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Sutherland Springs, America – a time for national sorrowing

Another month, another slaughter of innocents. Fifty-eight killed five weeks ago in Las Vegas, 26 more now in little Sutherland Springs, Texas. With the frantic pace of the news cycle, we’ll be fixated for a few days, then our attention will be claimed by a new headline, another crisis. Life moves inexorably on, but we can’t forget what happened in Sutherland Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando, at Sandy Hook.

And as a nation, we shouldn’t begin to take mass shootings for granted, “just our new reality.” We ask why? And it helps some to learn something of the perpetrator’s story. Often we are asked again to consider the prevalence of mental illness in our society, and the support due to those who suffer and those who treat it. But this is complex and many troubled folks go undiagnosed or fall through society’s cracks.

The motives of the Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock remain a mystery, except that he seems to have tried to construct a kind of fortress identity out of weapons. We seldom get around to considering the larger cultural questions, the bloated, divided, isolating, violent aspects of contemporary society. And there is always, too, the mystery of sin, including the downward spiral of fear and self-hatred, that defy superficial analysis.

So let’s not just move on, though we have to do that, too. Life for the people of Sutherland Springs will certainly never be the same again. And that’s true somehow for the rest of us, too. The fabric of our national life is torn yet a little more, our relatively secure existence here a little more imperiled. Some of our children will live with still more anxiety. We’re all affected, and all somehow implicated.

We are participants in the way we make sense of these events, the ways we respond individually and collectively. Wouldn’t it help us now, and why couldn’t we just say, as Americans, with one voice: Yes, there needs to be more secure regulation of firearms for people with a known history of mental illness or violent behavior? And, moreover in this country we value life too highly to continue giving any civilian easy access to military style assault weapons. These have become killing instruments and we want them off our streets.

In any case, let us determine to resist the dark forces (among us and within us) that would divide here, have us settle for simplistic answers, or paralyze conversation. Let’s keep it real by staying close in our collective memory and imagination to the community of Sutherland Springs and the families there who are reaching for the courage to go on and rebuild community. Let us resist moving on too quickly, and as one nation, bear witness and say how sorry we are, how weary we are, how much we want something other than this for our children and for our American family.

Steve Bullington is a resident of Adrian.

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