Monday, July 28, 2008

Somewhere amid the madness

It's got to stop. We've got to make it stop.

You live out in the 'burbs, kind of carry a naive view of the world with you anyway, love black-and-white movies and don't get into too much trouble. Life, for the most part, is good.

Then something like yesterday's church shooting happens and all that gets thrown out the window.

Words fail you at a time like this. A loner, apparently bitter with rage over perceived slights by the "liberals," opened fire on a sanctuary full of innocents yesterday in West Knoxville -- during a children's play.

Thank God no kids were injured. But they witnessed this tragedy. And, now, two people are dead.

Reports are surfacing today that the accused shooter's ex-wife was a longtime member of the church. The alleged shooter, apparently, hated "blacks, gays, anybody different from him."

How does something like this happen? How can somebody become poisoned by such animalistic rage, such utter contempt for their fellow human beings, that they decide to do something so utterly unthinkable?

What I hope comes out of this is the same thing I hoped would happen after 9/11: that we tone down the rhetoric, stop yelling at each other, sit down, and listen. Just listen. One person starts talking, the other one listens. Then you flip flop and repeat the process. We've got a whole lot more in common than the things that divide us, I promise you.

I got home last night and read a few pages from the latest Newsweek about a kid who was shot to death in a California school because of his sexual orientation. I turned out the lights and thought about things for a long, long time. My last conscious thought was, "What kind of a world have we created?"

It's difficult to understand the anger. All you have to do is watch people drive down the street. God forbid you pull out in front of them. You might just get shot.

My work takes me into the schools from time to time. Some of the ugly things you hear children saying to one another will shock you.

I don't know where all this comes from. I don't so much buy into the "blame the movies" bit. One of my favorite films is "Death Wish" and I've never once felt the inclination to take to the streets to kill criminals. After watching a beloved Bugs Bunny cartoon, I've never once hit anybody with an oversized mallet. I don't know what the answer is.

But, I do know that somewhere amid the madness, we've got to start to listen to each other. We've got to quit insulting. We've got to stop getting angry over nothing, harboring resentments for years, and make things right and try to love each other. The sad fact is we're not guaranteed tomorrow. We may never get another chance.

I think I've finally figured out why I love old, sappy westerns, baseball, black-and-white TV from the '50s and going to hear Robinella sing on Sunday nights. In part, I think it's because I need something I can count on, something that will give me the illusion of continuity, something that will make me forget about the world and its harsh realities for an hour or two.

I'm corny. I like movies with happy endings. I like TV shows about families that could never have existed anywhere in America. I like it when John Wayne catches the bad guys at the end of the picture. I like Robin's sweet songs about love and loss.

I don't like the anger I see around me. I don't like to hear about a shooting -- in a church sanctuary, of all places.

I am moved at the heroism of the man who put himself in harm's way yesterday to literally take a bullet for his congregation.

But I hope with all my being that we do everything we can to create a society in which such sacrifice is never needed.

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