Good morning dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. My reflections this week are of images I will never forget: a woman holding another woman as they grieve together. The picture was taken showing none of us is immune from tragedy in this broken world. No matter how secure we may feel living here in Aotearoa.
Here is what I know from newspapers & television as I write: a man opened fire yesterday afternoon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, fifty miles north of Miami. At least 17 people have died; fourteen others were wounded, five of whom suffered life threatening injuries.
The suspected gunman, nineteen-year-old Nicolas Cruz, began shooting outside the school, after he barged inside. Apparently, he set off the fire alarm so the children would come pouring out of classrooms into the hall. Then the carnage began.
Cruz was taken into custody nearly two hours after the shooting. He was a former student who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons. Shockingly, the tragedy is already the eighteenth school shooting so far this year in the USA, & it is only February.
When you heard the news from Florida, what was your first response my friends? Mine was one of surprise & shock, & wonder at how is this allowed to happen in a country like America? When the news broke over there, responses from people different I understand. Americans have apparently grown numb to such horrors, resigned to continued assaults on their schools & society.
Counsellors’ opinions refer to this as compassion fatigue. 1 A condition which has become so common in our culture. Stoicism is a natural defence response to overwhelming stress. We feel we cannot keep going through the same depth of pain, so we harden ourselves to it. If we cannot prevent suffering, we normalize it so as not to feel so impotent & victimized.
There is a morbid sense of calm in deciding we live in a world where nothing can be done to prevent such a tragedy, or so it would appear. This choice removes the burden of proactive engagement from us. If we must resign ourselves to living in a broken world, we do.
There has been a great deal written about men returning from the World Wars, who experienced horrific atrocities. They spoke of those years with stoic determination. "You do what you have to do," was how they explained their lives in the face of such deprivation & pain. 2
This response to suffering has a positive side. When a terrorist strikes in Israel, the people move as quickly as possible to return their lives to normal. They grieve those they lose, of course, but they refuse to let their enemies disrupt their society.
The shooting again this last week is catastrophic for affected families & school friends. Personally, my thoughts for those people continue to haunt me. It is tragically ironic this shooting took place on Valentine’s Day. I often reflect how fortunate we really are, as most of us live here in a beautiful part of the world, pretty isolated from this happening to us ~ other than the odd storm & weather related incident or road death, which appear to becoming more prevalent. Another article for another day!
So we should not let another day go by before we express our love to family & friends. One day it will be our last day. We do not know if it will be today, or not. Consequently, I am unsure if we can afford to wait any longer. Do you agree friends?
Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for the week ahead. I look forward to being with you all again next weekend.
2 Extract & inspiration from Jim Denison, Ph.D., who speaks & writes on cultural & contemporary issues daily distributed to more than 113,000 subscribers in 203 countries