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Let Tragedy Unite Us

Updated: May 29, 2022

I debated long and hard about whether or not to write anything public in the aftermath of yet another heartbreaking school shooting. In the end, I decided that I’ve held my tongue long enough. You may not agree with me, but if you choose to comment, please keep your comments civilized. It blows me away that we discipline our children for calling someone “stupid” or “butthead” but we think it's okay to hurl far worse insults at other adults on social media and other internet platforms.


This tragedy is a gun issue, but it isn’t ONLY a gun issue. This tragedy is a mental health issue, but it isn’t ONLY a mental health issue. In my 44 years of life and nearly 20 years of clinical medicine, I’ve seen and experienced enough heartbreak from both to last me several lifetimes. People line up on their respective sides like this is a true/false question on a test in school. It isn’t. It’s more than the guns, more than the mental health crisis, so much more.


In August 2020 I was eight months pregnant with my younger son, Tyler. And I was working with a recruiter to obtain the paperwork to apply for a medical license… in a foreign country. Why? Because I turned on the news and I no longer recognized what my hometown had become. Because I donned my mask and did the things I had to do, trying all the while not to hear the people around me talking. Because I no longer wanted to raise my boys in the country of my birth. I looked around and saw hatred and narrowmindedness and wondered where the America I was once so proud of had gone.


There’s a lot of talk these days about how the pandemic has strained everyone to the breaking point mentally and emotionally. There’s a lot of talk locally about how what happened to George Floyd and the aftermath forever changed my hometown. There’s no doubt that these things are true. But the problem pre-dates both.


Over the last few years, our nation has become increasingly a country divided. There’s nothing new about the differing opinions, the prejudices, the taking of sides. We’ve been doing that since this country was born. What’s changed is the depth of it all. Once upon a time we could disagree all week at work, then sit side by side at church. Now we can’t even stand to be in the same building. Everything is right or wrong, black or white, my way or the highway. And the depth of emotion that goes along with it terrifies me.


Strung out on caffeine, chronic sleep deprivation, financial stressors and poor self-esteem, people in this country lash out against each other without pausing to consider the consequences. Without pausing to consider the other side of the story. Growing up in the 80’s, I remember learning things like “don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Sexist nature of the saying aside, we’ve forgotten how to do this.


A lot of people want to blame Trump, but the truth is that the problem existed long before he entered the picture – he just capitalized on it. Throughout American history, there have been cycles like this – where brother turns on brother, and friend and neighbor against each other. Think of the Civil War, of Japanese work camps during World War II, of McCarthyism, of the turmoil of the 1960s… You could even go all the way back to the American Revolution, which literally split the colonial immigrant population, each side swearing til their dying breath that they were in the right.


I held my little boys close a little longer at bedtime that first night, trying to wrap my head around tragedy and make sure they knew how much mama loves them. Because I fear that this time we've entered the leading edge of a perfect storm where a million things are feeding upon each other. The only question remaining is what will we do?


Will we have the courage to ban assault-style and semi-automatic weapons? Will we have the wisdom to finally treat mental illness as the serious health condition it is? I pray that the answer to both of these questions is YES. But it’s not enough…


The only way out of this crisis is for each and every one of us to commit to being part of the solution – instead of part of the problem. It starts with taking a moment to think about the consequences of our words before we utter them. The digital age has given us the ability to talk 24/7, to share ideas the instant they enter our heads, and to react in the moment. This lack of filter isn’t a good thing. It also starts with giving more hugs and fewer punches. It starts with raising our children to be good humans. That means being present for our children, putting down the damn cell phone and playing, laughing, LISTENING. It means seeking care for our own issues, so that we can be good role models and give them the unconditional love and support they deserve.


The heartbreaking, senseless violence in our country will not be solved by the government, or by the health care system, or by putting armed guards at the entrances to our schools. If we are to survive as a nation, it’s up to each one of us to step up and choose to do better, to take responsibility for our little world. Choose to spread curiosity and compassion, instead of hatred and misunderstanding. Choose to reach out when you see someone who’s hurting. Spend time with people who have different backgrounds, different beliefs, than you do. Listen and learn and choose to respect your differences. Be a guardian angel instead of a bully. Let’s band together and become what we are – a nation of incredibly diverse, incredibly talented and wonderful people. Let’s create a legacy we can be proud to pass on to our children.





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These pages are filled with blogs about things I'm passionate about - from archaeology to zen!  My goal is not to convert you to my idea of a "perfect lifestyle" but rather to help you identify and create your own.

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