“Joy is the gift of love, grief is the price of love, and rage is that which protects what is loved.” I keep repeating these words of Valarie Kaur, an activist and spiritual teacher, over and over today. Joy—so easily stolen. Grief—so unnecessary. Rage—so inescapable.
I had babies at the time of Sandy Hook. They were one and two years old. I remember rocking them both to sleep, sobbing over them, singing the harrowing second and third verses of Away in a Manger, because it was Christmas time.
But if I’m being really honest, Sandy Hook and maybe Parkland may have been the last school shootings that I truly and completely let myself enter into and mourn. I have chosen to be numb, instead. And I’m sorry.
We are all complicit in tragedies like this, whether because we look to more violence as a solution, or because we shield ourselves from the reality of where our bad politics have led us.
I repent of my tendency to ignore, and turn away, when I hear of another mass shooting. I repent of my tendency to think “Oh, only one this time? That’s not as bad.” I repent of my tendency to explain away a tragedy to protect myself from thinking it could happen to my kids.
I confess that I use my white privilege to turn away from these events. I don’t have to live with the constant threat of race-driven hate crimes. I can shield myself and my family from that vulnerability.
I think I’ve gone numb, turned away, because I don’t trust that I can handle it. We really can’t handle it. We weren’t made to. And that’s exactly why we have to. I’d rather live through this emotional hell than let it happen to another innocent child.
My husband Garrett, who is a pastor, wrote a letter to our church last night referencing the famous quote from A Wrinkle in Time, “Stay angry, little Meg.” I just read this book with our 4th grade daughter last week. As soon as we finished the last word, she flipped back to the beginning to start it again. She loves Meg and loves especially the advice that Mrs. Whatsit gives her when she prepares to take on what she calls The Black Thing: “You will need all your anger now.”
To refresh your memory, Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace travel through space to fight evil. Evil is portrayed as a dark fog around certain planets who have given up, and it’s hovering around planet Earth. From the children’s perspective in space, they can see the evil clearly for what it is. But when you’re in it, it feels good and right. It feels like freedoms you are entitled to. It feels like control. It might feel like winning.
But Meg has the gift of anger which allows her to see through the darkness for the corruption it’s causing all around. Her anger prevents her from going numb.
In the end, her little brother falls victim to IT (a brain controlled by the evil force), and he is stuck on a dark planet. Meg has found and rescued her father from that same planet, because she believed he would fix everything. But she comes to realize that, in this case, he’s powerless. He’s not able to fix it for her. Meg is the one that has to do it.
I remember after Sandy Hook, my only consolation was that this would be the last straw. They’ll fix this before my babies are in school.
Well, it’s been 10 years since Sandy Hook. Since Parkland in 2018 there have been 119 school shootings. We have to come to terms with the inevitable. There is no “they” that will fix this. No one’s coming to our rescue, or to the rescue of our babies. We, Americans, are blinded by the dark forces of power and individual freedoms.
That’s a devastating realization for all of us. We can’t wait around for our “fathers” to make it all better.
It’s up to us. Like Meg, our anger can help us overcome our fear and take up the mantle to confront the evil that surrounds us. Like Jesus, our anger can turn over tables and drive out corruption.
Joy has been stolen. We are in a state of grief. I hope you have let yourself cry over this tragedy. Let it out. Don’t be numb. Don’t look away.
And then, rage. If you are in a position of power, of any kind of power, use it. If you have money, give it. If you have a vote, cast it. If you have a voice, shout from the rooftops, “Never again!”
Stay angry, dear ones. You will need all your anger now.
Cameron Vickrey is Director of Communications and Development at Fellowship Southwest. She lives in San Antonio and is married to Garrett, who pastors Woodland Baptist Church. They have three daughters in public schools.