When we focus on mass murder in America...
It's easy to forget that every time we focus on something we are not focusing on something else. Here is an article from 2013 about the Boston Marathon Bombings... It's the answer to a Quora question about how to comfort people affected by a mass murder. In light of yesterday's shooting in Dallas, I needed to read it again.
I think those most affected by the bombing would be least comforted by words. For them, the support of strangers is a phenomenon like the roar of a distant waterfall in their sudden desert. They do not need eloquence. Eloquence when your beloved has been torn by a bomb is grotesque. Sometimes the words needed to stop suffering are not comforting. Sometimes what is needed is sharp suck of truth. So, I don't have comfort. What I have is a slow awareness of what I'm up to and why. Maybe it will apply to other people as well. What I felt, when my boss said "they bombed the marathon" was not compassion, it was a disturbing mix of curiosity, fear, excitement and pity - behind a mask of concern. I flipped between reddit's "new" and "best" on my breaks, looking for better information than the AM talk radio in the main office. When someone said white powder on the streets; I imagined strangers in airline seats and a cough that might start in May. I imagined contamination and plague. In my groups we processed fear. Parents drew their children in, afraid of the county fair, cancelling trips to Disneyland. Those inclined, inclined toward conspiracy. We expressed outrage and anger and grief - but at a cost. Here's some of what we missed: Charlie's father had a massive stroke. Daniel's wife has left him. Linda is losing her battle with meth. Kevin, new to the group, is home from college because while frying on psilocybin he called his parents and screamed "death! death! death!" into the phone and hung up. Katie's friend committed suicide. Albert blames the police for his new DUI. All of this was mentioned, none of this was processed. So far my week has been an enormous failure. I'm trying to understand what had me glued to that event and why writing (and not writing) this answer has preoccupied me for more than a week. It's not the fact that people were hurt; on any given day in America over 5,000 end up in the hospital for assault. It's not the fact that three died - every day about 40 people are murdered in my country. At the end of the Boston Marathon an act of hatred and theater tore at America again. A crowd of innocent people were cast impersonally and without regard for the very real lives that were being torn apart. I don't have eloquent words to unwind this awful event - but I can decide to walk out of the play. We are a storytelling beast - Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme & Setting are our natural habitat. Terrorism deliberately exploits this trait, but we have the ability to say no. Refusing to be drawn into the drama, turning my back to the stage is a reflection on the playwrights, not their involuntary cast. From this day forward, I promise to stop supporting dramas written by perpetrators. I will withhold my precious attention from gunmen and bombers and people who light fires and torture animals. I will remember the opportunity cost of focusing on stories of violence and hate. I will turn off the news after a cursory glance and think "meanwhile." Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. // Mary Oliver I will recognize all suffering as facets of the same issue and use my hands and mind to do something local and tangible that will actually help. And when I fail I will try again. I will go back to my groups and invite Charlie to tell us about his dad and talk about hospital corridors and machines and waiting. I'll make space for Daniel and David to show us the pictures on their cell phones of the babies their wives took when they left. I'll invite the group to share their reactions and we'll listen to what comes up in the room.