Sunday, December 20, 2015
Shootings: Where is the light in this madness?
Traditionally, December is the month of love, joy and peace. It’s the time when we happily worry and fret over how we’re going to get everything done in time for Christmas. It should not be the time when foremost in our thinking is the safety of our loved ones in their school, shopping or work place. That safety, however, is today’s concern, as inexplicable violence and mass murderers seems to be erupting all around us. The light of the season seems strangely dim.
Sometimes when I’m wallowing in the misery of this reality, I need to step back and get some perspective. While I like to see the world through rose colored glasses and believe that today’s killings and atrocities are something new and have never happened before, I would be wrong. Evil is and always has been at work amongst us.
I am old enough to remember many senseless and tragic killings in our country. I remember where I was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Nov. 1963. My three little towhead babies were in the car with me as we drove down Inglewood Blvd., Calif. They were oblivious to the news but tears ran down my face as I wondered not “who” but “why.”
I remember the escalation of fear and frustration during the official Vietnam War era of 1969-1973. It was an ugly war and I marveled at the bravery of the war’s protestors. Then, on May 4, 1970, the unthinkable happened. The Ohio National Guard fired on unarmed protestors at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine others. Three years later the war officially ended. Where was the light?
The 1980s and 1990s were filled with dozens of illogical shootings. In 1984, in San Ysidro, Calif., an out of work security guard killed 21 and wounded 18 at a McDonald’s restaurant. In 1986, a mail carrier in Oklahoma, walked into his post office, opened fire and killed 14 co-workers before killing himself over a poor performance report.
About this time, a sort of pattern seemed to be emerging. Individuals disgruntled with their jobs or perceived treatment would heavily arm themselves and go on a killing spree. There was even a term coined for this mentality called “going postal.”
Twenty years ago, Americans were ushered into a new killing nightmare. Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government militant and his accomplice Terry Nichols introduced a new level of homeland terrorism. McVeigh set off a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds including children. Where was the light?
Revenge was McVeigh and Nichols motive. Their hatred against the way the U.S. government handled a standoff with Randy Weaver that ended with a firefight was one of many grudges they held. In return McVeigh decided to bomb a federal building and destroy both it and its occupants. Until Sept. 11, 2001 it was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and is the worst act of domestic terrorism in our history.
Suddenly, multiple school shootings came into the headlines. In 1998, Kip Kinkel, a disturbed young man, was suspended from Thurston High School for carrying a loaded, stolen handgun. That afternoon, he shot and killed both of his parents. The next day he returned to school wearing a trench coat to conceal his weapons. He fired 50 rounds, killing two and injuring 37. His fellow students eventually restrained him and he is serving a life sentence.
In 1999, two students put Columbine High School on the map when they opened fire at school, killing a dozen students and a teacher plus numerous injuries to others before they killed themselves.
Just two years later on Sept. 11, 2001, our country was introduced to global terrorism. Everyone remembers where they were when they saw the Twin Towers taken down in a coordinated series of attacks. We remember the ash-covered survivors running for safety. We remember the towers collapsing. We remember the heroism of First Responders. Thousands were killed. We were shocked to learn of an enemy dedicated to the destruction of the United States. A fatwa or declaration of war had been issued by Osama “Who”?
And the list of horrors goes on. I think that CNN reporter Brooke Baldwin spoke for many of us when she said, concerning the Roseburg and San Bernardino shooting …”I’m sick of speaking the words ‘active shooter situation.’ I’ve been covering too many of them…I’ve become too familiar with this. It’s sadly become a routine.”
So where is the light in all this madness? That’s a good question.
It saddens me to put out a column of remembrances like this in an attempt at perspective because I have no answers. I can’t just pretend that evil isn’t happening in my happy little corner of the world. The truth is, evil doesn’t take a break. Not even for Christmas. And now, more than ever, we must be vigilant. Now is the time to be alert, know our neighbors and put our fears in perspective.
One answer is to look around and find pockets of light. Random kindnesses are being practiced daily. Every-day life goes on. Good people are at work everywhere. Law enforcement is working to protect us. Babies are being born. Birthdays are being celebrated. Families are flourishing. The poor are being fed. The homeless are being sheltered. We are becoming united against the darkness.
In the Netherlands during the dark days of World War II a church minister was trying to convince his people that God would eventually destroy their enemies. He said, “It can take time but good will always win over evil...For the time being I can only forecast a dark night but the dark night will be followed by a bright dawn.”
These are dark days. But the gift of Christmas and the angel telling us to “fear not” is just around the corner. Let us pray for and work towards a bright dawn. Shalom.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.