The world’s gone mad, “thoughts and prayers” don’t cut it anymore, so how are we supposed to cope?
A man arrived at my clinic for his appointment shortly after news broke of the shooting in San Bernadino.
He sat down and asked me slowly, “Why did we let this world get so bad?”
I started to brush off the question with some kind of platitude, but before I got very far I noticed he’d begun to weep; big sorrowful tears rolling down his aged face. I was speechless, knowing that anything I could say at that point would just sound hollow.
Later that night, enjoying a glass of wine while scrolling through the Washington Post, I studied story after story of the news that has become our national narrative and came to realize … he’s right. In far too many ways.
We are a country of such powerful contradictions. We presented SIX Academy Awards to the model of goodness, Forrest Gump, and now just might award the presidency to the master of crass, Donald Trump. From Gump to Trump in only 20 years! And that isn’t the only area in which some serious collective soul searching is needed.
The U.S. is a nation of immigrants; each of us without full Native American blood have ancestors who came here seeking religious freedom, economic opportunities or just a chance to start over. However, many would rather hypocritically turn away refugees that have been thoroughly vetted to return to their motherland and a likely death. I can hardly imagine anything more un-American.
Would you like to visit a shopping mall? Hospital? Church? High School? College? Grocery Store? Military Base? Maybe an elementary school, holiday party or the movie theater in my neighborhood? All have been ravaged by mass shootings.
And collectively, we as a nation have decided that enacting common sense gun reform and enhancing access to quality mental health services is more appalling than the idea of 20 young children being gunned down in their classrooms. Not to mention the thousands of other families preparing for yet another holiday without their loved one in cities such as Roseburg, Charleston, Newtown, Tucson, Fort Hood, Blacksburg, Omaha, Washington DC and right here in Aurora. “Thoughts and Prayers” really can’t be enough anymore.
It was the generation of my grandparents that saved the world on the beaches of Normandy and in the skies over Midway. They risked (and gave) their lives so the planet would not be overtaken by fascism. In modern times, not the warnings of presidents, popes, or the 97 percent of climate scientists who express their belief that the climate is changing due to human influence can seem to rally the world to take steps to curb this human-made threat. We are being asked so little compared to the generations that came before and if we have any respect for those that preceded us, and those that will inherit this earth, then we must do better.
I confess that often I have little confidence in these and other pressing issues getting resolved. As long the Defense Department’s budget is 28 times higher than the National Institute of Health for example, our societal priorities are skewed. As Trump, Ted Cruz, Bill Maher, Sarah Palin, Alan Grayson, etc. have demonstrated, it isn’t the thoughtful, rational or reasonable people that get attention; rather it’s the flame-throwers with outrageous sound bites that whip up people’s baser instincts and create a “me vs. you” attitude.
Some of my closest friends are different ages/gender/political ideology/race/sexual orientation/religious background than I am and these are often the people from whom I learn the most. Yet so many people believe that someone is somehow bad if they aren’t the same as them in most ways (believe the same, look the same, etc.) Perhaps we have more to learn from people who aren’t exactly like us, therefore we must be willing to start having conversations with everyone.
We must conclude that if we are to adhere to the founding principles of our nation (and the principles of human decency) we have to open our hearts and our borders to the refugees of the world. We need to enact common sense gun reform so our children don’t have to know the meaning of an “active shooter situation.” And it’s time to put the future of our planet ahead of financial considerations and take steps to curb climate change before further irreversible damage is done.
My patient returned to the clinic the following day for his next session. I asked him if he was feeling any better, and he replied that he meant everything he said yesterday. We spoke about how easy it can be to get discouraged. As he stood up to leave he said, “Fella, you’re doing damn good if you’re smart enough not to make the world much worse. And try to enjoy the beauty in it along the way. I think there’s still some out there. Please tell me there’s a little?”
“Yes sir,” I replied. In spite of the imperfections within all of us, it remains a beautiful world.”
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Photo: Getty Images