As I sit here to write this article I’m struck by a deep and intimate sorrow that calls me to pay close attention to my own humanity.
Orlando, Florida has been the recent scene of what is now considered the largest mass shooting in American History. What seems to be so unique about this particular incident is that it strikes at the heart of the American psyche from so many directions.
With more than 100 victims, almost half of them never to be embraced by their loved ones again, we are not only met with the violence of such an act but the social and cultural markers that make such an act possible. From connections to foreign terrorist organizations and religious extremism to the targeting of one of the most persecuted sectors of our community in modern times there is no easy way to articulate the kind of pain, frustration, anger, confusion, sadness and even rage that is being felt across our nation.
All too quickly I have watched the reactions to this tragedy only to find that they have already spurred the same tired conversations that somehow seem to surround these increasingly frequent events. Political in structure but emotional in content these arguments have literally brought nothing new to the table in years. Why?
As I connect with my own humanity I’m called to remember the humanity of these victims. How many life stories have been cut short? What amazing gifts will we no longer enjoy because these unique individuals are gone? What price have we paid to the future that can never be understood when we allow violence to take our kin?
Then comes an even more challenging task. To remember the humanity of the one who committed this act. What pain and anguish must a human soul endure to be called to such a dark and violent place? What thoughts, experiences and influences have fashioned and marred the humanity of someone that would so blatantly surrender the balance of their own life to inflict some measure of that same pain upon others?
When we feel the deep impact of all the emotional shrapnel from an act like this crashing into us, tearing us apart, what does it tell us about humanity?
My humanity tells me to recognize this tragedy as an amazing call to action. But what action am I being called to? Surely there are political and legal questions to be debated and argued but how do we have such conversations as human beings rather than antagonists and enemies of opinion? Recycling the same conversations over and over to no end has left us paralyzed and helpless. Being left brimming with the same rage-filled feeling that the event gave us when those conversations end is our red flag. The one that tells us this isn’t working. The one that helps us see, if we’re paying attention, that we’re being dragged away from our humanity.
Regardless of what “side” of the argument you are on… if you are arguing right now then you have missed the opportunity to take the action that matters most. The call to heal.
Human beings are the arbiters of their own destiny. There is no force we have not proven the ability to master but that of our own ignorance. Everything we have set our minds to has been accomplished through a willingness to work hard and stay true to a powerful vision. We have spent far too many years believing that violence is the way to eliminate violence. We have spent far too long yearning for the one thing we all want but are too angry to create… a world that works for everyone.
Let us take the breath that is so desperately needed. Let us step back from the story telling machines of our televisions, the internet and social media. Let us turn away from the details of this tragedy and towards the deep and personal call to mourn. Let us cry. Let us reflect. Let us mourn. Let us prepare to heal.
The emotional reactions we have to these events are real and they are even justified. Of course we have the right to feel angry when innocence is lost! However, far too often we ignore the greatest advice anyone ever gives during an emotional crisis… don’t do anything. Don’t make any major decisions. Don’t begin any heated arguments. Don’t perpetuate the same kind of rage that created the opportunity for such a tragedy to exist in the first place. Don’t use fire to fight fire.
This isn’t easy. Dealing with our own humanity never is. But this is very necessary. When we are reminded that entire regions of the world are feeling this kind of pain on a daily basis we can see a larger picture in which the richest and most powerful nation on this earth has a greater responsibility to humanity than any other. We can not be the true American Heroes we think we are until we can reclaim the humanity that so much anger, violence and suffering has created in us.
This is our task and this is our time. I turn off the bombarding media that represents the emotional backlash and instead take the much needed time to heal my heart by surrounding myself with the grace and love of those near to me. I give all my love and all my prayers to those who lost their lives, their loved ones, their friends and family… and I let it inspire a love that cannot be denied to pour out of me and into the world. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.