I've been a bit quiet for a while on this here blog-o-sphere. I know I'm not alone in the sense that I didn't have the right words to say after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Then the hub-bub of Christmas and the New Year came and went, and still, I had no words. Everything else to write about just seemed frivolous or irrelevant. My mind has swirled with thoughts, and yet I just haven't been able to find the right words and put them together coherently. This is not a post about Sandy Hook, per se. This is not a post about gun control or even mental health care. It's a post about humanity. About decency. About respect for human life.
What has happened to the human race? What has happened to compassion? To empathy? To understanding and forgiveness? What happened to the Golden Rule? You know the one, do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
I'm likely going to say some things that will not be met with applause or amens. But it's what is on my heart, and so I will share it because if I am nothing else here in this blog, I am real and I am honest about what I feel and think.
We have always had violence in the world. I don't deny that. But our response to violence, I believe, has changed. It seems as though the majority are no longer shocked at seeing violence against others or hearing about a gruesome death. I shared an article recently about a young man standing on a ledge four stories high who was being taunted by a few people in the crowd below to "Jump!" with no one stepping in and trying to stop them, not even the police officers nearby. Where is our compassion for another human? Where is our respect for human life?
There is a picture that floats around on Facebook that says something to the effect of, "Why are we still testing on animals when we have pedophiles in prison?" I'm no fan of pedophiles, believe me, but again, where is the compassion? When do we start wanting to help people instead of wanting to string them up and hang them in the public square? Has all forgiveness and belief in changing a life been lost? Do we think that because a person has been a drug addict or pedophile or rapist or kidnapper or even a murderer that they can never be anything but that thing? Do we think they are beyond rehabilitation or major change? Yes, some people are wicked evil and do horrible things. They may never change. Ever. But do we stop believing in the possibility of change? Do we stop believing that good really can conquer evil? And does that mean we just completely disregard their life? Maybe they should just be given the death penalty? Or, as I've seen people suggest before, let's just "line them up in front of the firing squad and kill them all!" Who decides whose life is worth it? Who decides whose life is valuable enough to not take it from them? Who decides whose life is worth a second chance, a third chance ... ?
Eye for an eye, you say? Then the whole world is blind, if I may paraphrase Ghandi. Do you know what IS shocking to us now? Forgiveness. Do you remember the Amish schoolhouse shooting? It was just over six years ago. A gunman took 10 girls hostage, aged 6-13 years, and killed 5 of them before taking his own life. The nation was shocked alright. Shocked at how the Amish community responded to this killing. A grandfather of one of the murdered girls was heard saying, "We must not think evil of this man." Members of the community attended the funeral of the shooter, they visited his wife and extended their forgiveness. They set up a charitable fund for the killer's family. His wife wrote a letter to the Amish community and said, "Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately needed. Gifts you have given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you." Oh yes. We were shocked. Who can fathom such a thing? Who can have such compassion as this?
Much more recently you may have heard the story of Ann Margaret Grosmaire who was murdered by her boyfriend, Conor McBride. The Grosmaires found forgiveness for Conor and have participated in a "restorative justice" program through the Florida courts as opposed to pushing for his life sentence behind bars. Conor's mother, Julie McBride, said, "I think we're all surprised at the depth of forgiveness we can have. I think we don't really know what we are capable of forgiving until we're actually in the situation, whether it's a driver cutting you off at a red light or circumstances this tragic. Andy and Kate Grosmaire have publicly demonstrated what true forgiveness looks like." The Grosmaires made it clear that this was certainly not an easy thing for them to do, but they felt it to be the right thing to do. Who can have such compassion as this?
Human life deserves respect. It deserves second and even third or fourth or one hundred fifty-seventh chances. We are each only given one life to live, and I, for one, hope beyond all hopes that me and my life as a whole are not judged on the worst mistake I've ever made. I would hope that others could find some understanding, some compassion and see that forgiveness doesn't just benefit the receiver, it benefits the giver, too.
I shake my head at our world. I don't understand it at times. I don't understand how a person can believe they have to take another person's life or several people's lives, children's lives, to ... what? Be heard? Make a point? Gain attention? Steal something? Get out of a bad marriage? Pay someone back for a past wrong? Whatever the "reason", I don't understand it. I shake my head at the nonsense. Our disregard for human life, our apathy toward other people who we don't think have any bearing on our own lives, our detachment from other members of society ... when will we start caring again? When we will find compassion and start trying to make a difference?
~Black Eyed Peas, "Where is the Love"