The People Behind the Numbers

I like to view myself as a force of good and I choose to believe that I will leave this world a better place for having been in it. I hope I’m right. Time will tell.   But whenever I do shuffle off this mortal coil, I’m fairly certain that my exit will be earlier than I’d prefer with far too much undone and far too little seen. Hopefully, that time won’t be for a while and I’ll leave with people wanting more. I think that this view of myself and our world is common.

Events of late show, however, demonstrate that this sentiment it is not universal. Some people greet the day with nefarious intent – several Californians come to mind. One couple in San Bernardino left 14 holiday party attendees with too much undone far too soon. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District shuttered its 900 schools in response to a ‘credible threat’. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that we live in a world where attending a Christmas party is deadly or in which people threaten school children. The world has gone mad.Remember the radicals of earlier generations who would blow up buildings after hours to minimize the risk of maiming or killing its occupants? I miss those good old days of terrorism.  I never, not even in my wildest dreams, thought I would ever write that last sentence.  The world has gone truly mad.At a recent Christmas party, I was reminded that the premise of this blog is that I will worry for you. A fellow guest posed a troubling question about which she wanted me to fret: “How do we open our hearts again and again to the tragedies that befall our country regularly?”

The headlines that sicken my heart have a painful familiarity. Gun deaths. Horror at the numbers destroyed.  Numbers that grow daily. Then the tragedy hits. A few days after the politicians have used the carnage for their stump speeches, we learn about the lives lost. When the victims become more than a tally, when we learn that they were fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. When we learn about the people behind the numbers…. When the first responders attempt to explain the scene they came upon without gasping for words or air as they fight back tears…. When the loved ones of the deceased speak… my tears flow.  And they keep flowing. My heart aches at the horror humans inflict on one another.  Will we ever reach a number big enough – collectively or in a single incidence  – to stop ourselves?

I’ve written many drafts of this post and used several tissues searching for an answer to the question asked of me at the festive party.  I’ve come up empty.  The world has gone mad.  How do we open up our hearts to constant tragedy?  Usually, I listen to NPR throughout the day. On December 15 I listened to music as the airwaves were filled with helpful ways to explain the closure to tikes. I cannot wrap my head around school children and those who nurture them as ‘soft targets’ worthy of murderous plots. Even though the threat turned out to be hollow, exercising an ‘abundance of caution’ (the world has grown maddeningly fond of legal phrases too) and turning away more than half a million students from their final exams seems like a rational decision in a world gone mad.

Most of us head off into our respective days, believing that all will be okay – maybe even better if we’re on our game and can exceed our own expectations. But then we’re confronted by those with homicidal intent and our hearts are left to weep. I don’t know how to keep mine open if my mind is to remain informed about a world gone mad.

There are now sufficient mass killings or ‘mass injury events’ (another awful phrase that has entered the vernacular) to justify a website devoted to tracking them.  I don’t know how to cure this madness.  Gun control is likely part of the answer – but only if those who know and enjoy guns talk with those who seek to legislate their control.  More mental health services – sure, throw that into the mix too.  Superior intelligence gathering – sounds good… but at what cost? Let’s throw out xenophobia and religious stereotyping though – if we meet hate with more hate there will only be more mass killings to track in our mad, mad, mad mad world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *