To all victims: I am sorry.
I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry for the pain that has been inflicted. I am sorry that your lives have been eternally altered.
And I am sorry that we have taken the occasion of your grief to be an opportunity to share a sound bite for our pet issue.
Last week, a highly publicized tragedy struck again. A man who was seriously disturbed wreaked havoc on a community and shattered the lives of many individuals and families. It is terrible. It is awful. It is painful.
And we should be mourning with the victims.
However: instead of mourning, scores of people are pontificating. Instead of crying, people are shouting. Instead of seeing the victims and their families, people are seeing how much hatred they can cram into 140 characters.
This most current story has many layers: mental health, misogyny, overall treatment of women, gun control, gender roles/expectations, and probably others.
But the initial moments after the news hit is not the time to bray on about those issues. In those moments, we need to grieve. In those moments, we need to be present with those who are hurting. And if physical presence is not possible, then we need to be falling on our knees in prayer on their behalf.
We need to learn an important lesson from the friends of Job in the early chapters of that book. When we see someone in pain and desperation due to the events in their lives, we need to SHUT UP. The last thing hurting people need is more words. They need comfort. They need presence. They need love.
So often we forget that. We fail to recognize the pain and hurt because we are too busy trying to figure out how we can spin it to our benefit.
Should we be addressing these issues? Absolutely. We should be living our lives in such a way that people know what we stand for and what we believe in. We should be bold in our ideas of how people should be treated and how systems should be run.
And when we are living lives in such a way that no one has to question where we stand, we do not need to use opportunities of grief as a soapbox on which to stand.
To victims of mass shootings, I am sorry that we have fought to maintain our right to own instruments of death instead of fighting to ensure the mental health of those who own them.
To victims of abortion, I am sorry that we argued you are a choice instead of a life.
To those who have had abortions, I am sorry that we have failed to realize both the difficulty of your decision and the enduring impact that decision has had on your lives.
To those whose family members have been executed by the death penalty, I am sorry that we have confused state-sanctioned killing with justice.
To those living in poverty, I am sorry that we have blamed you instead of recognizing the structures that have perpetuated your situation.
To women who have been treated as little more than sexualized objects, I am sorry that we continue to promote inequality by the things we watch and the items we buy.
And I am sorry that we wait until tragedy strikes before saying anything. I am sorry that we look past those who are hurting and start screaming at each other. I am sorry that we have used you to promote our agendas.
May we all learn when it is best to bite our tongues, say nothing, and sit in silence and weep.