When I asked a mental health professional what she thought about the mass shooting at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church that left 26 people dead, she said: “Well, I’m not sure what to say. I mean I kind of tuned it out. I’ve been so busy and there have been all these other mass murders. So I haven’t paid much attention to it. It’s like this: if I don’t think about it, then I don’t have to deal with it.”
Sadly, she is probably not alone. There have been recent mass killings in Las Vegas and New York. Now the target is a tiny church in a rural town in Texas. Are we becoming numb to the carnage? Is tuning out the new normal? Russian dictator Joseph Stalin is reported to have said that a “A single death is a tragedy; A million deaths is a statistic.” He slaughtered millions to secure his power. He knew that when murder becomes a nation’s policy, those who survive simply get used to it. They learn how to live inside a terrorist regime.
It is this “getting used” that translates in America into a kind of dangerous mental narcotic that dulls the moral senses.
It is a narcotic we must avoid. We can not give in to what seems to be the routine of mass murder. We can not side step what is obviously an uncomfortable — and, tragically, a monotonous — experience. We must not let 24-hour cable news coverage and constant commentators make us immune to the pain, the outrage and the despair.
How can we fathom the depth of hatred and the disregard for human life that the Texas gunman had? How is that humans can treat one another as disposable objects?
How does one become so full of hatred that he can take life indiscriminately? Where does this hatred come from? How can we understand an uncontrollable anger that leads a man to murder in a house of worship?
As always , we are left with many questions and few answers.
My hope is that Americans will not stop asking those questions.
We should not give in to the temptation to tune out the tears and the cries of anguish of the victims. If we withdraw emotionally, do we become over time — ever so slightly — indifferent to mass murder?
Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote:”Indifference is the enemy. Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself for it is sterile as well. This is true of both individuals and communities.”
My fear is that there are too many people like my friend.
How long before we, too, feel numbed by the hate and killing? For many of us, hate is a mystery. We simply can’t grasp how hatred poison someone to the point that no life has value, including his own.
What I do believe is that the tears of mourning are matched by the tears of God on high.
That may be the only thing that helps us tune in to being our brother’s keeper, even in his darkest hour.