I wanted to post pumpkin patch pictures today, but a boy intervened. A high school freshman I've never met lived his life an hour north of here, and then all of a sudden, he decided to end his life. And he wanted to take a handful of his classmates down with him.
One more cafeteria became a war zone this Friday.
Two more children are dead.
And we are left to wonder. To speculate. But the situation is pandemic, and we are beginning to worry whether we will ever find the answer. As one victim's father wisely, heartrendingly put it, "Only God knows... Only God knows."
From the moment the guns went off at Columbine, the fingers began to point. Was it video games or violent movies? Was it lack of parental involvement or lack of gun control? Was it bullying or atheism? Or was it simply access to a gun, any gun?
We ask and we ask and ask because there must be a reason. We are sure that there must be a reason. We desperately, helplessly grope for a reason, and when our questions come back, empty echoes boomeranging through the ether, we are left with yet another.
What is wrong with our society?
When did we become a society where such tragedies are not only possible but commonplace? This week's shooting in Marysville, WA marked the 75th school shooting in the US since first graders fell at Newtown, CT.
What is wrong with this country?
A decade before Jaylen Fryberg was even born, a living saint declared that ours is a culture of death. More recently, another saintly man put it a different way. He called us the Throw-Away Culture.
Being Catholic, I'm naturally biased, but I think these popes were on to something.
What are children today meant to make of the world we have built them? This place where everything from last year's shoes to last month's marriage is disposable. We say that everything is relative, which means worth is truly in the eye of the beholder. Or not. In a world where I decide the value of something--or someone--nothing is sacred. And nothing is certain.
How can we expect our youth to navigate such endlessly shifting terrain?
How do we expect them to value each other when we contracept their siblings and abort their friends? I'm sorry, I know that sounds unfeeling, but I assure you I am not. Children are dying and we must ask ourselves: Why one child and not another?
We must look to the source.
The increased violence in our media is not causing a violent culture: It's the product of a violent culture. Bullying exists--and is allowed to exist--because one person is deemed less than another.
We blame society, but society was not created in a vacuum. We are a part of this Throw-Away Culture. We created it together. We are all culpable, and yet we are pointing fingers at symptoms and slapping Band-Aids over bullet holes.
We fight. We lobby. We bicker back and forth. Guns kill people. No, guns don't kill people; people kill people. Guns! People! Guns! People! Until we've reduced each other to sound bytes. We lose sight of each other as people, and then--already--we are part of the problem. If we step back from the war zone to gape at the big picture, we'd see.
People kill people they don't see as people--with or without a gun.
The way the Nazis killed the Jews. The way the Hutu killed the Tutsi. The way terrorists kill indiscriminately. This is how abusers damage victims and doctors persuade mothers to discard the children from their wombs.
Like fish in a barrel. Clones in the Matrix. Disposable.
This. This is how it happens. This is how the trigger gets pulled. When I fail to see the humanity staring me in the face. When I start viewing life--my own or another's--as a choice.
When it's all relative, we are all relative.
The only way we can teach our children to value life is by valuing life. All life. Every life. A life is a life is a life. Either we are all sacred, or we are all disposable.
Are our children disposable? I think we as a society agree: They are not.
So, I propose we stop pointing fingers and start looking each other in the eye.
I suggest we stop looking for someone to blame and start seeking the humanity--the sacredness and worth--in each and every person we encounter.
I humbly request that we make the radical, desperate, and necessary choice to love. Every person. Every day. Every and any way we are able.
If there is any hope of curtailing this culture of death, then we must choose to embrace a culture of life. We must remember how to cherish each other. We must learn again how to value what we were once willing to throw away.