Reflecting on the Tragedy of #Aurora – It’s OK to Watch Some of the News and It’s OK to Grieve

Like so many, I am still processing the tragedy in Aurora, CO. It’s heartbreaking and what’s further devastating is that this is one tragic story among so many. Right now, there are 2 girls that are missing in Iowa and the parents are not cooperating with authorities. Right now the population of Syria is going through hell. Right now, our Twitter feeds are giving us new updates and reactions on the Sandusky/Penn State scandal. Right now there are painful reports that happen each day and these include acts of violence, abuse, human-trafficking, theft, disease, freak-accidents and countess other evils.

We’ve observed that events like the tragedy in Aurora immediately create a boiling point in society. The death toll, the drama, the horrific details are not only delivered to the public in dramatic fashion, but in some ways these tragic occurrences magnify the everyday tragedies that happen on the peripheral – the peripheral of our lives that is. We then find ourselves saying we can’t take it anymore and so we wonder out loud what’s going on with the world, we seek who is to blame for the senselessness and we question how these tragedies can be avoided. We hate to imagine a “next time.”

In these moments, we are met with two options – be part of the public reaction or do our best to avoid it. Both can lead us down a wrong path. If we get “too informed”, we then become obsessive and clearly prone to over-reacting. If we distance ourselves too much, we become guilty of meeting the tragedy with ambivalence. Many of us realize something more nuanced is needed, perhaps a third way.

So, where is the line between over-reaction and apathy? I have found it easy to think that I see “the middle” but I know my middle most likely is different than yours and yours is different than others and Exhibit A are the personalities we see on our televisions, Exhibit B are found on our or our friend’s Facebook comments, the examples are endless.

Usually when a speaker or writer introduces the possibility of a “third way,” they reveal it, otherwise why mention it? In this post, I’m telling you that I can’t find the third way. I am admitting that I am grieving the tragedy in Aurora.  While I don’t know anyone there and while I always want to be careful to not let my heart be led by what’s trending in the media, again, I admit that I am grieving.

It’s not the curiosity of “why” this man entered the theater. I already know I won’t be satisfied with those answers. Which does not mean that we as a society should not seek the answers, I’m only offering that it will not help be much help to me right now. Which puts me in an awkward place with my media consumption versus the desire to be reasonably informed.

Typically, I try only to watch a little cable news. Between Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death and my appreciation for aspects of postmodernity, I prefer only to be “minimally informed.” I’m suspicious of many things and this includes cable news. I’m suspicious of the host of the program, the guests that appear, the producers’ motives of choosing one story over another and so forth. While I know that there are many sincere and genuine people in the news industry, my suspicion exists. In fairness, I have a bit of suspicion towards just about everyone in this fallen world which includes those that occupy political offices, those that lead, coach, medicate, legislate, enforce, those with a microphone, those behind a pulpit (it’s true) and those that promote just about anything. Some of this is in fact, wise and healthy. Some of it may prove not to be.

While I try to discern how much of the news I am going to consume, I do not see how completely avoiding it is helpful either. We know moderation is good, but it’s difficult tho figure out what is moderation and frankly this affects how we feel about the issue at hand, this affects how if and how I am going to grieve the tragedy in Aurora.

Now usually, I say that I am feeling the “burden” of the tragedy or I’m “moved by what happened.” Please note that I am not using the quotes in a mocking sense by any means. Like most people, I’d like to avoid the cliches too and in this context, know that I am as sincere as I can possibly be. So part of this is failure of words.  But I want to be careful that I do not fall into a failure of emotion either.

When it comes down to it, I want to avoid pretending to feel something that I don’t. Obviously that type of “disguised apathy” is not genuine. The trouble I find is that our human hearts do not have the capacity to grieve every tragic event but we experiences a sense of guilt for not keeping up with it all which reveals itself as we grieve a particular event/personal loss. I do find that keeping our hearts sensitive and broken allow for us to grieve the breaking point moments and I think that’s where I find myself today.

And so, I find that my heart has broken for the victims and their families. I cannot help but feel some sense of anger, I cannot help but be saddened, I cannot help but grieve and by my definition, to experience some sense of over-reaction. This is not to say the reaction is unnecessary, not at all. It means to say in grief we may not remain in as much control as we wish to be. I know that not everyone sees it that way, hence the often quoted and debated expression, “Everyone grieves in their own way.” For me to truly grieve it must consume, it must actually hurt, it must account for some type of over-reaction in some way. Today that feels close to accurate but I’m still processing that – feel free to offer your perspectives. May the Lord’s peace and comfort be with those in need right now.

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