An eye for an eye
Wednesday evening as I was bringing snacks into the Berry Center on the University of Wyoming campus for the monthly Audubon Society program, I received a text from my nephew: "Active shooter in Lewiston right now, shelter in place. I'm home safe." Get low, I replied, and left the program so I could keep in touch by text. My heart raced all evening.
In one interview, Mayor Levesque of Auburn, Maine, noted that, while medical and law enforcement personnel were doing good work, you can train and practice, but until something happens, you do not know. I realized, I have acted with a cool head in crisis situations at work and in my personal life for decades, but in this instance, being so far away and not knowing what was happening, I felt completely at a loss.
Undoubtedly, we've all heard about this tragedy by now, and it's still unfolding, and I will refrain from making assumptions or judgments. Last Saturday I attended the Live in HD showing of the Met Opera performance of "Dead Man Walking." It was a powerful performance. I was struck by how the characters who had lost children wanted the killer to be put to death, "an eye for an eye," as though this would take away their sorrow, and how the main character, Joseph De Rocher, said as much: "I hope my death gives you some relief." That Sister Helen Prejean remained at the side of this convicted criminal despite her own struggles with keeping that commitment, was an incredible demonstration of mercy and compassion.
Last night I listened to a recent National End of Life Doula Alliance webinar, "Caring Connections: Building a Community of Suicide Awareness." While law enforcement continues to hunt for the man who shot and killed and wounded over 30 people on Wednesday evening, some think he has already killed himself. And often the perpetrators of these crimes do. Without delving into the politics of gun culture in the US, I will simply state that mental health issues are often implicated, and the issue is complicated, at best.
How do we support those in our communities who are suffering, whether from depression, psychosis, anger and alienation? And how do we truly support those who lose loved ones suddenly, through a mass shooting, suicide or other traumatic means? Is it enough to issue prayers and lamentations? To hold vigil in remembrance? To bring in and possibly put to death the perpetrator in the case of a mass shooting, to relieve grieving families with "an eye for an eye?" Is it enough for those families to find relief if the shooter dies of suicide?
Every day, whether or not there is a mass shooting in our own town, friends remark that the world has gone crazy, we are a mean society, people don't matter to other people anymore. I myself acknowledge my own dismay at how it seems we as a nation have elevated hate, selfishness, greed for money and material things over the lives of those around us. Then I witness a truly kind, beautiful act of compassion, and I know we are not lost.
Please be kind. Please be careful. Please place love and compassion at the tops of your hearts.
There will be an online healing circle this Sunday, October 29, 2023, at 10am MT (Noon Eastern.) We will begin with 18 minutes of silence, with drumming only, to honor the dead in the Maine shooting. Those with psychopomp experience are invited to do that work in this space. Following, the circle will open for healing work for anyone who is in need, particularly as a result of the shooting or similar trauma event. If you are interested in joining the circle, please reach out to email@example.com or RSVP here for a link to the secure Skype meeting.