Words fail me. What are you supposed to say after something like today? I’m finding some comfort in the those who have had an appropriate reaction to this tragedy:
“In times like this we realize how weak and inadequate we are, and our greatest need is to turn in repentance and faith to the God of all mercy and the Father of all comfort. If ever there was a time for us to turn to God and to pray as a nation, it is now, that this evil will spread no further.” – Billy Graham
You’ve all seen the video and heard the reports, so there’s not a lot I can say. I will comment on two things, though:
I’m scared. Not scared of the actual attacks or afraid of my safety. I’m scared of the possible retaliation. A lot of people are very angry right now and completely unfounded accusations are being made. This country already has problems with racism, and I hate to see what happens after something like this. I’ve heard enough early reaction from people condemning other groups and calling for us to nuke certain nations. I’m just afraid of visions of violence in our own country, Americans striking out against Americans simply because of the color of their skin, their religious belief, or whatever other feature may match that of potential suspects.
I’m also scared not only of personal retaliation, but of the retaliation this country as a whole will make. It’s almost without a doubt that there will be a military response. President George W. Bush seems to have no qualms with using military force against terrorists, and “those who harbor terrorists.” Those are the words that start wars. I certainly understand that action is needed, that America must defend herself. But in our bloodthirst, we cannot sacrifice innocent lives in pursuit of justice. Any justice that claims innocent civilians is no justice at all. I pray that this country will move forward with wisdom like we’ve never had before.
The other thing I’m finding curious right now is the line of cars outside my window. They’re all lining up to fill up on gas. Apparently there’s a scare that gas prices will spike, that the supply will dwindle, who knows. They’re all rumors, and the prices haven’t gone up at all. Watching the panic take place around me brings it one step closer to home. While watching the news you see one image of Americans rushing to help one another. Outside my window I see another image as brakes squeal and two cars nearly slam into one another. The drivers begin swearing at each other, all in an attempt to top off their gas tanks. Perhaps not all of us feel that American resolve we speak so highly of.
Tonight I heard about the riots in Cincinnati for the first time. I feel rather disconnected that I didn’t hear about them before–which is odd considering I check three or four different news sites on a daily basis. I watched the footage on the news tonight and it was like some movie or footage from the 1960s on one of those PBS documentaries.
People screaming, the crowds reeling, the blood flowing. The angry mobs, the powerless leaders, the armored men fighting back the crowd. An innocent man killed.
Maybe not so innocent, but the parallels are still there.
Racial incidents drive me nuts. Nobody has any good answers. You can tell the kind of people you’re with by the way they react to news reports. Which side do they come down on, what kind of comments do they make? It’s very telling of a person’s racial attitudes.
So the black man is running from the white cop, he turns and reaches for something, possibly a weapon. Pop. The white officer fires in self-defense, fearing the worst. The unarmed black man drops to the ground, shot dead. It’s not a very good situation for anyone involved.
What causes a man to run from a cop like that? What causes a cop to fear the first and start pulling the trigger? And couldn’t the cop aim for a leg or a shoulder–or is that too much to ask in the heat of the moment? And why would a hunted man make a movement that could be seen as threatening when he’s facing a cop with a gun? Why have 15 people been killed by the Cincinnati police since 1995? 15 black people? 15 black males? Apparently white guys aren’t dangerous. Are African American males really that dangerous? Are they all gun-toting thugs that deserve to be gunned down in self-defense? Or is this just a senseless stereotype that is continually perpetuated?
It’s perpetuated every time a parent tells you not to go to that part of town. It’s perpetuated every time you watch the news and someone makes a comment about those people. You wonder where racism comes from? It comes from the innocent comments that go unquestioned and serve to perpetuate the stereotypes.
Will it ever end? No, I don’t think so. We’re only human.
I’m old enough to make my own choices.
That’s what teenagers say all the time. That’s how they justify their behavior. And perhaps they’re right. Part of growing up is taking greater responsibility for your actions. Sometimes that means you make mistakes, but that’s part of life.
But what’s interesting is watching standard explanations crumble when tragedy strikes. What happened at Santana High School? Was the student who injured 13 and killed two old enough to make his own choices? On a number of teen web sites today I found a lot of kids blaming the parents. Apparently teenagers aren’t old enough to make their own choices. Apparently parents need to be more involved in the lives of their kids.
Which doesn’t exactly seem like the thing most teens want to admit. They say it now during tragedy, but I wonder what they’ll say come Friday night? Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived up to our own hype?
Once again America’s schools make the news as violence explode in the hallowed halls of learning and knowledge. It’s kind of depressing. You’d think we’d take the hints. You’d think we’d realize we need to stop marginalizing the outcast. You’d think we’d realize we need to spend time with our kids. You’d think we’d realize that maybe violence in TV, movies, and music needs to be reevaluated. You’d think we’d realize that handguns are a little too accessible. You’d think we’d realize a lot of things, but we don’t.
That’s a messed up little freshman running around shooting his classmates with a smile on his face. He must live in a pretty messed up American family in a pretty messed up American high school full of pretty messed up American kids. He’s probably just like a million other freshmen in high school. That’s the sad thing. Maybe one of these days we’ll realize we’re doing something wrong.
President George W. Bush called this an act of cowardice. That may be, but I would say that a country that continues to watch its children murder one another is committing a bigger act of cowardice. And I’m not just talking about the suburban schools that make the news. I’m also talking about the back alley jobs and the ones that happen all the time. People are dying all over this country, you’d think we’d realize something is dreadfully wrong.
But we’re too busy sucking back on another pop, rotting our teeth, and minding our own business. It’s great to be an American.
Sorry about the hiatus. I skipped town for Easter weekend and was a little slow in getting back in the swing of things.
Elian. Just by starting with the name I’m driving some of you away. That name and his smiling little face has been in the news since December. I’m a college student who doesn’t keep up with a lot of what’s going on in the world, but I can’t help but know what’s going on with Elian. I really don’t care to know, but you can’t get away from it. This weekend Elian was forcibly taken from his relatives in Miami and reunited with his father. What I don’t understand is why this thing has dragged on for so long. The poor kid’s mother died, so put him with his closest relative, his father. What does it matter that his father lives in communist Cuba. You’d think we’d be over that by now. And what was with that forcible raid. The media flashes so many memorable images (there’s a contradiction) and the image of an INS agent in riot gear with an assault rifle aimed at Elian and the man holding him will stick with me. Who is acting in that child’s best interest when he has to be dragged away screaming at 5 in the morning by men with body armor and rifles? Obviously the government had to deal with the protestors outside and relatives who weren’t exactly cooperative. But a pre-dawn raid with machine guns? And what about Elian’s Miami relatives. What were they thinking? We love this child so we won’t give him up, even though that means you’ll come busting through our house with guns.
This whole thing just blows my mind. It’s utterly stupid. It’s the typical plot of a daytime talk show. What I want to know is how many other children like Elian are there out there? How many other children are caught up in sticky custody battles with feuding families? But nobody seems to care. Why should I be so concerned about a boy in Miami?
Tragedy strikes in an instant, somewhere far away. Six people are dead–Nine–Twelve. A log pile for a bonfire crashes at Texas A&M University. You have to wonder about the stupidity of it all. They were just having fun, crawling around on a forty foot high mound of timber. And now they’re dead. Life so quickly comes to an end. You have to wonder if they were ready for it. Is anybody ready for it? The families and friends ask their questions, and all you can do is pray for your fellow man.
Take another drag from your cigarette, spew your venomous hate. Your loaded guns empty into the bright shining stars, silencing them. Precious life snuffed out with your single action. Lives tossed into chaos. You take the lives of seven, then raise the gun to your own head. Mixed emotions, spinning thoughts. You’ve come this far. Hatred. Rage. Clenched fists. People screaming. People bleeding. People dying. People watching. Fear. What will you do next? Squeeze the trigger and end their horror. You wait. Momentarily. Then you overcome the brink of madness. Now you see the demons that fueled your spree.
Tears fall to the blood stained carpet. A church, shattered by gunshots. What have we become? I used to watch this on TV, and laugh. Now I watch it on the 6 o’clock news, and stop. When will the madness end?
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love. Then they’ll shoot us. Why doesn’t the love pierce the cold and bitter hearts? A question we can hardly throw in the face of a God who weeps over his slain lambs. Our only response is to grimly swallow and reply, if this is what it takes.
As the question of gun control came up at a news conference, [Texas Gov. George W.] Bush said, “I believe we ought to have laws like instant background checks to prevent people from buying guns who shouldn’t have guns. I don’t know the law, the governmental law, that will put love in people’s hearts,” he said. (CNN, emphasis mine)
At least someone has realized you can’t legislate morality. It’s come to this, we can’t save ourselves.
God help us.
Okay, it’s time to take a break from the vague, descriptive narratives and talk about something we can all easily understand without straining our brains. This whole JFK Jr. thing is really confusing me. Now I’m not a totally heartless guy, I feel for the Kennedy family. This is quite a tragedy and I can’t imagine having to go through something like that. But what I don’t understand is why CBS had live coverage of the entire thing all day Saturday. Why is this the biggest news story since the height of bombing Kosovo? Sure, he’s the son of JFK, he’s rich, he’s a Kennedy. But frankly, I don’t care that much about him. How many people die in plane crashes all the time, and the whole nation doesn’t stop and wait for every detail. Maybe I should correct that, the entire news media doesn’t stop and wait for every last detail. I don’t think the average American is too concerned about this whole thing. An online poll on cnn.com showed that 81% of the respondents thought there was too much news coverage (of a total 80,000 people). Now sure, that’s just an online poll, but that’s a pretty high percentage. People often refer to JFK’s days in the Whitehouse as Camelot, and subsequently JFK Jr. has been called America’s Prince. I hate to break it to ya, but America has no royalty. Not in name and not even in sentiment.
It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring. And he better wake up, cuz he’s gonna be wet pretty soon. We’ve had a lot of rain here in Chicago the past several days, and that tiny little river that lazily snakes through Judson–well, it isn’t so tiny, and it isn’t so lazy anymore. I think it dreams of taking over the campus. Right now it’s flooded the front yard of one of the dorms, and the basement of my dorm is flooding. There’s something that makes you feel kind of powerless when you see all that raging water.
The thunder echoes outside, and my thoughts overflow with ideas. Where to begin, where to begin?
Shel Silverstein died today at the age of 66 from a heart attack. You probably remember some of his books of poetry, A Light in the Attic, or Where the Sidewalk Ends, with the silly illustrations. I remember them from second grade, and reading about the man with two heads, complaining that when ‘I want tea, he has to pee.’ The best children’s writers seem to be a little out there.
Speaking of writing, what do you think of the piece I wrote for the Table Tent in yesterday’s pondering? I had a lot of fun writing that. This weekend I read another small chunk of L’Engle’s Walking on Water (nope, I’m not done yet), and what stood out to me was how we are losing the ability to equate work with play. When kids play, they play hard. They play intently. They’re actually doing work. How come we can’t work like that? Well, while writing that piece, I worked. And I had a blast. L’Engle also talked about how writing is tough and you really have to work at it sometimes. She said that so many books out there are just rough drafts. Well, I usually settle for rough drafts, but I raked this thing over with a fine tooth comb and tweaked everything to make it sound right. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the way it was. It just makes you feel good to refine something like that.
So who are you? What do other people see you as? Mary Ellen Ashcroft spoke in chapel today, and part of what she talked about was how we categorize people. He’s a jock, she’s a prep, he’s a nerd, she’s a punk, he’s conservative, she’s just out there, he’s a Calvinist, she’s a feminist, etc. How unloving is that? Do we like to be put in a neat little box like that. I certainly don’t. So why do we do it to others? And I’m certainly guilty of this too. We shouldn’t dismiss people and categorize them based on one aspect of their life. People are unique, and we should take the time to get to know them better, rather that just stick them in some category. I’ve noticed that the people I know the best I can’t categorize. They don’t fit in any category. I have a silly notion that’s true with everybody.