With a heavy heart and prayers for the grieving Sandy Hook families and the Newtown community, I have taken a break from blogging and regular online conversation these last few days.
Throughout Connecticut we are in shock and devastated. This is a small state and not as densely populated as many people imagine. Newtown is a lovely rural community. It is unimaginable that these horrific events could happen anywhere, and in a small peaceful town, it is unfathomable.
I feel helpless as I imagine the frightened teachers heroically doing everything they could to protect the children. As a parent, I want to hold my own children close.
How can we possibly make sense of the senseless?
When we move quickly to anger and blame, we can avoid feeling the enormity of the pain and loss. I have chosen to be silent to honor the heartache.
However, when we stay too long in silence and fail to speak out, we can miss the opportunity to make a difference.
So my challenge is to both continue to mourn the loss of these precious, innocent souls and also to take action – not a knee-jerk reaction out of anger and blame – but rational intelligent action.
Obviously there is no single cause or simple solution that can prevent another horrific tragedy. There are widespread systemic issues that need to be dealt with in our society. And before blaming everyone and everything else, we need to look at ourselves and how we treat each other.”
HOWEVER, one simple, important thing we can do right now is to request our legislators to ban assault-style weapons that have no other use than to kill large numbers of people rapidly. In Connecticut, Governor Malloy has called a special budget legislative session for December 19. Many of us have emailed our state representatives asking them to introduce a bill to ban these kinds of weapons.
I am not just another “anti-gun zealot” pushing a political agenda. I focus on collaboration and seeking common ground. But I am deeply concerned about the easy accessibility of assault-style weapons like the Bushmaster that are designed solely to attack human beings, not for sport or for defense. According to Nicholas Kristof, “In 1996 Australia banned certain rapid-fire long guns. In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect.” In his well-written article, he offers some reasonable suggestions for regulation.
I speak out because I have no choice. I would prefer to remain silent, but I am haunted by the message in John F. Kennedy’s favorite quote:
Is it possible to hold the enormity of this tragedy – to experience our own anguish and offer prayers for comfort and healing for our Newtown neighbors – and at the same time to take thoughtful, intelligent action? I think it is possible, and I think that time is now.
Thanks, Jesse. It seems there’s so very little to say and so very, very much left to do.
Maybe that’s why we struggle so hard to put our heartfelt prayers into words. It helps to hold hands. Thanks for reaching yours out.
I wrote our president yesterday and asked how many more people have to die before something is done in this country, It’s time to put politics aside because this should not be a political issue and take action to stop this senseless violence against innocent people. This event will affect people for years to come even people like me who didn’t know any of the victims or their families. My thoughts and prayers go out to them at this time.
Thanks to you for sharing your own thoughts as well, Rocco.
This is too terrible to stand by without taking action; i feel that we have all failed our children. On saturday I joined the Brady Campaign by signing up for a monthly contribution. This is just the beginning…
Gill, if you want to send a message to your state legislators asking them to please expand the call of Wednesday’s special legislative session to include a bill to ban the kinds of weapons and others like those used in Newtown, you can find their names and email addresses here: http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp
My condolences to grieved families. I pray for all those hurt by such act. May God grant peace to all.
As our hearts ache for the suffering of the families and community of Newtown, you remind us that we are all hurt by such an act no matter where we live.
I shared this on my linkedin today. You captured the essence of what I’ve been trying to write all weekend. Thank you.
Thank you, Terry. This is a personal expression that I had written for myself, and I was undecided about whether to publish it on my blog. I’m glad to know it has been helpful.
You have eloquently captured what I’ve struggled to express. Thank you for a compassionate response to this tragedy.
Thanks Jennifer. Hopefully we will find some healing and strength in the days to come… during this special and holy time of the year.
Great blog post; very thought-provoking. I think you said it all.
Thank you, Michael! Praise from one’s son is the most special praise there is. The murder of innocent children is beyond my human sensibilities. Even though you are no longer a child, my gut instinct as a mother was to want to gather my family close and hold you safe.
Very well said, Jesse. I respect your feeling that “I speak out because I have no choice.”
Hi Jesse, My prayers go out to all the community of Newtown and the families and friends affected by the horrific tragedy. I agree with you that there are no simple solutions. It will take a lot of work on the part of all of us to address stricter gun laws and to come out of denial regarding mental illness and its effects on families and the community. We will have to look at providing more resources for treatment and housing of the mentally ill. I will be writing an article on my blog from personal experience in dealing with the affects of a child’s mental illness. I too address issues that have to do with personal growth and enlightenment. Visit my blog at http://www.pmfrontlines.wordpress.com – property managers corner. Sincerely, Esther denn
Very well written post Jesse-thanks
I agree – this time I must also take action. The focus on assault weapons seems to make sense. I don’t think we have to be assured our actions are perfect in order to go forward with them. The fact that whatever we do won’t deal with every aspect of the problem can’t deter us from declaring ourselves as you have and taking a stand to try to improve the chance precious life has. Thanks for urging us on. MG
One easy but significant thing you can do as a CT resident is to send an email to your state reps tomorrow urging them to introduce a bill to ban assault-style weapons at Wednesday’s special session. You can find their names and email addresses here http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp
Thank you Jesse for expressing perfectly what we’ve all been trying to put into words. I will write to our State legislators. Our voices must be heard to STOP THIS MADNESS of assault weapon availability.
I have thought of you much the last few days– having seen the small, intimate parts of your home state. As a mother, grandmother and former teacher- I am left speechless and can also cry at the drop of a hat. As my friend and amazing teacher wrote in her PBS commentary: “Parker Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, writes that we have two choices in dark nights of the soul: to break apart or to break open. One choice leads us down the path to bitterness and brittleness, to distance ourselves from people and their capacity for beauty and kindness. The other leads us down the path to vulnerability, gentleness, deep and lasting connection.”
And when we stand in solidarity with the pain, actions might become clearer. Banning of such weapons, stockpiles of ammunition, and more. At the same time, our mental health system has been so decimated in the schools that the parent of a troubled youth has very few options. That too needs to be addressed. Yes, our voices must be heard in state and national assemblies.
But for now– first–our hearts break open.
Lovely, Eileen. Breaking in process now…..
Thank you for sharing this beautiful wisdom, Eileen. It simply and beautifully illuminates my own experience. This tragedy is so horrific that many of us are afraid if we fully take it in, it will be unbearable. It is human nature to avoid pain, and yet the only way through to the other side is to allow ourselves to fully experience the pain – to allow our hearts to break open.
One of the ways we avoid pain is to get angry and attack each other – to break apart. It is happening right now – people are being attacked for their views or the group they are affiliated with is being attacked. Another way some people avoid the pain is to objectify the event and use it to push a social or political agenda. There are a lot of people doing that right now as well. In both of these kinds of situations, by moving quickly to action these people have avoided fully experiencing their pain. And in the end, their hearts will remain cracked, but not opened. And the unresolved pain will continue to drive them unconsciously.
Other people are aware that we need time to be with the pain and grief, to support our neighbors in their terrible loss and to be present as 20 young children are buried this week. They believe the time for action will be later. And I was of that mind as well.
But then over the weekend, as my own heart was broken open, I considered the possibility of both – that my choices weren’t necessarily either/or. And as I contemplated it, clear action occurred to me.
At the end of my post, I raise this question – can we do both – to see if there are others who can take action from the state of a heart that has been “broken open.” I wasn’t sure what kinds of comments my post would receive. I have been greatly heartened by how many people have responded that it expressed their own feelings. And I have received many emails to that effect as well. I am sensing there is a possibility that we can go down the path you describe together – the path to vulnerability, gentleness, deep and lasting connection, and that we can stand together in solidarity. Not against each other or feeling like we need to fight the “bad guys” because when our hearts are broken open, our judging critic dissolves and there are no “bad guys,” – only right action.
Yes, there is much work to be done around all the issues you named and even more. But there is a window here to take one step together if we remain open and vulnerable and don’t seek to alienate each other with finger pointing. And after we take that step, the next one will also become clear because we will have shown ourselves what we can accomplish with the true strength that arises from connected vulnerability.
I don’t know if the time is right. But I do know we’ll never find out unless those of us who see also speak, so we can find each other, and as our friend Mark Albion says, “give a voice to the voiceless.”
You captured the essence beautifully. We have this window. It is a window that holds a candle, a beacon of hope and of paying deep attention. We must not resist the pain that we feel n our hearts but rather let it soften the edges for we find RIGHT action.
With right action, then we can boldly proclaim that we work for life. L’Chaim
Every either/or choice reduces to a false one. The challenge is always to find an ‘and’ in there somewhere.
I’m glad we are both working toward solutions, through passion, through parenthood, through the conviction that positive actions can lead to positive outcomes.
I love the synchronicity and symmetry in our thinking and our lives. Miss you, Jill. Hope to see you soon.