Last week an online friend of mine who lives in a quiet community in British Columbia, Canada, was overwhelmed with terror and grief, as her safe, pleasant, idyllic world was shredded by a shooter on rampage. It seems like these reports are coming in daily. A Facebook friend of mine, who lives in California was outraged over the Las Vegas shooting that took place yesterday. Today, an outlying community, three small cities East of where I live, within the same county I’ve resided in for the majority of the past 33 years, experienced what is no longer unspeakable: a student brought a gun to school, fired it off in the locker room. A teacher is reported to be injured, the shooter and another student dead.
Those are the reported facts I’ve been able to see, despite the 452+ articles relating to this incident which existed less than three hours after news of the first reports of shots fired and school lockdown came in.
My friend from Canada was understandably shocked and overwhelmed with the idea that her safe little community was no longer safe and lamenting over the fact that it never should have happened where she lived. A sentiment echoed by an out of town, resident who was interviewed a couple of hours after today’s event:
“This shouldn’t happen in Troutdale,” said an emotional Maydew, who developed much of downtown Troutdale. “You don’t expect something like that to happen in your hometown. It shouldn’t be happening.”
I’ve been thinking about safety, fear, and entitlement a lot lately. Especially within the context of terrorizing acts of violence, domestic or foreign. Something I have realized is that I seldom, if ever, have experienced a true sense of safety. Mostly it’s been an unrealized, unrecognized thing. I haven’t been subjected to random or systematic acts of violence, as they are reported in the media. I have not lived in a land where generations have grown up and lived with daily threats of abduction, rape, killing, disease, and death – as a number of countries on other continents do. I don’t live in an area subject to extreme and consistently life-threatening environmental and weather conditions. I have, however, grown up within the context of a society founded on ideals and beliefs of personal independence, equality, and freedom. We are taught to believe that we are entitled to live worry-free lives in our safe little bubbles, being nurtured and protected from the ills and evils of the world outside of those bubbles.
At least that’s the modern mythology I grew up in as the only child of an under educated, under-employed, divorced, teen mom with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. Multiple moves between multiple states in the midst of three marriages. Rootlessness, emotional abandonment/detachment, sexual abuse, bullying, subtle racism, and social isolation had been inherent and continual aspects of my life from birth through twelve years old. Then my mom killed herself, according to the police investigator’s and coroner’s reports, which turned out to be perfunctory, incomplete, and inaccurate statements reported as accepted fact.
For the past 33 years I’ve jumped from one frying pan into the fire, after another, always seeking that sense of safety and security many first world residents complacently accept as their entitled due.
The truth of the matter is that no one is safe from potentially life threatening danger at any time, anywhere, because hurt people, hurt people. And the number of walking wounded increases every, single day – minute by minute, hour by hour.
Our entitlement mentality makes us the ideal victims of fear mongers and terrorists. It is this entitlement mentality that leads to gross abuses of power which lead to persecution and genocide.
The only way to build and rebuild a sense of safety in an unsafe world is to stop focusing of the fears and trying to identify the scapegoat to blame for our fear, dissatisfaction and unrest. We need to let go of the entitlement which leads to the false expectations that bad and horrific things should never happen to us, where we live. Instead, we need to take our blinders off and look inside of ourselves and fully examine our hearts and minds so we can see where in our sense of entitled ignorance, we have contributed to the lack of safety and sense of fear that others experience.
We need to step outside of our complacent little bubbles and safety zones, break down the crumbling walls we’ve built between whichever us vs them dichotomy we live in and start building shelter and community which is inclusive and healing for everyone who encounters it.
For myself, I have no real clue how to do that in my life. I’m inadequate to the task when I rely upon myself to do it and make it happen. I’ve come to realize I can only do it through God’s Spirit in me. In order for that to be possible, I first have to learn to let God in fully. That isn’t possible if I keep myself filled with fear. So, I’m learning something truly awesome, God is the fear eater and life giver. When I give Him my fears, He eats them and exchanges them for peace, grace, mercy, compassion, and empathy. It’s a 4:1 exchange.
My heart and mind grieve for the broken, damaged, and lost lives in Troutdale, Los Vegas, and British Columbia, as well as for all the ones which have gone before and those which will come after. I just hope we can learn to let go of entitlement and fear, take them and give them to God, so that we can be in the solution and stop living in fear of the problem.