2012 is winding down and for a couple of weeks I’ve been trying to find a way to write some kind of summary of the past year. Then last Friday, everything that seemed balanced in my world turned upside down. The unspeakable tragedy in Newtown caused me an inexplicable emotional paralysis unlike anything I can remember.
I’m not going to revisit the events or comments made by hundreds of others far more articulate than I am. Yes, I’m a writer and most of my days are consumed with finding the right word to portray the right situation in just the right way to convey a picture visible only in my mind. My imagination never fails me even though, sometimes, finding the right word is difficult. This time it’s different. Even a week later, I struggle to absorb the information I read or see on television. It makes no sense.
Uncharacteristically, I skip over graphic news stories, I can’t look at the pictures of the tiny victims, and I don’t want to know their names. I shut it out.
The reason I said “uncharacteristic” is for two reasons—primarily, that I spent 35 years of my life as a registered nurse. I worked in hospitals, clinics, and emergency departments. I worked with AIDS patients, cancer patients, and trauma victims. I also spent two years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children.
I’ve held gaping wounds together to staunch bleeding, stabilized fractured limbs, and broken ribs performing CPR. I’ve seen a lot of tragedy, much of it needless. It was never easy, but it was my job. As a CASA, I advocated for two two beautiful young people who were mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. They will never be normal and I will never forget them.
Something is different, something has changed.Maybe because I’m older and a little wiser and view things with more distance. We have always dealt with wildcards, outliers, or just plain mentally ill members of our society who go off the rails. It’s always frightening and always surprising and we shake our heads and go back to business as usual.
This time I feel as though these sudden and violent acts are symptomatic of something much deeper. I don’t know what. Maybe it was 9-11, maybe that’s when we all became so fearful of one another. Maybe that was when every foreign looking face became a potential terrorist. Maybe that was when fear-mongering became the the easiest and slimey-est way to win power and prestige. I don’t know. We lost “US” —the UNITED states.
If the Mayan prediction is true that December 21 will begin a new age of enlightenment I’d be thrilled. I would like nothing more than to shake the mantel of dread and anxiety that hangs over all of us like a pall keeping out the sun. The anger, hatred, and distrust of each other has got to stop. The “us and them” mentality is not only counterproductive it’s corrosive.
I don’t think this is a lesson we want to pass on to a new generation of children.
I grew up as part of the post war baby boom. I don’t remember anything about the war but it was a time for rebuilding. Much of what was accomplished and those first couple of decades laid the groundwork for many of the comforts we enjoy today. I’d like to hope we’ve finally hit the bottom of this dreadful cycle and that the sacrifice of 26 innocents will get us motivated to take back the greatness that is OUR country.
The news cycles have moved on and we scarcely think about the thousands of individuals whose Christmas may be spent in a shelter because of Hurricane Sandy. I pray that a month room now, we won’t have forgotten the Clarion call from Sandy Hook Elementary.
Please reflect, talk about solutions, offer opinions, and quit the stubborn selfish obstructionism. This is a time when we have to work together—all of us. Please.