My response to the news this past weekend confirmed a bit of acquired wisdom: While we each must grieve alone, in times of sorrow there is comfort in mourning together with others who share a connection to the loss.
It has been hard to be so far away this week, wanting to be in Arizona. I tried to write a blog about Zambia, but my heart was back home. So my reflection will be on the tragic events of January 8 in Tucson.
I am living now in a country where I have seen much bad driving but no "road rage"; much frustration, but little shouting or swearing; and I have heard of no gun violence in the news or around the poor neighborhoods here in Kitwe. It must exist, but it is rare. Then I wonder, why do so many in America so often resort to violence to solve problems? Here where different tribes and language groups seem to coexist fairly peaceably, why do we in America have such divisive thinking and speaking? Zambia is no paradise, and there are many ways that America is more accepting of certain kinds of diversity. But in the areas of violence and dichotomous (we/they) thinking, America exhibits far more negativity than Zambia.
Along with the community, I am praying for Gabby's recovery and wondering what impairment she will suffer. She and Andy served together in the Arizona State Legislature. She was a classmate of Cathy in high school, and Cathy has carried significant roles in her campaigns. Gabby has worked hard to listen to the people she serves and to represent them well. She has earned the respect and affection of our community.
I am deeply saddened by the six deaths. The one that touched me most was her aide, Gabe Zimmerman. I taught Gabe at the School of Social Work and helped arrange his field placement at Gabby's office, which later led to his being offered a position there. Gabe was one of the brightest and kindest men I have known. He reminded me a lot of some of Andy's qualities and gifts. What a great loss to his family, friends, and the community!
My heart goes out to the parents of the shooter. We are quick to condemn the family of offenders. They must be suffering and possibly even blaming themselves for not having prevented their son's rampage. I hope they are receiving some support and care.
A friend sent me the comments of a scholar who maintains a blog on Beliefnet. Her essay captured my thoughts well. Here is a small excerpt:
"Right now, we need some sustained spiritual reflection on how badly we have behaved in recent years as Americans--how much we've allowed fear to motivate our politics, how cruel we've allowed our discourse to become, how little we've listened, how much we've dehumanized public servants, how much we hate." (Diana Butler Bass)
May we find a way to use this terrible assault to open up dialogue and reflection on how to rebuild a community of compassion and mutual respect.