Can We Not Pause? Reflections on the Shootings in Arizona

Today′s shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona is a tragedy. There is no doubt about that. My thoughts of compassion are with all those who have been touched personally by this event. I feel a need to address the public reaction to the news. And, despite the fact that I live in Canada, I am an American and have responded as an American.

There are people who have their hearts breaking today. Some have lost a loved one. Some are waiting with bated breath to hear about the condition of loved ones. And some, presumably, have seen a loved one commit a horrific act. My heart cries out with compassion for all of these people.

I have chosen not to watch or read more than the basic news about the event today because the responses are dishearteningly predictable. The media are trying to tell a story before there is enough information to support more than a brief recitation of facts. Politicians are making public statements of compassion. Pundits are weighing in on possible motivations of the shooter. Accusations of culpability are being thrown around, without regard to merit. People are distancing themselves from rhetoric that appears callous in light of today′s events. A lot of people are busy talking, making judgements, interpreting the circumstances in ways that reflect their prior understanding of the way the world is.

I am not ready to engage with any of that. My heart has been touched and I must grieve.

I grieve for the people who have been touched today’s events. I grieve that the world is one in which people do horrible things to each other, for whatever reason or lack of reason. And I grieve that we cannot simply let our feelings be our feelings. The commentary, the PR spin, and the blame-throwing so soon after the event diminish the experiences of those who weep out of love. It is too early to analyze. This is a time to stand in company with each other. And, as facts are gathered and the circumstances understood, then there should be reflection and analysis.

Like many people, I want never to hear news like this again. Like many, I have ideas about how social institutions might be modified to increase such a likelihood.

But, I fear that without taking the time to experience our emotional responses, we head into a preordained game, where each of us interprets this event as reinforcement of our preconceived ideas. Our psychological defence mechanisms will kick in to prevent us from seeing alternative ideas or facts that suggest our initial views might be narrow or even wrong. In the conversations I witnessed before shutting off my connections, I saw too much of this happening already.

Yes, I have ideas and hopes about political conversations that might emerge eventually, but I don′t want this event to be political before it is witnessed as deep individual experiences. Even if we end up with the same political divides we had this morning, allowing ourselves the time and space to have human emotional reactions and to acknowledge that there is common ground between people at the level of our human physical experiences might allow respect to bubble back into that divide. I fear it is already too late.


About Kate Arms-Roberts

Posted on January 8, 2011, in Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this blog, Kate. I too have been distraught by the events in Tucson and by every act I hear about where violence has become a mode of communication. But by nature I am a thinker and a doer… as you obviously are. And so the step beyond grieving needs to include regrouping and thoughtful community dialogue about the difference between expressing differences of opinion (with the hope of finding a common ground) and inflammatory rhetoric that is only meant to incite people to violence. Our kids, with their peer conflicts playing out daily on FB, need to hear from parents and teachers why this is NOT the way rational people of good character communicate.

  2. Kate Arms-Roberts


    Thank you. Yes, we do need to act, and I desperately hope that people will chose to act once the immediate media frenzy is over, not just on the issue of inflammatory rhetoric in politics, but also on mental health care and gun control.


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