Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kevlar society?

On the verge of Christmas Eve, pundit conversations have turned from the horror of violence to the -- unbelievable! -- suggestion that teachers should be armed, kids' backpacks should be bulletproof ... I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. Instead of passing common sense gun-control legislation and addressing widespread mental health issues, it sounds to me as though we are giving up.

Is violence now in control? Are we all going to retreat into bunkers, sandbag ourselves in, drink bottled water and eat from cans? Peer through bulletproof windows? Wear Kevlar vests to go pick up a half-gallon of milk?

I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to live my life on defense. When do we become so afraid that there isn't anything left but fear?

Haven't we seen, in the last horrific week, that most people are inclined toward compassion, toward acts of love and goodwill? I still believe most people are good, that a few sick individuals should not be allowed to sicken the rest of the human family with fear.

Let's not give in.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reading Isaiah in the Wild West

Since the horrific shootings in Connecticut, I feel as though I've been wandering in a fog. I was home sick that day, last Friday when it happened, so I was aware early on that life had changed--again. Life changes (or it should) whenever we hear of an act of terrible violence near or far, but, as all the commentators say, "this feels different." This act of mass murder has peeled back America's the last deceptive layer of civility. What's been revealed -- the ugliness of a society in love with guns and violence -- is not easy to behold. It's as though we've taken a step back into the Wild West.

So our Christmas tree is up; the lights, by sheer chance, are blue.  Josh Groban is singing quiet carols in the background. Last night, Santa went by on a firetruck. My neighbors have an obscenely fat, inflated Santa on their lawn (most years I would have a snarky comment about this, but alas...this year, it hardly seems worth the effort).

So, I'm going through the motions, as I imagine many other people are. But I want nothing to do this year with angels, shepherds, babies in mangers. My nativity scene is still packed in a box.  Fable me no fables. Reality itself has become too much like a bad dream.

There is some comfort to be had -- the sharing of horror and grief. I have been inspired by the way Americans have come together in the wake of tragedy, to hold Newtown in their hearts. I have a friend, an Episcopal chaplain, who  joined a team traveling to Connecticut last weekend to offer what solace can be had. I wish I could do something concrete like that -- more concrete than anti-gun posts on Facebook or petition-signing, though the political will for change is prospectively important for the country.

What I am doing is reading Isaiah 60-61. In the words of the third, post-exilic, Isaiah, I do find hope, despite a realistic  acknowledgement that life has become very dark:

               60 Arise, shine; for your light has come,
                    and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
                    2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
                     and thick darkness the peoples;
                     but the LORD will arise upon you,
                     and his glory will appear over you.
                     3 Nations shall come to your light,
                     and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

               61 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
                     because the LORD has anointed me;
                     he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
                     to bind up the brokenhearted,
                     to proclaim liberty to the captives,
                     and release to the prisoners;
                     2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
                     and the day of vengeance of our God;
                     to comfort all who mourn;
                     3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
                     to give them a garland instead of ashes,
                     the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
                     the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
                     They will be called oaks of righteousness,
                     the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

To bind up the brokenhearted. We already know how to do this. May God give us the grace to do the other needful things a peaceful society requires.