Voice of Peace in a Culture of Violence
Yesterday started out pretty simply. I had posted David’s “Silent Night” for my Friday Carols series because I just love his exquisite take on the carol – subtle, beautiful, even with a tinge of sadness.
I then got ready to go in to work to meet with a graduate student finishing up her thesis in time for her December graduation and, later, to attend an office holiday party, now that we’ve come to the end of the semester and I had finished administering final exams.
December 14 in the northeast, and I didn’t need hats or gloves, so feeling extra happy for the mild sunny weather.
And then, I returned home – only briefly – because I had forgotten a package I was supposed to have mailed out to the post office during my after-work errands.
Why I turned my TV on, I do not know (considering it was a quick stop to pick up my package).
But I did turn on my TV and saw the breaking news: 18 to 20 children killed in a school shooting. Newtown, Connecticut.
I was gutted. I was floored. School children? Elementary school children? Why?
I was then glued to my TV afterwards and couldn’t stop crying.
It took awhile, later in the evening, before I returned to this Soul David blog and listed to David’s “Silent Night” with a newfound sadness. Think of all those families, getting ready for Christmas. And now Christmas will be a much more “silent night” with so many missing children’s voices.
But I’m really tired of it all, folks. I’m tired of the conversations on gun control that go nowhere. I’m tired of the stigmatization of mental illness, as if we have to point to mentally ill individuals to blame for these random acts of violence and not a “mentally ill society.” God forbid we talk about our culture of violence that breeds fear, hatred, indifference, and that normalizes guns and violent language and images in every aspect of culture.
The last movie I went to – “Lincoln” – was filled with so many movie trailers where guys were blowing up stuff with guns. And as we worry about David’s music career when he returns from his mission, Interscope is preparing a debut album for a well known Chicago gang banger, picked right off the bloody streets of Chicago this year.
I’m also flabbergasted when I hear townspeople describe their little neighborhood as “safe” – what does that even mean when earlier this week, another lone gunman went about shooting up folks at a shopping mall, and earlier this year, another lone gunman shot up a Sikh temple while another shot up a movie theater?
Implied in the description of your quiet and safe little town is the notion that there are other places in American that are “unsafe,” and so I wonder: if you live in a “safe town” while some other mother and her children don’t have the resources to leave her “unsafe city,” how safe are we as a nation?
Our media and society are quick to point to dysfunction in marginal communities – poor communities, inner-city communities, communities of color – but somehow we’re just so baffled and at a loss for identifying the dysfunctional individuals in more affluent, rural or suburban communities. Why is that?
So now we have an out-of-control problem – rural, suburban, or urban – violence is everywhere in our culture, and we believe we need “guns” to feel safe.
When David first appeared on the scene, and he sang “so that others could understand it,” I had such high hopes for his music career. When we debated that his “good boy” image was not marketable and not “cool enough,” I wondered: how do we hear a Voice of Peace in a Culture of Violence?
David singing his carols far away in another part of the Americas really drives home just how much darker we feel right here in the U.S. without that glimmer of hope. Like the ancients who feared that the sun would forever disappear – not understanding how the winter solstice worked – it’s easy to feel the darkness of December, but our lights, our celebration of our winter sun eventually rising high again, our conflation between that ancient custom with the Christian point of view of a newborn Saviour of the World, remind us that there is a brighter sun and warmer lights soon to come our way.
Twenty children will not get to open their presents this Christmas, but I can only hope that their lives have not been given up in vain. May these new angels make the heavens shine brighter down on us, as we really need some new light to guide us out of this darkness. Maybe the Mayan prophecy envisions a new earth and new worldview, one that we must embrace to fight back against these paradigms that insist that men must be killing machines (and not givers of life) and that guns make us a safer society.
In the midst of this culture of violence, at least we have a Voice of Peace that still has to power to fight back against the dark.