

And most of all, tomorrow, pay a little more attention--not just to those who harm, but to those who could simply use a little more care.



  1. Well written, thanks. As we were all taking a bath in the news media reports yesterday, my husband was driving our daughter home from school for Christmas vacation and witnessed a young man trying to kill himself on the highway. I won't go into detail. The boy survived, however. And it turns out that the boy was known to our family members in that community. So I have to trust that he survived for a reason and that we will somehow play a part in trying to help him. (Just trying to be that little bit of good in the world you spoke of.) So even though yesterday was full of death, there was also a glimmer of hope. It's the glimmer you have to hang on to, because the glimmer is US. Bless you, Merry Christmas.

  2. What a horrible thing to witness, especially for your daughter, but it sounds as if you were able to do some good for the poor lad. You're so right about that glimmer of hope--it resides within us. An event like the one you describe is less of a responsibility and more of an opportunity to spark some good. Bless you, too, Rhonda. Merry Christmas to you and yours.