Thoughts on the discussions about Current Events, and the art of constructive conversation.

Dear Friends,

The recent tragedy in Connecticut coming as it has at the time of year where so many of us, across many religions and traditions focus on peace and the holy nature of family and children and beloved friends, has opened up a tidal wave of raw emotions.  Anger and fear and frustration and grief all washing over us like waves upon the shore.

Despite my initial gut reaction to the partisan posts that started flooding my media stream, to caution against comment and to encourage a time of prayer and grief... I have ended up in many conversations with folks…. mainly over on Facebook.  Heck, that same day I found myself trying to engage others in dialogue about the question of what can be done?  I have needed to speak, to hear, to question and to seek some spark of wisdom or meaning or healing in conversation with others.

Violence prevention in general needs to be a part of the national discussion in the United States, as do better gun safety laws, and a serious look at the need for a better mental health safety net in our nation.

Sadly, the nuances of these important and complicated conversations is getting lost in the tides of partisan arguments related to Gun Control vs. Gun Rights.

It seems like folks are more interested in scoring political/rhetorical points from the extremes of the gun control/gun rights crowds, OR are more interested in retreating from discussion of the complexities of this issue out of grief or frustration, than they are interested trying to solve what seems like an increasing plague of violence in our nation.

I think that all too often partisan rhetoric and predatory snarkastic point making has replaced productive dialogue in the public discourse.  Living in an environment where such partisan or bad behavior is the norm, we get sucked or perhaps suckered into behaving in that way.

We need to encourage, engage in, and model a more productive discussion on the issues of Gun Safety, Violence Prevention, and Mental Health care.

Discussion, argument, and disagreement on an issue need not equal enmity folks.

I think we can respect the solemnity of this moment AND begin conversations that can bring both healing and perhaps some solutions.

It is difficult work, Work in the sacred sense even.   Requiring a willingness to speak our minds and hearts, be vulnerable, and to truly Listen to what those we disagree with are saying and expressing… damn difficult work.

One of the challenges is that true and deep listening requires the willingness to change ones mind or opinion…the willingness to listen with the entirety of our beings… the willingness to be open to new ideas or to be influenced by reason.   All too often our culture has come to view that openness as weakness or insincerity.

I believe that we are capable of better than that, that we could engage in constructive and productive dialogue about the issues raised by the Connecticut School Shooting, and all to many tragedies like it, while still respecting the solemnity of the moment and the grief of the families of the fallen and their communities.

There are those who will immediately think that I want to rip the guns out of everyone’s hands, not so much.

I will freely admit I don’t know much about guns. I’ve shot them a few times, pistol and rifle in a few target practices with family or friends. I don’t own one currently mainly due to budget concerns and the fact that I would want excellent instruction in gun safety, shooting, and maintenance before I had one in my home or hands.  But as someone who stands against 1 man 1 woman marriage laws because they seek to limit my potential for rights under the U.S. Constitution, can I honestly be willing to cast aside my potential for rights under the Second Amendment?

There are those, touched by a deep and genuine grief, who will not want to start these difficult conversations because they do not want to further or impinge upon the grief of others.

I am not a parent, and given income and age will probably never be one. I am an Uncle, and have been a family friend of a child…. a part of me asks, “What if one of them is next?”

I find myself thinking of the fallen, the dead, from this horrible event.  I posted the other day that the day the news broke, as I was listening to the news, I was making my regular Household and Ancestral offerings.  I also offered incense to the spirits of the dead in Connecticut.  I have never heard the voices of the Honored or Beloved or Mighty Dead… but I cannot help but think that at times like this They are a united chorus urging those of us who would honor Them to do something to end this!

What could hold more honor?  What could more exemplify the quest for excellence? Why should we not start the difficult work or trying to make the world a better and safer and happier and healthier place every damn chance we can?  Surely we can find ways to respect the solemnity of this moment and at the same time work to see that things like this become a historical anomaly?

Let us speak to how we can honor the fallen of the many massacres, honor our Ancestors, and Honor our Gods by bringing our values to bear on this plague of violence our society is facing.

Pax

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Wishing I heard voices…

Yesterday, as I was listening to the news, I was making my regular Household and Ancestral offerings, and I also offered incense to the spirits of the dead in Connecticut… I have never heard the voices of the Honored or Beloved or Mighty Dead… but I cannot help but think that at times like this they are a united chorus urging those of us who would honor Them to do something to end this.

A prayer for Connecticut, and some questions.

Dear Friends,

A lot of folks posting on the most recent tragic shooting in Connecticut… lots of folks using or wanting to use it as a chance to put forward their views on gun control and/or the right to bear arms… and some criticizing President Obama for not using it as such…

There is a time for discourse, and a time for mourning and respectful silence.

May the newly dead find peace, reunion with Those Who Have Gone Before,

May the families and friends of the fallen find solace and healing,

May the Holy Powers bless them all in the fullness of time.

There is a lot of anger being expressed, and frustration, and grief.

I am not trying to condemn that anger. I understand that anger and frustration.

There is no doubt that there needs to be some deep and serious discussions about the fact that it is ten-thousand times easier for a troubled person to get a gun in the U.S., than it is for them to get access to mental and emotional health resources.

Grief is a complex thing and a tragedy like this happening at a time of year where, whatever our faiths, we are reminded of the Holiness of every life, of every child, of our families and beloved friends… it can stir up a lot of complicated emotions.

For me, I want to take some time to remember and honor the fallen. Take some time to contemplate the complex chain of events that can lead to these sorts of tragedies. THEN I want to encourage some serious and deep discussions of this complicated issue!

Even after posting my prayer and some of my thoughts, I have ended up getting into conversations about gun control, the right to bear arms, and the need for a much better mental health safety net in the United States…

Faith groups and people of faith can be reactive or proactive, indeed we can be both at the same time.   What can we as people of faith and faith groups do proactively to change things? I would agree with the idea that gun control is one piece of the puzzle… but what else needs to be done?

What can we do at the personal and local level as well as at the institutional level?

Pax

PS- This post will be edited over the course of the next several hours and few days as I am exposed to meaningful conversations, resources, and relevant blog posts from within the spectrum of the online Pagan and Polytheistic communities…I will also be re-posting something to The Pagan Values Blogject

Here are a couple of useful resources.  While aimed at parents of children, I think both of these are useful for all ages and combinations of family…

How To Talk To Your Kids About The Conn. Shooting, from NPR

Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting, from the APA

Here are some responses from the Pagan blogosphere, some of which feature links to other responses and statements within our many interlinked Pagan and Polytheist communities…

KaliSara from Kali-Ma: The Dark Side of Parenting & Paganism writes about Tragedy and gun control.

The author of A Less Travelled Path links to her own post in School Shooting Atrocity.

Crystal Blanton shares her prayers in May The Gods Walk In Connecticut Tonight

Jason Pitzle-Waters, editor and correspondent for The Wild Hunt shares a few of the many Prayers in the Face of Unspeakable Tragedy.

Biblebelt Witch shares some prayers of her own in CT school shooting.