I’ve been having a bit of “writers block” in the month of October. I had this great goal that I was going to do a blog post once a week – and in September it was working out really well! I had a little schedule for myself, and lots of fun, frivolous ideas for topics to share.
But, admittedly, I’ve been in a bit of a funk this month. I think I’ve done a pretty good job covering it up, but I’ve just felt a little unsettled. I’ve started about five different blog posts, and haven’t finished a single one. So, today, I decided to just sit down and hammer out my thoughts, once and for all.
I think the root cause of my feelings this month are the events of October 1st in Las Vegas. As a society, I feel like we are starting to become a bit immune to the random acts of violence that have been occurring around the world increasingly over the past decade. At least I know I have, to some extent. It’s not that the many awful incidents that have occurred in recent years aren’t still terrible and horrific … it’s just that they have become less surprising. It’s as though we’ve sort of accepted that this is the world we live in now, where random acts of violence can and do happen, on a regular basis.
The October 1st shooting was like a shock to the system. In fact, as the story unfolded, I found myself feeling similar to the way I did when I first heard about the events of 9/11. We can all remember exactly where we were, and what we were doing when 9/11 occurred. I was 17, and in grade 11. I was getting ready for school, and I remember hearing the phone ring. About a minute later, my mom called for me to come join her in the living room, where she had the TV on. I remember rushing into the room, and staring at the screen in confusion. I asked my mom what movie she was watching, and when she told me it wasn’t a movie, but real life, I was in shock. It didn’t seem real. I watched as the towers came down. That day at school was a blur, and we sat glued to the TV, watching it all play out. It’s not that we didn’t think terrible things happened in the world… but the truth is, we didn’t think they could happen here, in North American, so close to home. So close to our experience of life.
I think it’s fair to say that the events of 9/11 marked an increase in random acts of violence in the world, or as we often call them – terrorist attacks. Some, connected to radical religious or political groups, and some more isolated incidents, all with the same goal of inflicting pain, confusion, and terror on innocent people. However, over the last few years, the shock and horror I felt when 9/11 occurred has worn off. I will admit, as a Canadian, some of that sense of confusion and fear was reignited when our own Parliament building was stormed by a gunman back in 2015; but again, with the passing of time, a complacency sets it. I hear of awful events in far off countries and I sometimes find myself thinking, “Oh, another attack.” Not without sympathy and compassion, but without the sense of shock.
And then Las Vegas. And that flood of fear and confusion came rushing back. The sense that no one is safe was so strong for me in the days following the shooting that it almost felt debilitating. The desire to cling to those I love, and pull them into a small isolated bubble was constant.
Again – it’s not that the other awful incidents that have occurred all over the world in recent years weren’t just as terrible… but for the first time in a long time, it felt too close to home. I could picture myself at that concert. If I had been in Las Vegas that weekend, there’s a good chance I would have been there with friends or family. Las Vegas is a place that “everyone” goes. It’s been on my bucket list for years. It could just as easily have been me, or someone I love in that crowd, as anyone else.
You see, it’s not that we don’t care when terrible things happen in other places… it’s just that we have no frame of reference for what it’s like to be in some of those unstable situations. As bad as I feel admitting this, I can wrap my head around the fact that terrible things happen in countries with corrupt governments, civil wars, widespread poverty, and chronic unrest. Though no less awful, it isn’t as shocking that random acts of violence occur in those types of places. It’s harder to accept, however, that these same awful incidents can happen in countries with seemingly stable, progressive governments; where people are “supposed” to be experiencing life, liberty, and freedom on a daily basis. It’s harder to accept that we are just as susceptible.
And that’s when the fear sets in. The debilitating fear that no one is safe; nowhere is safe. So – what do we do with this, as parents, as friends, as neighbours, as citizens of our countries?
I was recently chatting with a lovely group of mamas I have come to appreciate so much, and in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, we were discussing some of our fears and uncertainty. How do we proceed when we don’t feel safe? Do we still travel? Still attend large events? Still spend time in large, public centres? The temptation to just hunker down and stay home, “safe and sound”, was a strong sentiment we all voiced.
But the truth is, no matter how scary the world feels; no matter how unsafe – we can’t live our lives governed by fear. If we change our plans; if we stop doing the things we love, because we’re afraid – then those individuals who commit these acts of terror and violence, continue to “win”, long after the incident has occurred.
When we lived in South Korea, we would frequently be contacted by friends living in Canada and the USA, worried about whether or not we were ok because of something they had seen on the news regarding unrest in North Korea. The truth is, we never really felt the tension when we were there; we never really felt afraid… and these are two countries that have technically been at war for decades.
I remember one day, shortly after we had moved to South Korea, there was a loud siren that went off randomly while we were in the courtyard of the school where we worked. It sounded like one of those old tornado-warnings from the movies. Both Jeff and I were immediately concerned, wondering what to do. But around us, everyone else was calm, continuing to go about their regular activities.
Confused, we approached one of our Korean colleagues to find out what was going on, and she explained that it was a drill incase there was ever an attack from the North. I remember asking her how we would know the difference between a drill and the real thing, and she said there was no difference. At the time, I was totally baffled and a little unnerved that no one was concerned about whether or not they were actually in danger. It took me a bit of time, but I eventually realized that the people there couldn’t live their lives governed by fear. The North Korean threat was just a part of life living in South Korea; an accepted reality. Concerning? Certainly. But – not a cause for debilitating fear, because that’s no way to live life.
Events such as the shooting in Las Vegas, and the many others that have occurred around the world over the past several years, always spur a lot of conversation afterwards, and often a lot of debate and unrest. Issues surrounding political policies, religious rights and freedoms, racism, inequality, mental health issues… the list is endless. I feel like I need to state that this is not intended to be a political post; this isn’t about pointing fingers, casting blame, or even trying to figure out why these awful things happen.
This is just about a mom of three little people, trying to figure out what my piece is. What is my part when I look at these huge, seemingly uncontrollable events, and the complicated issues that arise in their wake? How should I respond? What do I do with these complicated feelings that are stirred inside?
For me, wrestling with all these thoughts this month, along with battling the uneasiness associated with violence occurring so close to home, in a situation so similar to my reality in life, has been something I’m working through. And I still don’t have all the answers.
Thankfully, I’ve been reminded time and time again that I can’t live in fear; I can’t stop doing everyday things; I can’t allow evil to win by losing my joy in life.
I can raise my kids to be kind, generous, inclusive, and compassionate. I can stand up for what I believe in, in my community, my province, my country, and on a global scale by getting involved in issues that are important to me. I can choose not to be complacent when it comes to the harsh reality of life for so many others around the world, and recognize how truly lucky I am to live where I do. I can go to my job and hope to make a difference in my interactions with colleagues and students. I can choose to love even when the the temptation to hate is strong; I can choose joy over fear. I can remember that I believe there is a sovereign God who knows the beginning, the end, and everything in between.
And, in a world where so much is beyond my control, I can write what’s on my heart, without worrying what others will think. Even when it’s just fun, frivolous things that bring me joy, and hopefully, brighten this little slice of the world in this moment in time.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:4