Though I was in New York when the shootings in Boulder took place, within hours I posted a response from our church. None of our friends had died, though one of our co-pastors grew up in the neighborhood, and was in the parking lot just two hours before the shooting began. Another friend was there barely an hour before. Another acquaintance was a friend of the police officer who was killed. So many of these horrific tragedies have occurred that I don’t know what to write anymore, even when it hits close to home. The feelings are almost too overwhelming to name – anger, fear, frustration, sadness, resolve, disbelief, fury, resignation.
When events like this take place, I tend to follow my feelings. Strong feelings arose on the day after the shooting, when I was watching the debate on the Senate floor. Ted Cruz, someone I already have a difficult time suffering, was railing in his full volume cadence, saying guns are not the problem. Then he said he would not apologize for offering thoughts and prayers, because prayers are important.
Prayers are important. I have been praying that the people of Texas would turn out Ted Cruz ever since he arrived in the Senate. I have been praying for a clear majority in Congress who would enact a ban on assault weapons like the one used by yet another angry young man. We are the only nation in the world that has to deal with regular mass shootings, and the pure and simple reason is because politicians are afraid of the NRA and its constituents.
I have been praying that people would believe the Democrats who say we have no intention of taking away your guns. We just need to ban weapons of war. We had a ban on assault weapons in Boulder, but just a few weeks before the shooting, a district judge overturned the law as unconstitutional, a decision celebrated by the NRA. The vast majority of Americans want a ban on assault weapons. It’s enough to make me want to move to a right-leaning state and run for Congress. I want to do something that will actually make a difference.
That is one of the most frustrating parts of the shootings in Atlanta and Boulder. The majority of us have been rendered powerless on this important subject, while people like Ted Cruz virtually guarantee that thousands more Americans will be killed by deranged men.
I did a TED Talk a year and a half ago in which one of the other speakers was a father whose son who was killed in the Aurora theater shooting. His talk was simple. Never mention the name of the killer, he said. Refuse to give them the notoriety they crave. If we can’t get rid of guns, maybe we can get rid of the endless news stories about the men who perpetrate such atrocities.
When the Parkland shooting occurred, Donald Trump had to be given a note prompting him to show empathy when he met with families who had lost children. One of the students who spoke with Trump that day spoke eloquently of the need for gun reform. Trump sat there emotionless. That young man is now a college student, and in an interview on Monday evening he said when he marries and has children, he will not raise them in the United States. He will go somewhere his children can be safe.
I am trying to find hope, for without hope we cannot move forward. Despair is concrete to the soul. After I returned home I went with a friend to the memorial set up against the temporary fencing that surrounds the King Sooper’s. It was a gray and rainy day, pretty unusual for Colorado, but it felt appropriate. I read the notes and posters and looked at the beautiful flowers covering every inch of the fence. There were at least one hundred other people there. I looked at the sad eyes above their facemasks, and noticed their knuckles, white as they held tightly to the hands of loved ones. In just four days, thousands of people had come to show solidarity and pay their respects. One television reporter talked of two families who lost loved ones and were encouraged and soothed by the crowds and their expressions of love, respect, and devotion.
My trip to the site was cathartic. I was reminded that most people are good, thoughtful, and kind. They want to make a difference. They want to make sure evil is not the final word. They want compassion to prevail. My friend and I went into a couple of shops on the perimeter of the fencing, and purchased a few items, wanting to support the business owners whose stores are in the shadow of the sadness.
You cannot remain silent in the presence of evil. I will speak about the senseless tragedy at the beginning of our church service tomorrow. I do not yet know what I will say, because words are never enough when your heart is worn and surrounded by sorrow. But I will speak words of hope, because hope is the only thing stronger than fear.