Monday, July 23, 2012

Many Victims

Aurora haunts the news, as it should. Such an event should drive us to question how we can do better as people, as a society. And so I'm thinking about the shooter.

Let's be clear. I have tremendous compassion and grieve for the people who find themselves in the maze of horror and sorrow. I'm including all of them in my prayers daily, and more often than that. I can't imagine...

But I'm also feeling a lot of grief and compassion for the sad and sick young man who grabbed the gun. Once upon a time, I think as I watch my son in the summer, he was a little guy like mine. Our society failed him. Our culture if manhood left him with no options and no support. We, the greater people following the tragedy, loathe him. The tragedy compounds and contorts.

I'm not excusing or defending him. But I feel very deeply for this young man. I have a brother just his age. I feel for his family, for anyone out there who loves him and now finds themselves aligned with terror... And I hope they still love him.

Should he be restrained, controlled, given treatment for mental ailments, and otherwise punished for his actions? Of course. All actions have consequences and the consequences here are dire. But we can hold him, the person and not his actions, in our hearts and pray that forgiveness find him, that mental well-being can someday be his. We can hold his family in our hearts and pray that they can find peace.

I found an article today in which the author eloquently reminds the reader that each person is more than their actions. (Note: It was on The Good Men Project and I'm still trying to track it down. It seems to have vansished...) We can hate and loathe and despair of the crime, of the brutality. But if we hate and loathe the person - the poor, broken soul, lost in a wilderness of hurt...then, I think, we lose.

There are many victims here. 

We show our young men, through our actions and words, media portrayals, heroes we tell them to emulate, and many other ways, that their feelings are not supported. We tell them not to cry, to be a man, to suck it up, to grab a gun and beat the bad guy. But what if the bad guy is themselves? What if they are attacked by internal demons, or protecting themselves from external demons, and there is no one there to help them navigate? When we are so busy making these "men", we neglect to see a hurting boy. We leave them, lost in a maze of damaging information, and we are shocked when they express themselves like a macho gun-wielding fiend. We've shown them that a real man stiffens his upper lip and guns down the bad guy. We've ignored our sons' pleas for compassion and listening. We are guilty.

This young man has lost his life - maybe not in the permanent way that he took the lives of his victims. But he will not get to experience the beach at sunset, a lover's kiss after a mended fight, the immensity of an old growth forest, or the feel and taste of produce picked fresh from a garden. He will spend his remaining days locked away in institutions that hurt more than they heal. He will fade away until the only association with his name is horror.

At one time, someone - a parent, a nurse in a hospital, a teacher, a pastor - saw the divine light in this being and loved this person. Someone saw he was special. I'm holding onto that for him. I'm holding him in my heart and I'm greiving that we failed this man in such a drastic way.

That's what I would need, if this was my brother... Or my son. Just a little compassion. Just a little Love.

I'm sending all of that to the many victims. And I'm sending it to the broken young man as well.

On top of that, I'm praying that we learn more and more everyday to give our boys and men love, emotional vocabulary and abilities, and unfailing support. Because that's the best way I can think of to prevent similar incidences in the future.


If you also think that we need to do a better job with our young men, there are lots of thoughts about this over at The Good Men Project. If you aren't a regular reader, may I recommend you check it out? Thought provoking stuff. Let's challange the assumptions. 

I know many don't agree with me, that these situations cause a lot of anger and heartbreak. If you comment, please be respectful. Anything mean will be deleted.


  1. Ugh, I was thinking this very same thing - so sad. The whole system, every piece of it, that enables & encourages an environment where something like this happens is just tragically horrible and sad. I can't feel any more outrage against one part than another - it's practically immobilizing, the awfulness of it all.

    All I can think to do is continue to be the best man I can be, to reach out to other people (men, women, and whatever else) who are troubled, as well as just caring deeply for everyone - troubled or not. What else can we do, really? Everything else seems like posturing.

    It's so sad how things like this become polarizing and political events. If you don't hate the shooter, you're a monster. If you point the finger at guns, you're stupid. If you worry about education, you're a pinko commie liberal. If you show concern about the moral landscape of a nation that keeps having this happen, you're over simplifying the issues or blaming the victim or whatever. It's just...


    Thanks for writing about a tough topic, as you do.

    1. Too bad that we can't just be our genuine, compassionate, human selves...without the polarizing and the paralyizing and the labels, right?

  2. That is what Jesus taught. It hurts to hear all of the "I hope he rots in hell" comments, because now those people have sin in their hearts and more hurt is being spread. You put it so well. It is exactly what is required of us, the compassion of Jesus that is so difficult for most people to put out there for fear of public flogging themselves. Thank you for your courage. I am with you on all of the above.

    1. I agree with you - it's what enlightened leaders through the ages have taught. It seems to me that The Divine has tried through many people and many ways to get these messages out to People. I wish we would stop ignoring them.

  3. Beautifully said. Thank you for articulating another perspective and reaction to this tragedy.