As I go about my life, enjoying the peacefulness of winter break, I can’t help but feel the tiniest bit of pressure on my heart from two gruesome tragedies. The unbearable sadness that must now weigh down the mothers and fathers who lost their children in Sandy Hook Elementary School and those whose daughter was so viciously abused and killed on a bus in New Delhi, have, for a time (hopefully forever) become part of my awareness. Another layer scratched away from the perception of goodness and innocence that we are born with, but live with so very briefly.
Knowing that we live in a world that contains such commonplace cruelty is unbearable. There is never a moment untouched by its opposite: tenderness-cruelty, kindness-malice, succor-hurt, yes-no—love-hate, right-wrong.
Guns. The sold-out stocks of rifles appalls me, but shouldn’t. It is all a continuum from the place that breathes from the heart to the place that suffocates hearts.
Who gives and who taketh away?
How do we live so exposed moment by moment to the flipside of whatever good we try to be?
Rape. Women as spoils of war. Women as tools of war. Women as carcasses for the needs of the perverse. Women unable to fulfill their destiny to be loved.
How is the word innocence still in our lexicon?
It is hard to know what to do besides cry and feel the echo of the hollowness that the grieving parents must be living within.
How does the world take away a mother’s child, a father’s child?
There have been so many other tragedies of incomprehensible violence in our lifetimes (even if we are only a month, a week, a day old), and yet I have continued to sit and cry and turn the page of the newspaper to the next story. But I don’t want to. I am ashamed that this is my world because as much as it doesn’t reflect me, how can it not? What is a world—a conscience—composed of if not all the assemblages of dust? It is all too much.
I cannot settle for signing petitions and donating as a reaction. My heart will beat with that emptiness, but it must be accompanied by more purpose than merely conviction. I need to be able to face my daughters and my students, my self, not as a complacent adult, but as one who cares more for them than comfort of habit. There is what to do, and do I must.
“Gimme Shelter”: This song might have come out of the Vietnam War, but it resonates so forcefully today—in this battlefield we live in.