Those responsible

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.
Mercer Island, WA - Luther Burbank School door 01

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.


  1. Leslie

    This is good, although it’s unfair to tag all who think it might be a good idea to arm teachers, i.e. some teachers who’ve had serious training, as “gun nuts.” But beyond all the gun issues, the mental health/anger issues, the amorality of the killer (which rarely gets discussed), there is also the utter and complete failure of the FBI, local law enforcement, etc. This killer made threats in his OWN name — how many Nikolas-with-a-k Cruz’s are out there? — and still the FBI couldn’t locate him, and local officials, who allegedly paid over 30 visits to his home, couldn’t figure out how to keep him from buying guns. A student claims she reported his threats and illegal behavior (selling knives at school) multiple times to school authorities, but did the school communicate with law enforcement? The people who DID take responsibility, who did the right thing in reporting Cruz, were ignored. “See something; say something” sounds like a sick hoax perpetrated on good citizens. That point seems to be lost in the shouting match over guns.

  2. Dave Miller

    Enough navel contemplation, already. We live in a fallen world, where few believe that “Thou shalt not murder” are words of God, to which all are accountable.
    Schools today have a duty to insure the safety of their students, just as do airports, courthouses, and sports arenas. Placing good guys with guns in schools, trained for immediate response, will save lives. Schools who refuse to recognize this modern threat are civilly negligent in their duty to protect, and should be held accountable for the deaths of innocent, unprotected children.

  3. Aaron

    What is my, personal responsibility amidst the heartbreak of American gun violence?

    Do something. Yes.

    Beyond memes. Please.

    Thank you, Tony.

  4. R

    FML but the demon are flying the bird. The name c/should be recognizable to you. You know, Run Nicky Run, The Cross and the Switchblade. As if it were acknowledgement that a battle was lost in the 6/70s, but nominally won for evil recently. It’s a sad fallen world full of sinful people under native impulse. We are wired for destruction. And maybe the miracle is that we don’t see more of this particular grief that we have seen too much of already, as if all the myriad other griefs were not quite enough, too many lost track/to count. All the abdications of love along the way. Thomas McGuane in 92 in the Shade framed a youth named Starkweather – is what happens when you get laughed at too many times. How different/if only, each life day moment, each one, and the want of/for kindness love forgiveness. Hope came out of the(Pandora’s) box last. The first and maybe only prayer(Prachett) – help me, … and please God the rest will follow.

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