How To Deal With Tragedy In Our World...
This piece is hard to write because I haven't really been able to sort out my feelings. The news of the attack in Manchester has me feeling some type of way. While yes, I am sick to my stomach at the barbarity of the incident, I am more sick about my initial reaction to it. When I saw the news, my reaction was a deadpanned, "another one." That's all I said. To myself. In an empty house. In front of my television screen. I didn't clutch the pearls. My jaw didn't drop. I didn't shed a tear. I felt nothing - and everything - at the same time. Yet all I could muster was two unemotional words.
I initially was angry with myself for not having more of an emotional reaction like I had in the past for Paris, Orlando, Nice, New York or others. But then I forgave myself because...Paris, Orlando, Nice, New York and others. In the end I concluded that my reaction was less about my indifference to the incident and more about the fact that this is a global epidemic.
I had - and continue to have - a similar reaction to the continued killing of unarmed black men by police officers. These incidents happen so frequently that my conversations with my husband on the topic now go something like this:
Husband: You heard about the kid who got shot by the police last week?
Me: Which one?
This happens every.single.time. And I'm not saying that any of these types of incidents are normal. I'm not even saying that this is a "new normal". I guess what I'm saying is that my reaction is an expression of numbness. It's as if I don't have a tear or a gasp or a piece of sorrow left in my body to give to these occurrences because they happen so frequently.
So what do I do with this? I don't envy my friends with children who now have to explain to them about how and why things like Sandy Hook or Manchester happened. I can't even begin to comprehend how they must feel now that routine things like taking your teenager to a concert gives them a new level of fear that they may not have had two days ago. I really can't understand how my friends who are raising young black boys go about their day with a lump in their throat because they have committed their child to the world for an hour or more knowing that there's a chance he won't come home.
Aside from how to deal with it as a parent, how do you deal with it as a basic citizen of the world? I am guilty of being in the back of a grocery store and stopping in my tracks thinking, "what is my easiest path to an exit if some shit pops off in the produce section?" My husband and I are planning a vacation and we have seriously had to think about some places on our list because...."what if?"
Life has shifted for all of us significantly. As evil and hatred and bigotry become more a part of the global fabric, we are all guilty of giving more thought to the "what ifs" than we might have in previous times. I had an idyllic childhood that included riding bikes for miles until the sun went down. I don't know that my folks would allow this same freedom today...
So what's the answer? I know being numb doesn't help things because it means that I have accepted that these incidents keep happening and in a way, it places one more layer between me and my basic human feelings. I know that closing myself off from the world to avoid the "what ifs" isn't the answer. I should be able to open my windows without concern and let in the light. I should be able to plan a vacation to go somewhere because the beach is good, and not because there have been no incidents there recently. I should be able to go to the grocery store or a concert just to enjoy the music and not in anticipation of something going down.
And so I think that's what we all should do...
It's a common phrase that you hear when things like this happen: "hold your loved ones a little closer tonight." And while that is a valid and reasonable reaction, the question remains- how tight before it becomes constricting?
So I vow today to live more freely and without concern for the unforeseeable what ifs. Watch my back? Yes. Be more aware of my surroundings? Sure. But be so fearful that these incidents suck the life out of living? Not a chance...
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have some of the same reactions? How have you dealt with them?
Photo Credit: Spenser H