From Shootings to Starbucks: Overcoming Evil Starts with Us

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Do not tell me it’s only a mental health problem when people shoot up churches and country music crowds like it is a video game series.

Do not tell me you’re shocked at our current headlines when you see movies where people’s heads explode like fireworks and all the television on all the stations glorify crime and violence and anger and greed and revenge. It’s funny when, in The Kingsman, all the people die. I mean, after all, it’s a cute guy who happens to be in the secret service, avoids the bullets, and has sex in the end.  Pass the popcorn.

But we are what we consume and what we eat and what we soak up like sponges.  We are not driven to madness, as these shooters are, but we are part of the problem.  To distance yourself, to put up a shield and do nothing about it, only exacerbates it.

We cannot continue to wring our hands and simply hope that love prevails. The fact is, we have to live out that love.  We have to be extravagant and diligent and roll up our sleeves and do the hard work to change our world.  After all, love is not just a feeling, but a verb. Even in the Biblical narrative, Jesus walked and healed and did actual things.  We have to stop just talking about it.

Yes, the Texas shooter was crazy.  The Vegas shooter was crazy.  They are crazy in that sane, normal people do not just shoot and kill innocent people. Insanity, after all, is when your illness is so severe that one cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, when someone can’t conduct themselves in accordance with their own will, when one lacks all impulse control or does not understand the consequences of their actions.

But if asked, I’m sure these two shooters actually were aware that the bullets they fired would, in fact, result in death.  They knew the year, and the name of the President, and the fact that they had breakfast, their birthday.  They were not the typical definition of crazy in that they were unaware of their surroundings.

More than crazy is the concept of evil, a sinister urge that runs through all of us.  Evil causes a man to beat his wife, beat a dog, hurt a child, rape a woman. Evil is the snake the slithers in the grass, that whispers to us in our darkest hours.  Go ahead and hit her.  Give in to the rage.  Show him who’s boss.  Get your guns and blow their fucking brains off. You know you want to.

And just perhaps, if we’re honest, to a lesser degree, we’ve all been there.  Perhaps it provides a moment of satisfaction when the act is done.  It’s the revenge that gives Clint Eastwood all the good lines.  Puts the high school cheerleader in her place.  But it is the classic double-edged sword, because when you make a deal with the devil you’re the one who loses.  It’s not Hollywood.  It’s someone’s grandmother that got shot, blood seeping out like tears.

This is not an urge that manifests overnight.  It’s a slow burn from off-white to grey to pitch black, born over years of abuse and torment and the feeling that one is utterly and hopelessly alone.

Enough.

This country has more gun violence than any other country.  And yet we are the richest, the most advanced, the most prosperous, dare I say the most beautiful.  And yet we’ve allowed this pulse of evil to grow stronger, richer, more desirable.  We underfund mental health care, and we make people feel stupid or weak if they need to be on medication or go to therapy.  We glorify violence, we endure molestation in the church, and men simply aren’t allowed to cry. We have grown to a place where our women must stand up stronger, bolder, fiercer.  We are no longer protected and we must learn to protect ourselves.

So do we have a mental health crisis in this country? Yes. Can angry fellows can simply obtain a semi-automatic rifle and shoot people if they get mad enough, which unnecessarily magnifies the damage from their rage? Apparently.  But make no mistake – we also have a crisis of evil.

We have to be the change. It’s not going to happen from the top down.  We can’t rely on our current administration or government or church hierarchy. It starts with us. We vote. We can be kind. We can ensure better lives for our children.  We can reach out to someone who is struggling and simply be extravagant with our kindness.  Love the unlovable.  The invisible. The untouchable. Be absolutely fearless in our generosity of heart.  And yes, we can take tangible steps to limit the access to weapons that can fire on multiple people simultaneously.  We can do this with our collective voices.

Would that help change the heart of an angry white guy in Texas? Would that reverse what happened? No.  Those lives are gone.  But future men and women, mothers and fathers, janitors and presidents and teachers and lawyers – they are just toddlers, full of heart and hope, full of smiles and jars of smashed peas.  We owe it to them to take the lever, the big one that is life that we have to hold with both hands that measures good and evil, and pull with all our might toward good.

Sit with your family and think of how you can send an anonymous package to someone in your neighborhood.  How you can help someone who is feeling lost.  Invite someone to eat with you that you wouldn’t normally talk to. Look around and think of how to be active in love.  Can you afford Starbucks? Then pay for the person behind you in line.  Can you carve out an hour of your week? Volunteer.

It starts with us.  All of our lives depend on it.  We as a nation, as a people, should accept nothing less.

 

photo:

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An Open Letter to Humanity {about humor and prayer}

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Dear Humanity,

Have you heard the stories about how good friends or spouses can sit in silence and never say a word?  I say it’s because they are boring stiffs, but others say it’s because their peace and love for each other is so vast and their comfort with being still is so strong there is no need for words.

I’m not one of those people. 

I’m a person who fills up empty spaces.  I talk about the wild feelings of middle age and I comment on the way cars look as they whiz by on the highway.  I ask questions and I’m not one to just sit silently with my hands folded.  Being a writer means being a storyteller and one who notices little things.  And being a lawyer means you think of alternate arguments and put together thoughts in your mind in logical patterns.  My best friends may even motion to their spouse when they are on the phone with me something like “here she goes again” or write on a sticky note “it’s Amanda on the line so I’ll see you at Christmas.” There may be some eye rolling and “oh no! I’m late for the dentist!” when in fact they are just tired of hearing me talk.  I get this.  When I start, I really get going. But being creative means that I paint with words and phrases and sound. Basically, I’m not built for silence.

So it’s odd that lately, I’ve been silent.  Silent in this house, thinking. Silent about some true thoughts and silent about some opinions on things.  I’ve been drinking coffee and drinking wine and drinking in all the silence.  I use humor to mask things, to play with things, to connect with people while I’m doing the hard work of silence.  Sometimes, humor is the only thing that works to relieve the pressure, to laugh with each other, to find common ground.  It’s the only words that come out.  Please understand that it’s a lifeline for me, and an important part of who I am.

We desperately need common ground on which we can walk forward.  We are growing so polarized that I can only seem to find humor as a talking point.  It’s the light that seems to shine through the rubble, a brightness through the fog.  This is why humor, to me, is so powerful, and why I use it as a means to survive.  It’s why as the world grows dimmer the humor grows darker, but it still works.

I haven’t talked to God in a while.  I have assumed he’s cool with it, giving me space as one does with an unruly teenager.  I’ve been overwhelmed with all the tragedy and loss and sadness in our world.  Honestly, I don’t know what to say.  It feels so disingenuous to say “I’ll pray for you,” when what I really am thinking is simply “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry you are facing this death, this fire, this flood, this loss.  I am so terribly sorry you have cancer. Sometimes I get the reference in the Bible, about how people fell to their knees and tore their clothes, a sign of being overwhelmed by all the sadness.  Although I am not going to tear at my Burberry coat, no matter how much you throw at me.  Even I have limits.  And yet despite this, I am concurrently very happy with my life.  I am married to an amazing man, I have strong and healthy children, I live in a wonderful community. It’s an odd dichotomy.

I’m in a few prayer groups.  I say the prayers that I have committed to saying, but my heart hasn’t been in it.  I care about people.  It’s just that I haven’t felt that these prayers are making any difference.   I’ve just been looking down onto my own world, doing my own thing, hiding. I think part of it is simply guilt.  Guilt that I have so much, have been blessed with abundance, guilt that I am happy while others are not. I don’t deserve this husband or these children or this home or this life.  And yet that is not what God wants for us, to throw away the blessings we have been given.  To feel guilty about happiness.

So my prayer life has also been silent.  Because I haven’t had the right words to say.  When our President says “my prayers are with you” my blood boils.  What do these words mean, from an unrighteous man? Go back to the tanning bed, 45.  Your prayers are empty and meaningless.

It’s not the words we say that make some great difference in the world. Whether it’s a set of lyrics or a Dr. Seuss poem or a Shakespeare play, they are all just letters strewn together. They can all be typed and burned with a match and tossed in the garbage. This very blog will be forgotten, lost in internet space, years from now failed to be maintained.  No one will read these words a generation from now.

Words themselves have little power. What is powerful is the interaction between us and God, the portal to God himself, whereby you can humbly submit yourself before God and boldly, bravely, confidently ask for direction, healing, hope, strength.  Using words is the means to this end, and is what we refer to as prayer. It’s really just about talking to God.  The Bible instructs us that God listens to our hearts, our words, our guttural cries.  He hears even the smallest, throatiest, dumbest sounding words.  As you hear the words of your children when they say “I love you” or “you’re the best” or “I farted.” Thanks a lot, kiddo.  At least you could have given me some advance warning.

This Weinstein story has made me abundantly sad. There are stories like this every day that should no longer surprise us. But for some reason this particular story of yet another predator against young girls broke my heart.  Because it brings up images of young women, my own daughters, injured and broken, scrubbing their skin until it’s raw in order to feel clean.  Images of girls feeling used and dirty, when they are instead wonderful and pure, filled my head.  You women are beautiful in all ways.  Can’t you see?  It’s a world of broken things, and I am standing in the rubble.  Mostly pissed off because no one seems to be cleaning it up.

But last night in the shower I allowed myself to form words to God.  To ask God to forgive me, to forgive our nation, to forgive all the terrible things.  Also, despite me being in the shower for a very long time, I didn’t shave, because I feel that being filled with the awesomeness of God is a solid excuse for the new husband so I should get a pass.

I did feel a bit strange praying for women en masse, without each of them being named, but I did it anyway.  I figured God could sort it out.  So I prayed for all the women who were violated, hurt, felt less than.  I prayed that they would rise up today and feel whole, healed, loved.  I prayed for our nation and its people.  I am just one person, talking to God about an entire group of other women.  How does this help?  And yet are these women, every single one of them, not worth fighting for? They are.  That is what I felt as I prayed.  That God holds them all in his precious hands.  As if he was saying “I hear you, girl.  I hear every word that you speak. Even the sarcastic ones.”

Humor as a connection between people is powerful.  Prayer as a means of connection to God is even more powerful.  Prayer allows us to put others ahead of ourselves and see ourselves as we are –  broken, dependent, and sinful.  People who need grace and forgiveness.  People who need to stop using social media to cut each other down, but find a way to building bridges between each other, in order to find peace.  If you need a release, find humor.  If you need a lifeline, find God.

Will you pray? For our nation, our women, our hearts?  And will you please stop saying “I’ll pray for you” as an empty platitude?  Because, like crop tops and hashtags and everything Taylor Swift, I’m kinda over it.

Most sincerely yours,

Amanda

 

photo:

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