It has now been a week since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary yet for many it still feels like it happened just this morning. Since the events took place, there have been countless responses. Some call for stricter gun control laws, others call for the laws to stay the same or even lessen, others have called for better security at schools, still more for more attention to be given to those who are mentally ill. Some, with no words to say, call for silence, prayer, and reflection.
Through my time in seminary and living at the Bonhoeffer House I have found that everything in life boils down to relationships. Many of my friends who find themselves on the streets are there, in large part because of abusive relationships in their past or because there is no one they feel they can turn to when they are in need. My friends who have successful jobs also found themselves there because of relationships. Sure they studied while in school and have skills needed to succeed, but for many it was the supportive parents and the ability to form positive relationships with people in their company, their bosses, or with the people who interviewed them that got them the job.
When I look at the tragedy of Newtown, I also look at the relationships involved. Adam Lanza clearly had issues with relationships. The few interviews I have seen with former classmates, his bus driver, and neighbors, all said that Adam seemed to be a "loner," that he had few friends and never really talked to anyone.
We can all ask what if questions:
- What if there were stricter gun laws?
- What if Adam didn't have a gun?
- What if the school had better security?
- What if Adam had proper mental health care?
I, however, find myself wondering:
- What if Adam had more healthy relationships in his life?
- What if there were people outside of his family that really knew Adam?
- What if Adam had people he could turn to when he was thinking dangerous thoughts?
- What if there were enough supportive people in Adam and his family's life that they could encourage him to seek proper care?
I will admit that this is all under the assumption that he didn't already have enough relationships. I feel that is a safe assumption based on many of the reports coming out. I am not trying to remove the blame from Adam. I can't help but wonder, though, if this could have been prevented by something as simple as supportive relationships. I am not naive, I realize there are countless factors that contributed to him picking up a gun, killing his mother, and then proceeding to take 26 other lives. A few friends may not have been enough in this case, but it surely couldn't have hurt.
I read a response from someone who said he was angry that the news referred to Adam as a "young man." He said that he was a "monster, not a 'young man' as these news networks are calling it." I wonder if he would say the same if it were his own brother, or friend, or even son who did these things. No, Adam Lanza was not a monster, he was a human being just like you and like me. He was a son, brother, cousin, nephew, and neighbor. It would be far too easy to shake him off as a monster or as evil incarnate, but that wasn't the case. No, what happened last friday was not the equivalent of a charging rhino running through the halls, trampling children. The deaths were not caused by an electrical short causing a fire in the school. An earthquake did not collapse a building killing 28 people. No, the deaths were all at the hand of a gun wielding Adam Lanza.
What makes this scenario different from the others is that there are two things we have to mourn. Unlike the other scenarios which cause us to only mourn the loss of 28 lives, this scenario also calls us to mourn whatever it was that led Adam to take those 28 lives. While some are only mourning the loss of 26 or 27 lives, I am mourning all 28. Adam was not a monster, he was not purely evil, he was a child of God who committed an evil act. So today I mourn the loss of his life in addition to the other 27 people he killed and I mourn whatever broken relationships caused him to kill. Whether those broken relationships were between himself and his neighborhood, his family, his video games, his former classmates, or some kind of broken relationships in his mind or body, I mourn.
President Obama, in his address, said, "We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." Perhaps the first meaningful action we need to take to prevent more tragedies like this is to create more meaningful relationships. The idea that people need to be independent has created a culture of isolation. We need to begin to understand that it is not independence we ought to seek but a meaningful interdependence. If we want to succeed as individuals, as a people, or as a society we must learn to depend on one another. We must learn to seek out help when we need it and seek out ways to provide help when others need it.
At times like this, many people are afraid but scripture tells us that perfect love casts out fear. So in this time of fear, let us seek out love. Let us seek out how to get to know one another, form meaningful relationships, love one another, and together cast out fear.