Too Many Holes
Too Many Holes

Thanks to @KennySWiley for bring to our attention this thoughtful collection of reaction to the spate of violence we have witnessed in recent weeks. We encourage you to read, reflect, and respond (either in the comment section of this post, or by submitting your own thoughts or reflections in a post.


UU Voices from Black Friday

by

Nancy Bentley, Jill Forney, Steve Nye,

Marianne Sheldon, Deb Donley, Lori Sly,

Robin LaBorde, Sheila McElroy, Rev. Dana Lightsey

 

Within the space of a month this fall, the city of Colorado Springs fell victim to two mass shootings. In the first, four people were killed: a passing bicyclist, two women, and the shooter. In the other incident, the offices of Planned Parenthood were attacked, killing three innocent people: a mother of two, an Iraq war veteran, and a university police officer responding to the call. Both shootings were soon overshadowed in the news by the international attack on Paris and the horrific attack in San Bernardino.

We Unitarian Universalists (UU) ask ourselves every day when this violence will stop and what we can do about the mindless mayhem. Are our principles strong enough to lead us out of this chaos?

Below are the reactions of nine Colorado Springs UUs from High Plains Unitiarian Universalist who raised their voices in anguish, anger and hope in the wake of the latest senseless mass killings in their city and around the country. Each in their own way deals with the question, “How can we heal the hate, live from love and transform both the world and ourselves.”

Jill Forney                                           “Numb” 
The first shooting that directly affected me was Knoxville. It was surreal and unprecedented. I saw my dead friend’s picture on the news. Then came Tucson, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Colorado Springs. Each time post-traumatic stress mixed with fresh grief. But Sandy Hook broke me. I had a first-grader that year and every time I looked at my beautiful, precious little six-year-old, I imagined him terrified, hiding in a closet, bloodied and riddled with bullets, taking his last breath and wondering where I was. Now, I am numb. The numbness is worse than pain. Part of my humanity must be gone. I have lost my capacity for outrage while outrageousness continues on.
 
Steve Nye                               “Violence as a Commodity”                          
Now we’ve done it. Who allowed military-style weaponry into the hands of the general public, and allowed the means by which mentally ill and otherwise unstable individuals can enact fantasies of annihilation as we go about our unsuspecting lives in public places? Blind faith in the capitalist creed to create markets for any material object in the consumer’s lusty eyes has created a society awash in weapons of mass-destruction to feed a collective-shadow fantasy reflected in such entertainments as “Terminator” movies and “First Person Shooter” video games. That fantasy has spilled out of theatres and video screens and now appears in the streets and buildings of our lives. An atmosphere of anarchy undermines the sense of trust in the goodness of our fellow citizens.
  Marianne Sheldon                               “Common Enemy”        
I am Canadian. I have lived in several countries with successful gun regulation, and so I am convinced that proper regulation can be part of the mass shooting solution. No one wants these shootings to continue. NRA supporters want exactly what I want: a safe society. When did the dialogue between Americans turn from disagreement to demonization? Over my seventeen years here, I’ve watched polarization worsen. It has led to zealotry and the all too quick reflex to pick up a gun. If only we could all set down our word weapons and realize we do have enemies in common. Not each other, but fear and the hatred it breeds.  
Nancy Bentley                                    “Words Matter”    
Last week an unstable man toting a loaded weapon drove through my neighborhood on his way to Planned Parenthood. Once there, he began shooting people. How can such a thing happen? How did he get a weapon? Who or what convinced him that he had the right to kill others? Our UU principles encourage respect and dialogue. It is time for us to step forward and model our ability to find the universal in all faiths, all cultures, all people and not be frightened into silence. Violent rhetoric incites violent behavior. Words matter. This is the time to turn our words into transformative action.
   Deb Donley                                        “Choice”                                            
Can we choose love over hate, common sense over chaos? As human beings with free will, I believe we can choose conflict resolution instead of killing. We can choose dialogue instead of destruction. The shooter murdered people, but he is the one who is lifeless. No one wants this to continue. Part of the magic of being human is embracing the differences among us that make our lives intertwine and grow richer. We all want safe communities. We can honor and support one another. Will we make the choice to change?
  Lori Sly                                               “Now can we talk?”                                       
To stop the increasing toll of violence, it is crucial for each of us to confront our fears about being viewed as imperfect. And I do mean “us,” not “them.” There is no them. We must stop pretending that every act of violence or stereotyping is another group’s fault. We are so wrapped up defending the reputations of organizations like Planned Parenthood or the National Rifle Association, that we haven’t managed a civil dialogue about making every citizen safer. Like the three Colorado Springs victims, attendees at the funerals spanned religions, ethnicities, classes and political parties. Now can we talk about gun violence mitigation without our group identities and personal egos ruling? Please?  
Robin LaBorde                                    “Peace is the Answer”                 
More than once, I’ve been in a crowd and felt tears springing up as I imagine a gunman opening fire at that exact moment. Who would be hit? The mother and her young children? The teenaged boy walking his dog? Two old friends sitting and talking? When I look at all the people around me, simply going about their day, I know in my heart that we are not an inherently violent people. But for a many, the answer to gun violence is more guns. It is time for those of us who believe that peace is the answer to speak up.
  Sheila McElroy                                   “Our Work”                                                   
Unitarian Universalists may be conflicted about their responsibility to uphold the first and second principles when confronted with the recent Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs. How do we wrestle with these concepts: The inherent worth and dignity of every person; and Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; in relation to the shooter? How do we show compassion?  What will we do to reflect our personal responsibility? We uphold our principles by continuing to work for laws that control gun violence. We support agencies that work alongside persons with mental health issues. We assist groups that help the homeless and keep people from becoming isolated from the larger community. This is our work.
  Rev. Dana Lightsey                            “Pause”       
The terrorist act against Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood was fueled by toxic vitriol. The time has come for us to stop poisoning and destroying each other with hate. Take your words and actions seriously. The next time you feel the impulse to "destroy" someone with nasty words that makes you feel self-righteously superior - PAUSE. Think about the pain you are about to inflict on real, live, human beings and try the higher road of humility and compassion. Don't add more fuel to the next shooter's fire, instead take the opportunity to respond differently. Contribute to the healing of our country instead of the destruction of it. It feels better than self-righteousness anyway.
You’ve heard our voices. Where is yours?

About the Author

  • Ted joined the staff of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in February 2010. He brings more than twenty-five years of experience using media to create social change by creating communications strategies and content for progressive non-profits, political campaigns, and cause based...

For more information contact blueboat@uua.org.

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