Words cannot express…

I told myself I wasn’t going to write about the tragedy in Connecticut.

I told myself this, because I was tired of reading things that began with “Words cannot express…” and then having them go on for a thousand words expressing what cannot be expressed. Or hearing on the news the “unspeakable” tragedy being “spoken” about non-stop on every channel.

I told myself I wasn’t going to add to the white noise, because really, what can I say that will make any difference to anyone?

I told myself that I wasn’t going to write about it because I was afraid that by dwelling on it and thinking about it I would somehow let the evil that happened seep onto these pages and into my bones, and I am too cowardly and selfish to let that happen to me. This is primarily a light-hearted humour based blog after all, right? (If you disagree then I’m doing it wrong).

But then I saw this diagram retweeted on Twitter.

Courtesy of Jennifer Hagy, Forbes Magazine

Courtesy of Jennifer Hagy, Forbes Magazine

And I thought that maybe staying silent was not the right thing after all. Making a bunch of needless noise and bestowing, even unintentionally, celebrity on the shooter at the expense of the victims was definitely wrong, I think we can all agree on that. But staying completely silent? Is that just as harmful the other way?

I’ve taken solace in the fact that there have been some voices worth listening to over the last couple of days. Voices from our past, our childhoods even.

The first I saw was a blog post by Levar Burton, host of my one of my favourite childhood shows, Reading Rainbow. He wrote a brief and thoughtful piece about how to talk about a tragedy like this with your kids.

But it was a quotation from Mr. Rogers that a friend had retweeted than finally got to me. Reading it unexpectedly caused me to cry. Sob, even, for a community, for the families, for our world. I think it was good I did. I think one of the reasons the quotation hit me so hard was that despite the tragedy, it offered hope, and a way of dealing with not only this tragedy, but any tragedy that will hit, and believe me they will hit. They will keep hitting. There is no amount of gun control, or mental health intervention, or safety policies or procedures, or eating right or going to bed on time or saying your prayers or cutting out red meat or loving your neighbours or flossing your teeth that’s going to prevent tragedy, loss and heartache. We know this, right?

I remember reading a book about five years ago called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I was going through a particular rough patch of life at the time and I was asking this question to myself. Rabbi Harold Kushner tackles this question head on, after his own son died as a child from a rare degenerative disease. His perspective, in a nutshell, was that he couldn’t reconcile an all powerful God that would allow these kinds of tragedies to happen, and so he envisions God as powerful and good but not ALL POWERFUL and that evil is a real thing that exists in our world and our universe. While good people are always fighting against evil, it does not protect us from it. He would much rather believe in a loving and compassionate God, a God who is there to weep right alongside you and to be there as a support for you as you go through these “unspeakable” events. I think I can get behind a God like that much more easily than an all powerful God that allows these things to happen as part of his “plan” or whatever.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Rabbi Kushner a lot over these last couple of days and I am feeling a little better about not remaining silent.

I’m going to leave you now with the Mr. Rogers’ quote, because I think it’s good for us to hear this again, or maybe for the first time for some of us.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of  ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world.” Mister Rogers




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