Sunday, not even one month after the Aurora, Colo., tragedy, we saw another mass shooting . In fact so far this year there have been four instances of mass shootings.
April in Oakland, Calif., a man opened fire in a classroom at his former University killing seven and injuring three.
June in Seattle, Wash., a man entered a cafe killing five and injuring one.
July in Aurora, Colo., a man entered a movie theatre killing 12 and injuring 58.
August in Milwaukee, Wis., a man enters a temple killing six people.
So far in 2012 30 people have been killed in mass shootings and 65 injured. Since 2003, 195 people have been killed in mass shootings and more than 207 injured.
The numbers are hard to look at and the stories with their own unimaginable grief and terror become hard to remember because they overwhelm. The desire as a culture is to turn away, turn toward anything else that does not leave us with such hard questions. We turn toward any media hook in its voracious 24 hour news cycle that allows us to leave behind the paralyzing questions: What is happening to our society? Why did it happen? What does this mean?
These questions cannot just be answered by the victims; it is not their burden alone to comprehend this trauma. Nor can they only be answered by us individually in private or with a few friends. These questions need to be understood collectively, in a common space that acknowledges the narratives of the shootings are multifaceted, complex and belong to each of us.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes getting a divorce is given more space in our culture to be “understood” than many of the traumas and tragedies we see in war, natural disaster and man-made disasters like shootings. Why do we create the collective psychological space to feed on private struggles, like the divorce of celebrities, but the public traumas after the initial facts are exploited are left behind?
When we go to funerals, deal with the death of a loved one, we confront questions as an individual or as a family that are hard. And yet which one of us would give up that journey or that ritual simply because it is hard? We deal with the radically difficult journey because it heals the loss.
So in this moment, facing another tragedy, what if we approached it as a country like a funeral and not a news cycle? A ritualized, collective grieving that is committed to the hard journey so that we can heal from the loss together and create a new way forward. Take a break from the “new” news of the day and stay right here in the hard and the sad and let grief’s wisdom lead us to a new place.