On keeping the faith in the face of tragedy

[I wrote this as a Facebook status and it got a bit lengthy. It’s a bit mushy and it’s clunky writing but the sentiment I believe in wholeheartedly.]

A school shooting is a graphic and terrible tragedy, and of course we should recognize it and help those harmed if we are in a position to do so. It should perhaps even make us consider whether there are worthwhile policies to pursue to prevent such tragedies. I think most of the posts on facebook today regarding this event have been an attempt to do one of these things, and most of them have been done with good intentions. We’re all just trying to cope with tragedy, in some way that works for us or in the way that we’ve been taught to cope.

That said: millions of horrible things and millions of wonderful things happen on this planet every day. For instance, every day, literally thousands of children die entirely preventable deaths–mostly from disease or hunger. Every single day, we can choose to reflect on facts like that and ‘lose faith in humanity’ (as many people have expressed in the wake of the CT shooting), or we can choose to reflect on all the beautiful, amazing things humanity does.

School shootings hit close to home for many of us, for good reason. We all went to school, we know children in school. Some of us have strong opinions on guns, and some of us have experience with being alienated, bullied, troubled youths or getting inadequate mental health care, and therefore identify with shooters. And there’s just the visceral sense of it–a scene of massacred children is unthinkable. We would not be human if such events didn’t provoke strong emotional responses.

But strong negative emotions around one rare tragic event, or towards one violent person, should not be reason for us to ‘lose faith in humanity’ any more than we do any other day. Every day, there is copious available evidence of humanity’s failures and its successes. We have to go forward with both in mind, so that we can say both “humanity does amazing things” and “we can do so much better”.

“Losing faith in humanity” is something we say when we are hurting because people have let us (or others) down. Someone has done something horrible, or failed to do something crucial yet simple, with horrible consequences. It’s what we say when we’re frustrated, angry, annoyed, and most importantly, just DONE. Whatever inspired it is just so stupid, senseless, or horrifying that we want to give up on people.

I understand that. I feel that… a lot of the time. But it doesn’t serve me, or any of us, well. We need faith in humanity–we need hope. It keeps us moving forward. It keeps us striving to do better.

So yes, mourn the lives lost today in a senseless shooting. And mourn the thousands of lives lost today for other senseless reasons. But try not to lose faith. I know it’s a hard battle, I’m fighting with you. Because I choose to believe that we can do so much better.

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