Another slaughter of innocents—this time in a Boulder supermarket where we’ve shopped many times. During the following week, my clients express their confused disbelief veiling the anger and anguish beneath. We struggled with the questions: Why does this happen? How can we make sense of something so perverted?
Mass murders (under the euphemism ‘mass shootings’) are a normal, almost taken-for-granted part of American life. We grow numb in the face of so many atrocities, hopeless in the face of political inaction. Our awareness and compassion grows thin. We shed a tear, talk with friends, attend a vigil, donate a few dollars to the survivor’s fund and then it slips away.
But survivors, eyewitnesses and those with tender hearts do not forget. For every mass killing, thousands of lives are affected; many are devastated, warped and twisted out of true. Children grieve their murdered parent all their lives. Some turn to violence or self-abuse to numb the pain. People who fled the slaughter do not feel safe in public. Victims of violence of every kind are distressed and disturbed. All have been deeply wounded and their healing is uncertain. Trauma breeds trauma.
Random murder is unnatural and meaningless; its shockwaves spread through our inner being, rippling across the country and the world. We humans are woven together in a fabric of spiritual and emotional threads. Tug one thread and the whole cloth vibrates; tear a hole and the integrity is lost. Senseless killings rip through the cloth of our collective experience. Our confusion and pain at these murders is more than personal; we feel the tissue of our shared humanity being torn apart. Darkness wells up through the gaping hole, a shadow eager to darken the flickering light of consciousness and compassion.
We must hold to the light. A moral society is a frail bastion against the darker forces within every human being. We all have our bad days of agony, rage and destructive impulses. In moments of madness and torment we lash out and hurt those closest to us. Mostly we summon up a core of moral restraint and lean into our bonds of tenderness and care. Our dark impulses are curbed and we remember we are meant to love, not hate.
What if those inner restraints are weak or missing? What if fear, anger and despair overwhelm our connections and concern for each other? Then we are a danger to the human family. Society has to step in and contain our destructive urges. We do not put a knife in the hands of a raging toddler. We do not allow a drunk to drive. Why do we allow any human being to possess a machine of mass murder?
Humans are tool makers and tool users. Every tool and every machine is intended for a purpose. We buy a can-opener to open cans. We purchase a car to drive the roads. I can’t imagine owning a tool I would never use. Each of my tools fits my hand and asks to be used. Certain armaments are specifically designed to kill people; they invite killing.
We all want power and control; we all have fantasies of retaliation against those who hurt us. Light and shadow struggle in our souls. We are frail and flawed, angry and sad, loving and kind. Our laws have to reflect the reality of our human psyche—to strengthen what is good and restrain what is destructive.
Rationalizations about ‘gun rights’ or ‘people kill people, not guns’ defend shadowy and often unconscious drives. Do I really need an assault weapon to make me feel better? Don’t we agree that all human life is precious? Surely we are willing to give up a tiny crumb of choice and freedom to save innocent people from slaughter and suffering.