Through Our Tears

I could not write about the sad, sad killings in Charleston, SC right
away because I wanted to get some perspective first (as if this short amount of
time could help). I am not sure why this particular mass shooting has hit me so
hard but I can’t think about it without crying. I guess I was in shock when the
twenty-six beautiful children were shot in Newtown. I mourned but it did not
bring tears to my eyes or leave this thickness in my throat. Perhaps it is the
weight of all these deadly incidents piling up that makes this time so hard.
Perhaps it is the innocence of nine American people of African Descent  in a church studying a Bible and accepting a
young man of Caucasian Descent into their midst. Maybe it is because he sat
with them for an hour and then killed them. How could he carry out his twisted
“mission” once he knew these people personally? I don’t understand how America
got here or how we will move away from this place, or even if we can stop hate
now.
We cannot bring these lovely people back. I did not know them but
their survivors speak so highly of them and the things the relatives said to
that boy/man at his arraignment were things I don’t think I ever could have
said, so I just know that these were good people.
We have to, have to, try to figure out how to raise these alienated
young people that American seems to have homegrown in greater numbers than
previously over the past three or four decades. We have to figure out how to
give them the connectedness they need, offer them more love and acceptance, and
find tasks for them that make them feel useful. Our churches are not as central
to our lives as they once were. Our families are sometimes failing to offer the
support children need as they grow and mature. Our mental health system turned
away from one-on-one therapy to medications that have not proven to be as
efficacious as they were first believed to be, often because side effects lead
people to stop medicating, or are even to misuse them to the point of unhealthy
addiction. Our schools are left to handle children who are well-adjusted and
those who are not with very little help from anyone. Those who are not
well-adjusted leave school far too early because they can see that the schools
haven’t the slightest idea about how to help them turn their lives around.
Then we have the divided nature of our nation right now. We have to
look at those in the media who have been venting their anger/hate about
minorities and about the poor; who have been pretending that their attitude
towards guns is about freedom and the Second Amendment when they have almost
been, have walked the line past, talking about revolution and secession because
they believe their brand of the American way of life is being governed out of
existence. Folks who spew hate 24/7 must bear some responsibility for giving
angry “misfits” a script to follow. I do believe in free speech. Perhaps we
just don’t need quite so much of it and it doesn’t always have to sound quite
so passionate about every little imagined slight.
We also have to look at the gang culture in our cities which gives
young people an alternative to belong to an organization, but belonging to this
particular organization puts them at odds with the rest of society, turns them
into criminals, and finally delivers them to a life in prison where they are
fed and clothed, and sometimes educated, but where they,  all too often, are initiated into a life that
puts them outside the hopefully more satisfying and certainly more peaceful arc
of a productive mainstream life.
Perhaps it is time to haul out that old idea of two years of community
service for our kids who opt out of college or training programs. Perhaps our
mental health system needs another overhaul where we take some of the freedom
to choose or not choose medication away from the mentally ill until we can find
a genetic way out of this difficult-to-live-with mental wiring. Or we must
harden our hearts and grieve as we go and live in fear that we also might be in
the right place at the wrong time.
By Nancy Brisson
 

Gut-Punched

Kennedy brothers; left to right John, Robert, Ted.Image via WikipediaI’m still reminiscing my way through True Compass by Edward (Ted) Kennedy. I’m knee deep in the Civil Right’s movement and the Vietnam War years are just revving up. Ted Kennedy knew Martin Luther King because they were contemporaries. We all owe MLK a lot. He could have advocated violence and that would have torn America up, but he didn’t. He stressed peaceful resistance. “Black” Americans bore the brunt of the white backlash, but his tactics allowed for a national mood of shock at the hatred and sympathy for the cause of civil rights that violence might not have produced. Then we lost Martin Luther King.

Then we lost Bobby Kennedy who had been successfully campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President. These were very bad days for America. Something was very wrong. Ted Kennedy, personally gut-punched for the second time in five years, describes how his life reeled out of control for several years. It it difficult to imagine the pain in his life. His brother Joe, dead in World War II, his sister Kick, dead in an accident, his dad unable to communicate due to a stroke, Jack, assassinated and now Bobby, also assassinated. How does one family absorb all of this. And we know there was more to come. Although Senator Kennedy discusses Chappaquiddick he maintains that it was an innocent accident and one that he never, ever got over. He is gone now and that is the last word on that.

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