I held off a little on this blog simply because the case was too raw but I think the New Year is a good time to discuss how we can respond to terrible suffering. In my previous post about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, I urged calm on all sides. After the situation heals up a bit, this is the time to talk about how people react realistically on Facebook and in the press. There are various reactions. From my previous post, I noted that people blame two targets. First, people could blame “them.” The “them” could be the gunman and all those who wrongly used weapons to commit atrocity. Surely, they ARE guilty. The “them” could be those who did not control the gun laws too well. Perhaps … The “them” could be those who controlled the gun laws too tight. Perhaps … The “them” could be the gunman’s background. Second, people could turn the blame on themselves. “We” are such an evil nation. “We” do such horrible things. Certainly, violent crimes committed by individuals (as opposed to crimes like mass genocide) seem to be out of control in the US. I’m going to take a more international perspective to the whole situation.
For my international friends who are completely uninvolved in this tragedy, here are some guidelines. First, don’t philosophize suffering. At the first stage of something like this happening, the last thing people need is to “turn to Scripture” and analyze to death what God would’ve, could’ve and should’ve done. None of us is God. It’s useless speculating. I can tell you what Scripture really says. As soon as Job’s three friends start quoting their truisms and clichés, they started going down a bad path that helped nothing. The problem of theodicy can’t be solved by ANY religion. A lot have tried. The worst time to solve that problem is when people are just fresh from the tragedy.
Second, for observers, any suggestion at the immediate aftermath will not help. Some have suggested that more guns would’ve saved the children. Others suggested the opposite sides start taking it out on one another. The worst is when our international friends chime in to suggest how we should run our country. As much as I appreciate my international friends, they aren’t Americans. They can’t solve American’s problems. America needs to solve America’s own problem. For ages, Americans have discussed guns for ages. In fact, Americans probably know more about guns than citizens of any other country. In such dire straits, the last thing anyone needs is advice, even if the advice is well-intended and accurate. The corporate sense of victimization was still strong. Any advisor should delay his wisdom until later.
Third, for some observers, don’t make false parallels, even if parallels are true. I’ve heard some parallels which are in fact true but undermine the problem of suffering. Some have pointed out that China has had so many similar incidents with machete or bludgeon. Others have pointed out that there is even worse violence in the Middle East with the aftermath of Arab Spring or the Iraqi war. These are certainly corrects statements. Sure, violence does infiltrate every culture. Sure, the media probably should’ve covered suffering that is worse elsewhere. Knowing other cases of worse violence does nothing to eliminate the horror of any senseless violence. We should grieve even for one murdered child.
For my fellow Americans, here may be some steps we should take. First, we should realize that we are all in this together. We’re not enemies. I hope cool heads prevail in the discussion about guns and other related issues. There has been entirely too much reaction on both sides. For the side that is radically anti-gun control, those who are for gun law reform are un-American tree huggers. The gun law reform advocates seem to want to take away guns from the pro-gun people. This is untrue. I know many who are gun owners who are also for gun law reform. For those who are totally against gun ownership, the gun owners seem like right-wing rednecks. I know many gun owners who are not backwoods militias. They just want a more nuanced discussion about the gun situation.
Second, while I appreciate my international friends to refrain from immediate opinion, I also appreciate the perspectives they bring sometimes. As Americans, we could listen to some of their concerns about how security is done in other countries. Perhaps there is a lesson to learn, and perhaps there isn’t, but it does not hurt to listen.
Third, we should realize that we are all trying to achieve the same goal. We want a safer country for our children. Are there other issues that could cause these strange gun incidents? Are there problems we need to solve also besides the gun issue? When we have our common goal in mind, we can begin to come up with different solutions. Many solutions are better than no solution.
Overall, I think our best plan should be “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12.15) and work together towards a win-win solution until we eliminate such incidents from repeating.