Thursday, April 19, 2007


Sometimes I feel like I am very slow to figure things out about myself. Maybe I don't spend enough time navel-gazing. Maybe I'm out of touch with my own feelings. Maybe I'm just slow. I'll be driving or reading something or listening to the radio or talking to a friend and an insight will hit and--duh, I can't believe it took me so long to figure that out!

I spent Monday morning as I always do, in Hannah's classroom, attending the school's weekly assembly, sorting papers, helping kids with their work, attempting to herd a bunch of cats through a violin lesson. After lunch, we went to pick Jonah up from school. One of our friends was dropping his son off and, in passing, said: "Those are some headlines today, huh?"
"What? I haven't listened to the news at all today. What happened?"
"There was a Columbine-style shooting. Something like 30 people were killed at Virginia Tech..."
"Oh. Wow. That's awful."

Natural disasters, genocide, psychopaths: I don't really know what to say. It is awful, it's not fair, it's entirely real. There's suffering and pain and grief. This particular event hits close to home. Our lives are closely tied to a university--one attended by troubled students who could do crazy and violent things. The idea that my husband could be shot in the middle of one of his lectures, or while he's walking to a committee meeting or, or, present now.

People want to talk about these kinds of events. They need to talk about them. It's talk I've never been comfortable with. I can't believe it's taken me so long to figure out why.

The discomfort that comes with empathy, with feeling sad and helpless when others are suffering, the way we shake our heads because we can't imagine what it would be like to have a devastating hurricane hit our town, to live in a war zone, to have our children slaughtered at school, because we don't even want our imaginations to go there--all of that I can handle. Not knowing what to say is perfectly fine. But people don't just want to talk, they want to talk about What It Means. And usually what it means is that what they've been saying all along? Is right.

If just one person in one of those classrooms had been carrying a concealed weapon, maybe so many people wouldn't have died.

If we had tighter gun control laws, this never would have happened in the first place.

You get the idea.

It's not that people have opinions--even when those opinions are clearly dumb ones--about what this kind of event means that makes me uncomfortable, it's that we get to talking about meaning in the first place. It just is: a tragedy.

PS: Credit where credit is due: Thanks Jon Carroll. Again.

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