Yesterday, I was just about to blog some reflections on the Camino after being off the trail and home, and that will come… but it seemed so trivial when I received the word of yet another mass shooting in our country. I completely understand why the Mayor of El Paso felt the need to say the words to his fellow citizens, “Don’t worry, we are all safe.” But I had to wonder, how can any of us make that assurance? I am sure those words would be cold comfort indeed to the 20 families who lost loved ones yesterday, and those fighting for their lives in the hospital still, on a day that started by shopping for back to school supplies. The Mayor, and other trusted officials, went on to make other claims, such as, “this person came from outside our community” which is true, and “no El Pasoan would have ever done this.” Again, a claim I am sympathetic to in the moment, but wonder how anyone can make, and stand by, as a leader.
We are always grasping to explain it, and often, to explain it away, so we can keep living with the absurdities we cannot let go of, the lack of reason so many in power run to defend just a few days after these events. I was glad when a woman standing behind all the men talking, took the microphone from the Governor of Texas and stated plainly that this was again fueled, yes, perhaps by mental illness, but gasoline was thrown on that, as it always is, by the racism and hate which are so prevalent in our public discourse.
And where is that coming from? Our supposed leaders foment this on sometimes an hourly basis, and yet we continue to wonder. I just can’t believe we are that numb, but sadly, I fear, we actually are becoming that numb. I will say how pleased I was to hear the Governor of Texas say that after the Sutherland shooting, and others in Texas, they held hearings and the universal plea was that we address mental illness more in this country. Perhaps we might find something to agree on and work toward. This is certainly needed.
However, not one mention was made at this press conference, not a question asked that I saw or heard, about the fact that a military assault rifle once again was used. An implement of death, built for one purpose, to rapidly kill as many human beings as you can at one time. And the gunmen legally purchased it. Not once was it questioned, why in this country is this kind of gun not only legal, but protected and celebrated, by those same leaders?
And then, as I was preparing to send this today, word of another mass shooting in less than 24 hours, in this “great” nation. Nine more killed in reports at this hour. Words are so important. They are also sometimes useless and always should be questioned. You cannot simply call this nation great, or compassionate, or giving, or peaceful, or safe and make it so. The proof is in the results, in what happens each day, not in words. We need to pull our faces out of our computers, out of our delusions, and pay attention to what is actually happening. Unless your only concern is your personal wealth and the stability of the stock market, things are not looking very great right now.
And so, it’s “thoughts and prayers” all over again. Thoughts and prayers, which as I have said before, we need, and I believe in. But as C.S. Lewis and many other wise and faithful people have said, in so many ways, before:
The prayers are not for God, the prayers are for us.
And we need to start not just saying them, but doing something. Taking action to change the racist, divisive rhetoric, and taking action to make changes to a system that allows too easily the carnage we are now witnessing on a weekly basis, and as of today, daily basis.
So, sabbatical continues, and I am sad today. In my thoughts and prayers this keeps coming up – what really has changed since Columbine?
If anything, it has gotten easier to do such a thing, not more difficult. We need to think, and pray, on that. And then we need to act.
Blessings to all, and pray for those who died, those who are injured, those who grieve, and for this country and world, then write down three things you are going to DO to try to change this sad reality.
Some ways to act, the first being ways to help in El Paso. As word comes of how to help in Ohio, we will post that as well.
From the Episcopal Office of Government Relations:
Webinar for Youth:
Bishops Against Gun Violence: Includes a Litany to be used after a Mass Shooting
After the March for Our Lives and Actions That Might Be Taken:
Alliance for Gun Responsibility:
The Rt. Rev.Greg Rickel
Bishop of Olympia
1551 10th Ave E
Seattle, Washington 98102