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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reflections on the Tragedy in CT

It is difficult being Catholic.

It is difficult to belong to a Church that demands us to forgive that which the world will always regard as unforgivable.  It is difficult to remember that it is by living my Catholic Faith I can best honor the victims of this horror. It is difficult to remember my own vow to not just be Catholic, but to be Catholic Out Loud so that those who see me and observe my actions will see The Church that Jesus Christ founded.  They will see Her Teachings and recognize them for what they are: Truth.

I think (and I could be over simplifying this)  people are in shock because of the randomness of the attack, its total lack of sense. One can make sense of a car wreck (the person was speeding, they were drunk, there was a mechanical error). One can make sense of an abortion (person was coerced, person was selfish, person was misinformed and made a decision based on bad information). One can make sense out of a murder that is the result of another crime gone wrong (a botched burglary, a botched robbery, a stolen car crashed during a pursuit). 

One cannot make sense out of the actions of a madman.

There is a dialogue begun on gun control and gun laws in this country and I think that is wise.  I think it is high time we look at how and who and why people are buying guns that no true sportsman uses for hunting.  I know.  I am the daughter of a WWII Vet, an avid hunter and gun collector.

I am not jumping on the 'let's blame Nancy' bandwagon. Please understand this if you get NOTHING else from what I write today:  I AM NOT BLAMING NANCY FOR THIS TRAGEDY.

I will say this; IF Nancy Lanza knew her child had mental health issues, she should never EVER keep guns around the house. If her son never showed any signs of mental health issues and this was a real bolt out of the blue in terms of him suddenly giving in to the voices in his head, then she would have no way of knowing and cannot be held responsible for simply being a gun collector. Why the guns were not secured, well...maybe they were and she did not know her son was schizophrenic with violent tendencies and he had access to them in the safe. If a parent knows a child has anger issues, can be delusional, can fly off the handle....listen, when I got sober one of the first questions I was asked by a savvy oldtimer was whether or not I had a gun. I asked him why he needed to know that (in a rather outraged and aggressive tone of voice, I might add) and he told me that an alcoholic, even a long time sober one, that owns a gun has a special obligation to society to take extra precautions with it. He told me that too many of us are in prison or in the grave because - drunk or sober - the idea that a temporary problem needed a permanent solution was easily acted upon because of quick access to lethal weapons. In other words, he said, you know you are an alcoholic. You know how volatile we can be - do you think it is a good idea to own a gun?  And if you do own a gun, do you think it should be easily accessible?

That stuck with me.

I have no problems with guns. I know myself, however, and how depressed, anxious or angry I can become over a recipe gone wrong or a perceived slight or a nasty look from another driver on the freeway. For that reason I choose not to own a firearm. Instead I own a Scotty. Last night, an unfamiliar man walked into my house. In seconds he was cornered with a Scottish terrier gnawing on his booted ankle and he was yelling, "For God's Sake Duffy, It's ME it's ME". Remember all those youtube videos about the dogs greeting returning soldiers? Have you noticed not one of them is a Scottish Terrier?

I grew up around guns and gun owners and I know how responsible they were with their firearms. I also know people my age - in the 50's and 60's - are not as responsible as our moms, dads and grandparents were with their firearms (or should I say MY moms, dads and grandparents were - locked up, unloaded, cleaned regularly and woe be to any child that picked up a firearm unsupervised or pointed it, even in fun, at a living being. We could kiss goodbye to sitting down for about a week).

My other hope is that a real dialogue about the issue of mental health and how to care for those who are unable to make rational decisions about their own lives is begun in this country.  We reacted to the horrid abuses of institutions and asylums with typical American knee-jerk abandon:  close them down, change the laws, make sure this cannot happen again.

Which was not a bad thing in its own way.  We had people institutionalized and raped, beaten, tortured and drugged into incoherent submission because they were a little irrational.  We had our mentally handicapped, our Traumatic Brain Injured, our physically handicapped brothers and sisters chained to walls and washed down with fire hoses.  They lived in filth, they were forgotten and they were treated like trash.

That had to stop.

Today, because we did not properly outline a coherent and loving policy towards those members of our human family that need out help, many of those same people are living on the street.  They are regularly raped, beaten and tortured.  They sleep in alley ways and door steps.  They act out in anger and push others in front of oncoming subway trains.  Their families cannot force them to take medications, live inside,  take a bath or keep others safe from their paranoid delusions.  In other words, we allow for the same kind of neglect but today we protect them from being 'forced' to do anything. 

I think we missed the boat.

Between the gun laws and the lack of help for the mentally ill this country has failed.  We cannot seem to strike a balance, to apply reasonable ideas to the problem and come up with a solution.  I know nothing will ever be perfect and I know that no matter what we put into place someone will find a way to pervert it and hurt others.  I get that - I understand the consequences of Original Sin.

However, I believe it is our duty as human beings to try and I definitely believe it is our obligation as Catholics to contribute to the dialogue without hyperbole, name calling, demands or fists-on-table in anger.  I believe it is part of being Catholic Out Loud to ask the question, "Can we do better?  Is it always either/or? Can't a solution be found that is both/and in its dimensions?".

It is difficult being Catholic.

Don't you think?

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