There’s a lot to be upset about these days. There’s a lot to be angry about. …..outraged.. ….livid….. ..and….viscerally upset.
I’m a relatively slow processor of the events of life. I tend to be slow to form my reaction to life’s twists and turns. Sometimes this is beneficial—other times not.
I’m reacting slowly to the brutal killings in Las Vegas last Sunday. Not because I don’t feel anything, but because I feel too many things. It is difficult for me to take in the enormity of the events, the suffering, the horror, and I am awash with questions.
When we encounter trauma, we are wired to fight or take flight or freeze. After the carnage, the media provided us with abundant examples of the fight response. Within a few hours, anti-gun folks are calling for restrictions. Gun supporters said guns don’t kill people. I’ve heard this act was “pure evil” and was done by a “sick” and “demented man.” The fight responses cover the entire spectrum of divisive posturing. Fighting is divisive—it calls for sides and opposition. Fighting separates us. In matters of social trauma, I think the fighting reaction is destructive. It clouds our judgment and divides us on already unresolved issues.
I’m also seeing the flight responses abound. Interviews show people who are canceling trips to Las Vegas and some who are avoiding large crowds out of fear. I also consider turning away from this horror as flight. Activities on the Vegas strip have resumed except for the crime scene as people skirt past the barricades. Flight from trauma can take many forms of avoidance, denial, and apathy.
But what a about considering a “freeze” response for what happened? Just for a while—perhaps until our instinctive emotional responses settle down. How about sitting with the sadness of what happened? How about grieving for the 59+ dead and the 500+ wounded people? Their families? Their friends? Their partners? Their children?
When we react with fight or flight—we ignore the human toll of this tragedy and focus on “doing something” to justify our personal need to engage by trying to “fix” it or comment on it or promote our own viewpoints (often to people who didn’t even ask).
It is okay to be sad about what happened—and I believe it is vital to be sad before reacting. Out of sadness can come the basis for Justice to surface with a strength that is more powerful than any retribution or revenge or divisive behavior. Out of sadness can come the discernment that can be the foundational cry of “never again.” Out of sadness can come a restorative movement that fight or flight can never create. Justice is not swift for a very good reason. It is essential that Justice not be an emotionally based reaction to trauma. True Justice comes from correcting unfairness, inequity, and evil that creeps in when we are not paying attention.
My belief is that if you skip the sad parts, you are missing the parts of life that cause real, progressive change. You miss the wholeness and entirety of life if you selectively choose to focus only on the “happy” parts. The Las Vegas killings are horrible—they are sad—they are tragic—and thousands of lives will never be the same. Don’t skip that part. And don’t stop caring. And don’t stop working for true justice…………..may it be so………….Rev Russ