Sudden, murderous death always reminds me of my own encounter with a gun being shoved in my face. It wasn’t a stranger, but my own father. Yet, that almost doesn’t matter. Violence is violence. Sudden, destructive, terrifying. It takes any sense of trust away, any sense of peace or security. That is what happened today at Virginia Tech.
I was on the treadmill at the gym when I heard the news. Immediately, I thought of my own family in Virginia. My nephew Zach was just accepted to Virginia Tech and will be going there starting in August. His girlfriend goes there now. My niece Rachel has many friends, people I have met, who attend school there as juniors and seniors. I knew my nephew Zach had a trip planned to see the love of his life and I prayed it wasn’t today.
I called my sister Linda and when I couldn’t get a hold of her, I called my niece Rachel. Zach’s girlfriend did indeed live in the dorm that the killer first pulled the trigger. She had been warned and was safely locked in her room. I breathed a sigh of relief. Rachel went on to say that she hadn’t heard from her other friends. All we could do is wait.
That is one of my underlying driving forces, my motivation so to speak, why I do what I do. I do not want anyone to die from another person’s hand. I do not want any more murder. I do not want anyone killed senselessly because someone else decided another should die because they were afraid.
A young man goes on campus with a 9 mm gun supposedly because his girlfriend broke up with him. Who knows if that is true. Yet, that almost doesn’t matter. What matters is a young man felt he had the right to take other people’s lives because he was upset, because he was angry, because he was rejected. He thought he had that right. Why? Because he was afraid. Afraid of looking weak or feeling worthless. So to get rid of the feeling, to avoid looking like that, he took a gun and started shooting.
How many more people have to die for us to take fear seriously? How many people have to suffer because we as a world are not willing to face the fears that drive us, that give us permission to treat each other poorly, hastily, rudely? When will we be willing to say, out loud, “I am afraid” without shame?
It makes no sense because we as rational people think we would never pull a trigger to get rid of our own pain. Yet, we kick the dog because we hate our jobs. We yell at our spouse because we don’t know how to communicate our needs because we can barely identify them ourselves. Heck, most of the time we don’t know what we feel. There is road rage and cheating on exams and ruining anothers career in order so we may get ahead. Now, I am in no way comparing those behaviors to pulling the trigger and killing 32 innocent people. Yet, it has the same flavor, the same taste, the same fear.
When are we going to quit killing ourselves, killing each other, killing our spirits? When are we going to be willing to take a cold, hard look at how fear plays a game with our hearts and minds? When are we going to say “ENOUGH FEAR”? When?
Today, I pray for each person who was in any way affected by this tragedy. I pray for all people every where who are moved and in pain because of what they witnessed personally or saw on TV. I pray that this country, and this world, finally decides to face their fears so we can see when someone is in fear and do something about it. I pray for peace, for love, for unity. I pray for each of us to be free of fear.
We all know this probably wasn’t the first time this young man became violent. Perhaps it was never to this extreme but somewhere inside of him this was brewing. Why didn’t we see it? Why couldn’t we stop it? Why? Maybe he was really good at hiding it. Maybe if I was standing right next to him I would never have suspected. Maybe….but someone knew. But we are so afraid we don’t know what to do with someone else’s fears. We don’t know what to do. We weren’t trained in how to deal with fear.
I understand. Neither was I. My father killed because he was afraid. My mother stayed, and eventually was on the other end of the gun, because she was afraid. I did a lot of horrible things, things I thought I would never do, because I was afraid. I am sure you have to.
I vow, right here and now, to end the fear that breeds violence and hate. I vow to stop the killing of spirit, of heart, of mind, of each other. I vow to value love over fear and freedom over safety.
I send prayers, and love, and healing. I send light and hope. I send peace. I send grace. I send the energy of all that is good and pure and kind. I send it all and surround Virginia Tech, our country and the world with these prayers. And I pray that this moment wakes us up to our part in breeding fear by avoiding the hard choices of freedom.
May they not die in vain.