“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” ~C.S. Lewis
During times of immense grief and tragedy, people experience and react to a variety of emotions such as fear, anger, or powerlessness. As we mourn the victims of the Sikh temple shooting, those emotions not only are reverberating through the hearts of all Americans, but are also splashed across television screens all across the nation. While we battle a collective sense of grief, some have acted out on their emotions by turning to politics, rather than prayer or introspection. While I understand how we all want take action against any future tragedies, we need to understand that politicizing tragedies is not only ineffective. It also cheapens the tragedy and distracts from the time of mourning we all need to experience.
Seemingly within moments that the news of the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin broke yesterday, the phrase “gun control” was plastered all over the news and social media sites. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrase “America: Where it’s easier to get a gun than it is healthcare.” Despicable. However, the politicization wasn’t isolated to the dark recesses of twitter anonymity. Pseudo-Newsman Piers Morgan’s twitter feed blew up this morning with tweets praising gun control while criticizing conservatives. I particularly enjoyed this gem: “And before the pro-gun lobby scream ‘Too soon to talk about gun control’ – let me remind them it’s been 17 days since the Aurora massacre.” Trust Piers Morgan to use a tragedy as an excuse to bash conservatives. Knock it off. A tragedy which took the lives of 6 people is not to be used to further your political agenda, Piers.
Yet, the politicization doesn’t stop there. In one breath, Nancy Pelosi said she was “devastated” by the tragedy and then turned to complaining that Congress will be unable to make any changes regarding gun control. Translation: Blame the Republicans. This isn’t a time to include a not-so-subtle jab at your political opponents. Very classy, Nancy. Pelosi went further by claiming that this is a perfect time for a national dialogue on gun control. I believe the opposite. Right now is the worst time for a discussion on gun control. People are still raw with grief and emotion from both the Colorado and Wisconsin tragedies. Decisions made when emotions are high are often impulsive and wrought with erroneous justifications. If Nancy Pelosi wants a national dialogue on gun control, maybe we should wait until the police have finished their investigations and the families of the victims have had the time to mourn.
Perhaps I’m fighting a losing battle against the politicization of nearly every tragedy in the United States. On a basic level, I understand the motivation to turn to politics. Tragedies like the one in Wisconsin expose our powerlessness over great evil and tragedy. As we see control slip through our fingers, we flail wildly, trying to find any way to seize it back. In order to control the uncontrollable or to rise above our own powerlessness, we turn to the fingers of blame. Or we seek the power of a national platform to ease our collective sense of fragility. It’s part of the human character to desire an explanation for all great tragedies, even if there isn’t one. Now isn’t the time to shout “gun control” or “tolerance,” or whatever the political solution of the moment may be. Leave the explanations to the police as they conduct their investigation and we’ll leave the national debate for a later date after we’ve all had time to mourn.
This is not a time to turn to politics or elected officials for an answer. Look instead to your churches, your families, and/or your selves. Grief, cry, pray. Take time to properly mourn the victims of the recent tragedies and leave politics for another day. Since when did we become a nation where everything is political? Perhaps it’s just the ideological young person in me talking, but I challenge all Americans to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Politics isn’t everything. If you want to have a national discussion right now, why don’t we talk about the heroism of the police officer who was shot as he put his life on the line? Respect the heroes, mourn the dead, and leave the words “gun control” for another day. This is a time for prayer, not politics.