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When will it end?! Don’t tell me it’s when everyone of us has been affected by gun violence, when each of us is connected to a mass shooting. Do not say that. Let it not get that far. I pray it does not get that far.
Today gun violence hit near my home. The shock of the New York Times headline “Breaking News: A mass shooting has been reported in San Bernadino, Calif.” made my heart sink and tears immediately rise. At this it all finally hit me. Suddenly all these horrific acts became really real. Suddenly all the tears, all the anger, all the grief, agony and sorrow I had not yet been able to express for all these shootings over the last two years were released.
Gun violence has now come close enough to my little world to bridge the gap that had been keeping all the other shootings at a distance. I have had a taste of this sickness’s symptoms and they are horrid. The writhing, gut-wrenching grief, the tears, the shock, the anger–the waves of emotion. Exhausting. All this, and I merely grew up in the vicinity of the shootings. How my heart breaks now realizing how much worse it must be for my neighbors more intimately connected with these mass shootings of recent times. And there have been hundreds of them. In this year alone there have been 355!
When, when will it end?!
But, I refuse to become fearful. I refuse to let anger fester and hate be forged. I choose instead prayer and positive thoughts. I choose hope for change. May we all join together in this time in the greatest power of all: love. Let us extend compassion to our neighbors affected by this and other acts of gun violence. Let us pray forgiveness and blessing upon the shooters that they may be healed–freed–from whatever has caused them to act so violently and that others toying with the thoughts of following a similar course be stopped before they act. May justice be done and these people be helped to be made right. Let us not continue to abandon those struggling with their mental health, but show more compassion and advocate for better programs to help them! And, let us not put more guns into more hands. History seems to be making it blatantly clear the more guns that are available the more they are being misused. Let us instead educate our society on how to responsibly handle our problems. And, in the mean time significantly improve and enhance gun license screenings.
But this isn’t about guns. This is not about too many people in our society struggling with their mental health. It is not even ultimately about people’s lives being pawns on the playground of partisan politics. All of those are symptoms to the root issue, which is we have become so isolated and disconnected from each other–and in turn fearful and closed–that we can no longer live together well. We have to revive our community. We have to practice engaging with each other. Crossing border-lines, showing kindness, simply smiling at each other again. We have to assume the best in each other and not be so afraid of being wrong and getting hurt. We have to learn to honor each other despite our differences. We have to be reawakened to the truth that it is in diversity we thrive. It is not in a monoculture or staunch individualism; those lead to extremes–those are to be feared. What we need is that which Christopher Duraisingh identifies as a “liberating dialogue among diverse communities which would demand a willingness to move beyond our limited and finite horizons, theological and ideological comfort zones.”
I come from a Christian tradition, yet I have learned admiration and even modeling after Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle is something shared by numbers of my neighbors who do not claim the faith, and so I will conclude with these apt words of a universal message also offered by Duraisingh on the call to embrace our pluralistic world and to recognize its diversity for the truly beautiful, not fearful, thing that it is. “For all of us pluralism can be a rock of stumbling, but for God it is the cornerstone of universal design.” How might we cultivate “a pasture of permanent openness to the other, and to the plurality of cultures and traditions, however strange and unsettling they might be? The gospel imperative is always an imperative for a permanent openness to the other, the stranger and the alien. Hospitality to strangers and mutuality of recognition of the other is intrinsic to the Christian story of God’s love in Christ. …Our call is to cross boundaries across cultures and traditions that divide us in the pattern and power of the One who crossed every human boundary and broke every middle wall of division in order that the one new humanity …may be brought about.” Let us cross boundaries, cultivate relationships across party, theology, and culture lines and become unified in community as the one people that we are.