Words have often come easily for me…whether I’m writing or speaking. Today the words are not flowing. Perhaps that is because there really are no words.
On May 14th a teenager walked into a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and started shooting. Thirteen people were shot with a high-powered military style weapon. Ten people died, three were wounded.
Ten days later, only one week ago today on May 24th, another teenager entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas with similar military style weapons. This time 38 people were shot by the gunman. The death toll so far is 21 – 19 students and two teachers. The others remain in critical condition and their fate remains uncertain.
We just finished Memorial Day weekend and despite the shock of these two horrendous events, the mass shootings have continued – several others occurred between May 24th and May 29th in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Michigan, Tennessee, Colorado, California, Florida, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
These are the facts. Words are used to convey them. However, there are no words.
There are no more words even for the satirical newspaper, The Onion, which has offered the same powerful commentary on mass shootings in America 21 times in the past eight years: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.’”
The last thing I want to do is simply offer my “thoughts and prayers” to the people who have lost parents, siblings, and even children in these mass shootings. In fact, those words have been used too many times with so little meaning or action behind them, they are worse than clichés. They have become a worthless insult in “the only nation where this regularly happens.”
If there are no words and if the words we usually default to using are worthless, what do we do?
First, as unimaginable as it may be, we need to imagine what it must be like to lose someone we love to gun violence – a completely preventable cause of death. This is important if we are to experience genuine empathy.
Second, if we know people whose lives have been touched by gun violence, we need to reach out to them personally with a human voice and touch. No more “thoughts and prayers.” Only authentic human connection, even if we have no words and can only sit together in silence.
Third, we take every action we can everywhere we can to end gun violence and the mass shootings that have become too common in our country.
There are no words anymore. But there is still something we can do…if we can find the will.