On Christmas Eve, as I watched Anderson Cooper’s interview with parents of one of the massacred children, I found myself thinking that every manger in every nativity scene in this country should have been emptied, its gilded and beatific rococo infant hidden away for next year.
It should have been empty in solidarity with what has been taken from all of us.
More, it should be empty in symbolic affirmation of the visible, palpable presence of evil in this life.
I have no doubt that hell is here on earth, in our losses and in our own actions great and small we all commit that hurt others. That which harms another or ourselves, whether in word or deed.
Advent and Christmas have always had a powerful allure for this cradle Episcopalian. We beautify the winter world; the bare trees seem to climb toward the stars. We play and perform music that comforts us and engage in rituals that bring us peace.
How much I have longed for the Eucharist in recent days, to take into me something of God to fortify myself with. But how could there ever be a God of this universe or any other when it is possible to walk into a school with an AR-15 and gun down children like lambs?
These were the lambs of God, the innocent. Where was God, those who believe in the miraculous?
Last week my Medicaid housekeeper said to me, when I was distressed over hearing of Newtown, “God must have needed more angels.”
I nearly bit through my tongue. How dare anyone say such a thing. How can anyone fill his or her own mind with such a steaming load of crap. How vastly insulting and cruel to the families of the lost.
Moreover, even as we mourn our own dead and flock into churches, synagogues and mosques for answers and solace, our predator drones are airborne, on the other side of the world.
We avert our eyes at what Craig Rivera actually had the chutzpah to refer to as “collateral damage” last weekend on Geraldo.
What of the children we, and our government, snuff out–what of the anguish of those parents? What of the blood on our own hands?
One might be tempted to suggest a certain level of karma at work, if one believed in karma.
As the intellect reminds us that we are but mortal motes asking ourselves many questions, as we are not omniscient and cannot be certain of the existence of a great Something, it is up to each person to create meaning, purpose and context for his or her existence, to take responsibility for his own and others’ welfare, and this is what we should be teaching our children.
We should explain to them that God and faith are human constructs which they are free to buy into or not, and that there is no glamour or true power in violence. We need to insure that they are capable of independent critical thinking and not indoctrinate them into a faith tradition on the one hand and into the gun culture on the other.
There is nothing sane about keeping an AR15 around the house, with a 30-round clip.
Our children are dead. They were murdered, their flesh rent and violated by someone whose mother forgot to think. She forgot to think about the potential in a disturbed and angry child to reach for the guns she taught him to shoot, one of which, was the AR-15.
Our children have a rich fantasy life. We don’t need to delude them further. We need to teach them to be vigilant, and more, to be critical thinkers. They need to comprehend that they are responsible for themselves, that they can tap into their own power to make themselves happy when they are sad, choose to reach out when they are troubled, that the human imagination can be used for good or ill.
If we live in reality, that while there is no purpose to these horror-filled acts, that there is no purchase in acting on emotion, upping the ante when we are threatened, we will raise discerning and strong children who will learn to protect themselves, to meet difficulties with logic and equanimity. Our children will become life-affirming adults capable of standing up to the perpetrator without returning fire.
Pairing love and reason, using our heads, permitting the intellect to legislate and leaven the heart, we can stand up to the gun lobby and ban assault rifles and capacitative ammo clips.
We can install security systems that work, mesh windows that can’t be shot open so that Satan himself, dressed as a human being, can’t slaughter our children.
We can refill the manger with love for one another, and the will to keep on.