This week’s tragedy in Arizona is just heartbreaking; there are really no other words to describe it. I mean you have a Congresswoman out and about connecting with her constituents and in the blink of an eye, 6 people are dead and many others are hurt.
Since Saturday’s tragedy, I have heard many people talk about this but the one thing no one has really said is in some ways we all play a role in incidents like this. I mean yeah it’s easy to lay blame at the feet of folks like Sarah Palin and Glen Beck with their divisive and explosive words. Hell, it’s even easy to say that the alleged gunman is mentally ill. He may indeed have some mental health issues, after all mentally healthy people generally don’t decide to go on a shooting spree.
No, the fact is as a society and a culture we are not really nice people and in some ways we are all responsible for creating a climate where its easy for hate to fester and folks to become disconnected from others to the point that guns are shot. We can say that the talking heads on TV and radio are using language that incites but the truth is even those of us who consider ourselves more compassionate, etc often still resort to language that is less than compassionate. Most of us no matter what we may say and I am most certainly guilty of it at times see those who don’t follow our thought process and views as less than. Oh, we may humor people with other views but often we are condescending and downright snarky though we may think we are merely sarcastic. Better yet we think we are teaching those with different views than ours but really we are not.
Too many times I have seen even online people “argue” with people they don’t even know forcing their views on to others. It’s no wonder in a nation that is falling apart where the gulf between the have and have-nots is widening that some people fall prey to the rhetoric of the Glen Becks and Sarah Palin’s? If you actually ever listen to them, they use a down home manner that makes the listener believe someone is listening to them. Deep down we all want to be heard and have our views validated. This is not to say we must validate what we are opposed to but everyone deserves to be heard.
As many of us are doing the weekly dance to survive in these economically challenging times, how many of us take time to pay attention to others and listen? Better yet if we notice something is amiss we actually do something? I was flipping the channels yesterday and on one of the news channels they had a woman who claimed to be a neighbor of the alleged shooter and she stated it was a shame no one noticed the red flags that were waving about this young man’s behavior. Yet I have read several pieces just in the Sunday New York Times that spoke about the alleged shooter displaying odd behavior in school to the point of getting expelled. Call me crazy but that seems like a huge red flag.
We live in a culture where giving our ten year olds cellular phones to stay connected is the norm, yet as families and friends we are so disconnected that no one notices when a son, nephew, cousin, friend is standing on the brink of disaster and plotting destruction. This is not a slam on the parents of the alleged shooter but more an observation that as a society we can spend hours “connecting” with people we may never meet yet we miss the real connections right under our noses.
It is easy to fall into the trap of laying blame at the feet of others when tragedies like this occur but the truth is until we all decide to better connect with the world around us we are at risk of more folks running off and doing crazy things like this.
In some ways we need to take the attitudes of the airline industries to heart in our personal lives. I think the reason we have not had any repeat 9/11 situations is more about the fact that when we fly we are now aware of our surroundings and we act on it. The reason the shoe bomber was stopped a few years ago is because fellow passengers were alert, aware and acted on what they saw. Admittedly there may be times when folks flub up, as was the case sometime back when a traveler with diarrhea was deemed suspicious. By and large though when folks step into airports and onto airplanes they realize that their safety and well being depends less on the machines that screen us and more on us taking responsibility if the occasion should arise.
In our daily lives I think that means being mindful of what we say and do, how we treat others and if we see someone struggling it means being a compassionate person and doing something. Maybe it’s alerting authorities, maybe it’s trying to get someone help but maybe its just being there so that people don’t reach that point where they want to harm others.