|photo by Tim|
I was saddened to hear about the shooting over Memorial Day weekend. Like many of the mass shootings we’ve seen over the past few years, it was arguably a “suicide with murder as an epiphenomenon, rather than murder that happens to end in suicide.” Most times when I read about these kinds of events, my heart breaks for the shooter, who always seems to feel deeply alone and unloved.
In the days following a tragedy, it’s only natural to feel a desperate desire to undo it, to rewind and try again to get it right. But we can’t, so we wonder how it could have been prevented and how to prevent it from happening again. I saw this in my news feed from Politico last week:
'RED FLAGS CAME TOO LATE': The start of Memorial Day weekend was interrupted by tragedy late Friday when 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and wounded 13 before killing himself near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Los Angeles Times reports on the warning signs: "According to interviews with Rodger's acquaintances, law enforcement officials and mental health professionals, all that was known about the 22-year-old college student was that he was terribly sad. And being sad is not a crime, nor the sort of mental state that would, alone, cross a legal threshold requiring official response." http://lat.ms/1jQUNFA
Being sad is not a crime, nor the sort of mental state that would, alone, cross a legal threshold requiring official response.
That, taken alone, is as it should be – it’s frightening to imagine a world where those not showing sufficient cheerfulness are automatically referred to a government psychologist for evaluation. But that’s bureaucracy, politics, and a legal system, and I don’t want to talk about any of those. I want to talk about real human relationships, and love.
People need to know they’re loved. This is an awkward thing to talk about in politics and policies and legal systems, and in one sense it doesn’t really belong there. Love isn’t the sort of thing that works in systems. Love isn’t a list of obligations that can be written down, tallied up, or checked off; love is the result of a decision to orient your life and dispose your heart in a way that prioritizes others.