Since the day Cain raised a rock to Abel’s head, men have been about the business of slaughtering one another. Oceans of blood spilled and still something pierces our innermost hearts when it is a child who does the killing, when his victims are other children, when his motive seems nothing other than to fill up his small corner of the world with suffering and despair. No matter how grim your view of humanity, surely you can see that none of us were crafted for this.
And yet here we are, and the usual interests are having their shouting match in a graveyard. The NRA wants to protect your sacred right to own a 60-round magazine. Movie stars with armed guards want to disarm your grandmother. Psychologists want to make sure you don’t stigmatize mental illness. Health advocates want to unseal the medical records of mass shooters to see how many were using psychotropic drugs. Gun nuts want to arm the teachers. The teachers want someone to disarm the nuts.
And on, and on, until all we who aren’t burying a child this week forget. That is, until we see the familiar pictures on cable news in a month, or three, but almost certainly when school is in session, because we’ve come to a place where children seek to explode the flesh and organs of as many other children as they can before a SWAT team sends them into the abyss.
I used to have answers to all the world’s problems. Now I can’t even conjure the right questions. I think the question here is: How do we stop this from happening? But also: How does a child come to this? And maybe, if I follow the reasoning of Rabbi Heschel, while I am not guilty, how am I responsible?
And I think that’s what irks me about all the positioning and graveyard shouting: the underlying avoidance of responsibility. The implicit call for someone else to do something. Believe me, I’ve got a long list of stuff other people should do to make this world better, but the moment I lose sight of what I can be doing, I become complicit in the world’s despair. I become complicit by becoming complacent about the little portion of creation given me to shepherd, to make better or worse.
Friends, I wish I could end with some tidy advice. But my God, I don’t know where to begin and where to end. Never lose your sense of horror at news like this, might be one piece. Send a note to someone you know is hurting, might be another. I don’t know what you should do, but I want to believe you do, because I want to believe we aren’t wired for destruction, that inside us, unless we’ve scorched it past all feeling, is a heart inclined toward love. All we need do, is muster the courage to act on it while there’s still time. To not forget, while we’re pointing fingers at the guilty, our own responsibilities.