Lament: a religious mourning or sorrow. (Thanks, intro to theology book).
Lament is an out-of-date word. And likely, an out-of-date practice. But one I think it would be good for our spirits and souls to recover. Lament is deeper than being bummed, sad or the lazy blah’s. I would be inclined to say that something deep in the soul, in a dark space that only the soul knows, which yearns out in protest: something is wrong. Something is not right, is broken, prevents the soul from settling into peace.
When I worked in Chicago, inevitably every May, as Memorial Day was approaching, those of us staffing emergency rooms and trauma centers would look at each other, quietly nod, and mutually acknowledge, “Here comes GSW season.” For anyone who doesn’t read medicalese in chart notes, that is shorthand for ‘gun shot wound.’ For as anywhere, nice warm weather brings people out into the streets. And in a city with a gun violence epidemic, people out and about means weekends full of violence, life-changing injuries, and heartbreaking deaths. In the line of work I do, I feel even more outraged at deaths that are preventable. There’s enough suffering and pain in this world: why do we allow such violence to continue in our communities?
A few weeks ago I had a thought—here comes school shooting season. For, in a country that prioritizes guns over lives and enables hate rather than cultivating compassion and dialogue, schools in session will mean it’s back to school shooting season. I had something of a visceral reaction to a back-to-school ad in bold colors recently. Its pretty primary colors, snazzy outfits, and children celebrating school supplies in ways I’ve never seen in real life seemed to me a stark contrast to the reality of the world out there. Which is really the world right here. And don’t get me started on armored backpacks. Really? The answer is not in armor-ing school-sized kiddos and munchkins with bullet-proof backpacks. A quick google reveals manufacturers already promoting a variety of styles and options though none seem affordable to me.
When will we stop sacrificing our children, teachers, service workers and neighbors to the idol of gun rights?
When will we stand up and say no more? No more deaths to gun violence. Not here. Not like this.
I’m done with thoughts and prayers. Get back to me when we have meaningful conversations, action and legislation that will make a difference. I started high school about the time that active shooter and lockdown drills became a common practice. Just the thought of it was terrifying. As a fresh high schooler, I remember processing the Columbine shooting from a distance. I’m tired of us failing our kids, and really, everyone. 20 years down the road and it feels that the problem has only gotten worse and every year brings even more shootings. Numbers don’t seem to be as easily trackable back to Columbine in 1999. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at the end of 2012, there have been over 2,000 mass shootings in which four or more people were shot. That’s not even 7 full years! 2,000 shootings. And how shall we account for all other shootings?
So here’s my honest back-to school blessing:
God, bless our kids and keep them safe. Including from us and our inability to keep them safe, especially from gun violence.
God, bless the teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, counselors, coaches, security, and others who work so hard day in and day out to form the future of our world. They do such important work, don’t get thanked or paid enough, and may in fact lose their lives doing so.
And God, hold us to account for all the blood shed and lives taken by guns and our apathy. Teach us again (and harshly if you have to) that life is sacred, hatred kills, and we are called to love and care for all of our neighbors.
The ‘intro to theology’ book mentioned was Donald McKim’s Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, 2009.
Basic facts on mass shootings and stats from the article found here: