A Clouded Christmas
December 18, 2012
I had some other things I wanted to write about this week. It’s the time of year I usually post up the bright and whimsical, Christmas carols and gift ideas. It’s a time of happy anticipation of gathering with friends and family, the exchange of gifts and the continuation of traditions that warms us all as we prepare for the season of winter’s cold embrace.
But all weekend, every bright light seems to have been dimmed by a shadow. Everytime I started to feel good, the spectre of horror and sadness cast its pall over my consciousness. I need to say something, to write it out, if for no better reason than to try to purge my own mind. Honestly, I don’t even know where I’m going with this, but I need to let it spill.
I watched the scenes unwind on the TV Friday, as I was eating lunch. I saw the distraught parents, the emergency workers pushing through their own shock to get their jobs done, and the children… babies, practically… caught up in a vortex of terror in a world that is already beyond their control. And the tears welled up and my throat wanted to close, and I couldn’t stop watching. They’re just little kids, getting through the last week of school before Christmas vacation. It shouldn’t be like this.
I looked around the restaurant, full of locals, many of them out Christmas shopping and still mostly unaware of the tragedy playing out in Newtown, Connecticut. Some noticed, as I had, and were locked to the television monitors in various attitudes of shock and sadness. As one after another of them realized what was happening, the normal buzz of luncheon conversation took on another tone… a hushed, reverent, and maybe even frightened hum of lowered voices. The waitresses glanced up when they could, aware of the news, but then returned to their business and strugggled to keep their smiles in place as they took orders and served plates of food. I can only imagine how hard it was for them. I saw my waitress stop to watch for a moment before returning to my table, her eyes moist and shining in spite of the forced smile. She must have seen my own eyes, and there was a brief sort of acknowledgement in a quick glance back at the television and a sad nod.
It was all pretty intense, on a level I honestly haven’t felt since maybe 9/11 (and maybe, for me, worse). And so far, it hasn’t really eased.
We heard a lot over the weekend about how we have to stop this sort of thing from happening again. In the wake of other recent events, there seems to be a vocal concensus that, “this is enough!”
But here’s what scares me… what scares a lot of people, I think… the possibility that this isn’t something you can just bring to an end. There will be talk about gun control, mental health programs, parenting, and our generally violent culture. Fingers will point and well-meaning people will push for laws and policies and programs to make it all go away. And part of me wants to support the idea that there is something we can do as a society or as a culture to prevent people like Lanza, or Dylan Klebold, or James Holmes… or Charles Whitman or Anthony Kehoe from going over that edge and harming innocent people. I want to believe that we can do something.
When I started writing this, I kept catching myself going off on tangents. Gun control. Mental health. The inevitability of evil. They’re all hot topics, and discussions raging all around and I’ve got plenty of thoughts about them… but that’s not what I need right now. I don’t want to fight anyone. I don’t want to debate. I don’t want to be party to more divisiveness and anger. It’s a time to heal. That’s what I need. It’s what we all need.
Try to rise above.
Pray for those little children. Pray for their families and loved ones. And pray for ourselves a little bit too.
There’s gonna be a cloud over Christmas this year, but we have to know that it will pass. It always passes.