Monday, January 27, 2014

Rededicating Ourselves

Our general disposition is to trust people or not.  Either way, sometimes we're going to be wrong.

I'm paraphrasing a line from a book I stayed up to finish last night: Things I've Learned from Dying.  It is a profoundly sad book (as one may expect from the title and a death count of about four [if you include the dog, which I always do]).  I don't know why I chose to read a profoundly sad book, but I'm glad I did. 

I read the line referenced above yesterday and it rung true.  Those are the scales of public safety stripped of legalese, statute, and sentencing guideline.  We either trust people or we don't.  No matter what we do to set the demarcation line between those groups, sometimes we're going to be wrong.

This is not a gun control debate, yet.
This is not a mental health debate, yet.

But take heed.  I don't think either discussion will find easy application to what happened Saturday.  That may be the most terrifying aspect of all of this.  Injury without remedy. 

The commentary on the mall shooting has already become offensive.  It probably started there. "You don't expect something like this to happen in Columbia."  Why is it ok that we expect it to happen anywhere?  If we are to find any inspiration here, for an injury that may not have a remedy, maybe it should be in the idea that no one should have to prioritize who they call next when thinking about loved ones who may have been in danger.  Maybe we should be inspired to say that all violent deaths matter equally.  Maybe we should care if someone with a name that doesn't look like ours is murdered in a neighborhood that doesn't look like ours at a time that we would not normally be awake.

On Saturday, we shared an experience that is all too common for fellow Marylanders just 20 miles east.  The margin of error between who we trust and who we don't trust is much thinner over there and the consequences much more severe.  We shared something horrible with them and our first inclination will be to do our best to pretend it never happened and won't happen again.  But imagine their truth.  Imagine being defined by it, so much so that when a shooting happens somewhere else, somewhere it is not supposed to happen, your neighborhood is used as a contrast.

I don't think anyone scoffed when Ken Ulman said "We need a take moment and rededicate ourselves to doing what we can to make this world a better place."  What other context is there for telling hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, that they need to "rededicate" themselves to "make the world a better place"?   You let that line loose under the wrong circumstances and you can expect to be mocked for years to come.  But yesterday, it worked.  Such a simple line had a lot to unpack.  Ken didn't say we need to make Columbia or Howard County a better place (ex., "Make sure to smile at your neighbor today").  He didn't say we need to make Maryland a better place (ex., "Columbia has so many great things to offer and I hope our fellow Marylanders will come together at our time of need").  He said we need to make the world a better place, because that is the only way incidents like Saturday become less common.  If we sit in our bubble, it will be popped.

There may be no policy prescription for something like this.  But that doesn't mean we don't change as people.  As Ken also said, "We're better than this."

Have a great Monday doing what you love.  Do something awesome today.