Ash Wednesday yesterday. You know that a lot of Anglican traditions are a bit of a mystery to me so I looked it up on Wikipedia. What? The first line is “Ash Wednesday is a Christian day for peace.”. I don’t think anyone told the school shooter in Florida.
There are a lot of things about America and its gun laws that are alien to me. I don’t live there and I can’t pretend to understand it. I saw a documentary once where a gun-shop owner vigorously defended the “right to bear arms”. He explained that it was in case the government or the people in power ever turned on them. It wasn’t really about day to day protection. It was about a deep rooted mistrust of those in authority. A keeping back of some of the power for the ordinary man. I think I undertstood a bit more – how the keeping of a gun could become a matter of principle but it remained a concept that I couldn’t really imagine. Because I also can’t imagine what it would be like to receive text messages from your child as they cowered under a desk, or as they watched their teacher shot dead as he vainly tried to lock the classroom door to protect them. I can’t imagine what it is like to run to school with that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach because you don’t know what you will find there – whether your child will be alive or dead. I don’t know what it’s like to wait helplessly at school gates while the police try to work out what is happening. I don’t know what it’s like to send your child to school with a rucksack and paper and pencils and them never come home.
I don’t really expect lawmakers in America to change anything soon. Partly because of the deep-rooted beliefs held above and partly because of the money guns earn. Also, if, as in Sandy Hook, a man walks into a school and kills 20 six and seven year olds in cold blood and nothing changes, then, in my humble opinion, nothing will ever change. You have crossed red lines to infinity there and still it wasn’t enough.
There is news emerging now though that the killer was known to people as having an unhealthy obsession with guns and killing. He was also excluded from school and had a grudge. Do you have to be Sherlock to have a clue where it will go? Yet there was nothing, no laws, nothing to stop him. I say again, I’m not an American, I don’t claim to understand. Not at all. I just can’t think of anywhere else where this happens – all the time – and there is no response. As far as I can see, America is a brilliant place, packed to the drawstrings with amazing people, I just don’t get it.
Life is fragile, Ash Wednesday is a reminder of that – we are but dust or a breath. I look at our young people and hope that we are not building a world for them where it is far more fragile than it needs to be.
“I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” Daniel 9