From Disgust to Disappointment to Hope

If you read my previous two posts, you will see the reason for the title of this one—since the tragedy in Tucson last Saturday and the internet war of “blame and defend,” I struggled to put my finger on what I was really feeling. Two things happened that sent me finally down the right road.

One was a comment on the second post—the other was watching the memorial service in Tucson. I missed the latter when it was live, but in my current cabin-fever-induced insomnia, I caught it in the middle of the night on C-Span.

The comment was from a friend of mine—it was the brevity and honesty of her words that slammed me. What she said first was that because of the “wrath and venom” of the past few years, she was “nervous.” And then she said it all. “I feel bombarded,” she wrote.

That was it! Off I went the rest of the day. While standing outside my apartment and scraping ice and snow off my car, while lying on my bed watching TV in the middle of the day (the reason for my insomnia…in addition to the coffee I drank at 11:00 pm…), while editing a book about the long-term effects of sexual abuse by those in positions of spiritual power, I thought about bombardment.

The irony was the fact that in the midst of a web-based argument about the use of gun-related images and the reference to killing and maiming those with whom we disagree politically, my friend, who shares many of my political opinions, had used a term that derives itself from military strategy.

It’s a good strategy in war, I suppose, if you have to be in war, but I hadn’t wanted to think of us as being at war—I naively thought we were in debate about how best to revive our economy, how to help our fellow citizens in need of healthcare and subsistence while working to be fiscally responsible at the same time. “Shock and awe” would not have been allowed as an acceptable strategy when I debated in high school, and I have no ready response.

I thought, I’m nervous, too. Not that the world may blow up at any moment, because I have no control over countries like N. Korea or Iran, just as our government doesn’t either. My prayers and those of my friends are sufficient for me in that regard. What I’m nervous about is the astounding lack of empathy displayed by those whose mouths are loudest, those who would bombard their fellow citizens as if they were enemies, especially those who wear their Christianity like armor.

And then I thought some more. If “love your neighbor as you love yourself” isn’t about empathy, then I’ve been barking up the wrong tree for most of my life.  If America isn’t about all for one and one for all, then I may as well move somewhere else. There’s plenty of everything that really matters for everyone—my success does not have to be at your expense. This is not war—but it isn’t a game, either. It’s our lives.

I went to bed and tossed and turned until I finally flipped on the light and turned on the TV in my room.

In the middle of the night, I saw some of the proceedings in the House of Representatives, where one by one, Republican and Democrat, stood and talked about Gabby Giffords—about conferences they’d attended together, committees they’d served on, recreation with each other’s families…followed by the replay of a memorial service in which the citizens of Tucson jumped to their feet in applause and cheering and tears in honor of those families suddenly in pain and the ordinary citizens who tackled this poor, lost kid and took away his weapon.

And I knew that empathy isn’t dead after all—it has just lain dormant under the bombardment. Civility is alive and well, just buried under the debris.

We can stop this, you know. And today I am hopeful that we will.

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