As many people have been doing, I’ve found my thoughts wandering to the tragedy in Connecticut over the past week.
My mind wandered down many paths. I pondered that raw indignity we visit upon other nations by using drones to kill their children in the midst of mourning our own. I wished I could find photos of those children. I want to know all the victims of violence. It’s hard to fathom the numbers and I find it upsetting that we are eager to grieve losses on our soil, but dismiss losses in other countries with fancy euphemisms like, “collateral damage” or, “ravages of war” or … ? … you name it.
Then I wondered why these choices are so polarizing? What is it that makes it impossible to talk about these issues with any kind of sanity or grace. Then I realized that part of the problem is that of competing rights.
When it comes to guns we must balance the right of gun ownership against the right of life for gun victims. When it comes to abortion we must balance the right of life for the baby against the right to self-determination for the mother. What I think is most interesting is that those who are more conservative tend to the former in each equation and those who are more liberal tend to the latter, despite either former or latter being diametrically opposed to one another. That is those who support unfettered gun ownership are often more likely to support a pro-life position on abortion. Those who support restricting gun ownership tend to be those who are more likely to support maternal choice in pregnancy. Neither set of people make any sense. This tells me we (as a nation) need to be more creative in how we discuss and problem solve our way through these issues.
Which brings me to my last thought. I play a game called “Book Worm” fairly obsessively … when I have a few moments to kill you can find me playing Book Worm on my phone. It’s a nerdy little game with lettered tiles and you try to make words with them. Kind of like a solitaire form of Scrabble. Once you reach a certain level, the game introduces burning tiles. If you cannot use those tiles before they get to the bottom of the board, you lose. Up until recently those tiles sort of freaked me out. They made me a little bit panicky. What if I couldn’t use it? Why was it so hard? I did not like those burning tiles, they made me feel poor and inadequate. Until one day when I changed my perspective on those tiles. I realized that if I was willing to look at the surrounding tiles more creatively, I could always … always … use them. Sometimes I’d have to wait a round or two. But I can always use them.
That’s when it hit me. In trying to stop mass murder, we are actually trying to prevent symptoms. It’s admirable, but will ultimately not be successful. We need to look for the illness and then for a cure. When we engage in that search it might be good to approach the whole issue from the perspective of peace, restoration and plenty. That’s going to be difficult because we are entrenched in a perspective of redemptive violence, brokenness and scarcity.
So the question becomes, can we change our perspective? Can we view these issues creatively and find redemptive, restorative solutions? Or will we continue with our zero-sum thinking that continues to impoverish all of us?