Love Is Stronger Than Bullets

15 Dec

Today…another mass shooting. This time, 20 children and seven adults were murdered before the gunman turned the gun on himself.

Children. Kids. Happy, innocent, joyful children full of life and spirit and energy. Little kids. Which elevates this horrible thing from merely unbelievable to utterly incomprehensible.

That’s the key word here – comprehend. We can’t. We’re watching the news, looking for new information that will help us relegate this senseless thing to a place in our minds where we can somehow call it “sensible”. Not to justify it, of course, but for our own sanity and sense of safety in this world, we need to find and attach a reason to this.

Because it is happening more. A lot more. And the first time it happened, we said one time was too many, but then it happened again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and then again today. That is way too many “agains”.

At this late hour, more than 12 hours after their lives were taken, the victims are still in the school, laying on cold floors, pending final official identification. The little town of Newtown, Connecticut is in shock, and life for all of them has come to a screeching, horrific stop. The rest of the nation is reeling with a sorrow that is sadly reminiscent of the days and weeks following September 11, 2001. Shared grief. Crying that comes in waves. And always…always…the question…WHY?

Tonight, we will cry. Tomorrow, we will argue about the answer to that question.

Gun control advocates will say that we should regulate the sales of weapons better. We will argue about that.

Second amendment disciples will say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. We will argue about that too.

Religionists will say that this is a symptom of a godless society. We will argue the hell out of that.

Mental health professionals will say that we need to catch these disturbed people before they can act on their troubled urges. We will agree with the general idea, but we will argue about how to document crazy.

The media will excoriate this shooter’s family life, looking for clues, and even if there doesn’t seem to be concrete proof of childhood abuse or neglect, we’ll probably have a silent trial in the back of our minds, and find a way to blame his parents. Messy divorce, not enough structure, overly permissive…whatever. And then we will argue about nature vs. nurture, and the role of parents in an increasingly aggressive and difficult world.

Communities across the country will reevaluate school security measures, and put in budget requests for things like metal detectors and bullet proof classroom doors and additional guards on campuses. They will hope that these things not only prevent another attack, but also give parents, students and faculty a sense of security. We will argue whether this money is well-spent or utterly wasted.

The reason I know what is going to happen next, and why we’re going to argue? Because that is what we have done after every one of the last eleven school shootings, as well as other public mass shootings. We get sad, we get angry, we argue about the best solution…and then we get bogged down by the hopelessness of it all…until it happens again, putting the discussion back on the front burner.

Believe me, I’m not judging. It’s how life is. We DO care – very much – but we have a million things to care about, and do, and support, and argue…it’s understandable that we will slowly lose interest in trying to solve something that, quite frankly, has no real solution. It’s like trying to put together a thousand-piece puzzle when you only have half the pieces; it was hard enough in the first place, but now you see that it’s just impossible to solve. Sure, fewer guns would help, but it won’t stop every crazy person. More people carrying guns might make us feel safer from the crazies, but that poses more danger to a greater number of people. You could give every person in the country a mental health screening once a month, but dangerous people are still going to slip through the cracks. You could put God back into schools, but even if you converted everyone on the planet, faith is a measure of comfort, historically not a measure of violence prevention. You could enforce laws that protect children from parental neglect or abuse, but not all deranged killers come from broken families. You can take every safety precaution imaginable – in our homes, in our schools, in any public gathering place – but tragedy will still find its way in. All you’re likely to do is lose your humanity as you lock yourself away. Surprisingly, we all agree on this. So why do we argue? Because expressing anger is the second most empowering thing we can do when we are rocked once again by the sudden realization that we are helpless…we are vulnerable…and that none of us are ever truly safe in this world.

As I said, anger is the second thing we can do in the face of inexplicable tragedy.

The first, most empowering thing we can do is to love one another.

Openly, freely, loud, hard, and always.

Love is stronger than bullets. Really.

Loving the people that you love is what makes all the other arguments moot. Think of love as the ultimate violence preventer;  people who are loved…who feel loved…love themselves. And people who love themselves, truly, honestly, will not walk into a kindergarten classroom and gun down twenty beautiful little children. Not ever.

I know that sounds Utopian, and it is…but it is also the one very real thing that each of us can do, right now, every day, to help create a world where things like this happen less frequently. We have very little control over national violence prevention, but we have all the power in the world to fold our children in our arms several times a day and tell them that we love them. To reach out to people we know who are having a hard time, and letting them know we care. To just…love the people in our lives, as much as we can, while they are still here, and connected to us. These little stitches of love are exactly what we need to mend the holes in society’s broken fabric. And no, that might not be foolproof, but it’s a start, and it’s something we can all pitch in and do. What have we got to lose by trying?

At the very least, if it turns out there isn’t enough love to combat the anger and hatred in this world, I know that love does heal. When it can’t stop the bad thing from happening, it sees you through. For each of us, there will come a day when love won’t stop a bullet. Tragedy finds us all in different ways – different bullets. So love…openly, freely, loud, hard, and always.

I can think of twenty sets of parents tonight who will cherish the feel of last night’s bedtime kisses, and this morning’s hurried before-school hugs, for the rest of their lives.

And those memories…that’s how love is stronger than bullets.


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