We tolled the bell at Trinity this morning at 9 am (PST). We tolled the bell 60 times, once for each of those killed in Las Vegas, Nevada, this past Sunday.
“Bishops United Against Gun Violence” encouraged Episcopal churches across the nation to participate in the tolling of bells at 9 am (PST). Our tolling of bells here was a way to stand united with one another.
And more to the point, of course, it also brings the grief home to us, reminding us to share the burden of those more immediately impacted by the violence. I was reminded of the English priest and poet John Donne:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
We often forget the truth of it. There are so many ways for us to do so.
Barb reminded me this morning of the relevance of our human propensity to dehumanize others. It’s the background noise that runs all the time. Across the political spectrum, we ridicule those on the opposite sides rather than engage with them – and “they” do the same to “us.”
In Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown, Barb tells me, writes:
When we engage in dehumanizing rhetoric or promote dehumanizing images, we diminish our own humanity in the process.
Down through the ages, dehumanizing the “other” is how “we” can overcome all reason and go to war, telling ourselves that the enemy is somehow less than human. It’s how we justified slavery and how we still rationalize discrimination.
And it’s how we imagine we can keep ourselves safe (and/or how we manage to keep ourselves from looking at ourselves) after another mass shooting. If the shooter is a “monster” or mentally ill, then I don’t need to be afraid of my respectable neighbors.
I was also reminded, upon coming into the office this morning, of how minority communities in our country likely responded to the news of another mass shooting. They had to worry, while I, a white male in this country, did not.
If the guns had been wielded by a Muslim or a person of color, a whole group within our country would be blamed. Tweets would have followed, tirades against Islamic terrorists or thinly-veiled racist reminders that “All Lives Matter.”
But since it appears that the shooter is white, we’ll look for another explanation, one that will keep the questions distant. It seems likely to me that the majority opinion will declare mental illness as the cause.
Mental illness is involved somehow, but it’s not just one man’s insanity. The insanity is more wide-spread than one shooter. The insanity is the failure of a nation to respond with anything meaningful. Our national mental illness allows us to keep on doing what we’ve always done and pretend the last horrors were the aberration, never to be repeated. (For my part, it seems long overdue for meaningful legislation. At the very least, Congress should provide a way to do what the Constitution explicitly allows … ensure that our militia (formal and informal) are well-regulated.)
But for now, we will be reminded not to rush to judgment; we don’t yet know what motivated the shooting. And we have been cautioned not to jump to conclusions while the investigation continues.
And in the meantime, those who oppose any and all efforts at gun control will say this isn’t the time to have that conversation. They’ll insist that now is the time to come together and offer prayers for the victims.
Of course, this is a time to come together and offer prayers. But there is more that should follow; it’s not an “either-or” moment.
And so we paused this morning to toll the bells at Trinity – and across the nation – to affirm that we are all harmed by such horrific acts of violence. And we do well to ask what we should do next, for now is the time to have conversations about how such insanity is allowed to continue … because now is always the right time to talk about what needs to be done in this country to remind us of our high calling to live together with mutual care and support, as sisters and brothers in a common family.
“… never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” And for me, too.