I randomly picked up a magazine from the pile of reading material I haven’t had time to catch up with. The January/February issue of Sierra Magazine has a large, bold title, POLARIZED, Levity and Gravity at the Ends of the Earth. Oh yeah, I thought, this is how it feels and hurts right now in my country, but hasn’t it felt this way for a few years now? Honestly, hasn’t it been this way from the beginning?
This issue of Sierra, however, isn’t about taking extreme sides in politics, but about climate change from the top of the world to the bottom of the world. Nevertheless, I am aware that even the discussion of glaciers melting and climate crises can indeed create polarization amongst the citizens of America, home of the free and the brave.
We all have been grieving over the loss of life, not only in Connecticut, but the loss of children’s lives destroyed by land mines in Afghanistan. And then my sorrow deepened by the vitriolic and raging debate over gun control that arrives like salt rubbed into a wound. I learned that some of my friends hold views that I didn’t know they had (or perhaps I didn’t want to know) and I’m disappointed. And I read that a few people with their rights in tact walked into a Walmart store and other public places displaying their weapons…a day or two after the heartbreaking atrocity in Connecticut.
Are we a nation unable to grieve right? Are we awkward in expressing lamentations for more than a week? As individuals, we go into the cocoon of our sorrow and rub our hearts raw with grief, perhaps eating too much, drinking too much, abusing our bodies because we need to numb our pain and stop the shaking in our souls. We need the prayer vigils and funerals where we are given time to wear our mourning clothes, light candles, and hold one another, but mostly it happens just for a brief time and we maintain our stiff, upper lipped dignity through it all, swiping at the tears quickly before others see. And if there is loud wailing in these places for grief and remembrances, we view it as unrefined and feel embarrassed for those who lose control. And for ourselves if we lose control.
But why is it that we are very much at ease and not embarrassed in losing control with our anger all over the page and air waves? After 9/11, the ban on purchasing assault weapons was lifted and we went to war. Our grief was too much and the only way to deal with it was to be enraged. There is righteous anger, indeed, and there is a time for it, but it is my belief that if it is right and good anger, this anger will result in healing and change. I remember after a few painful incidents with an alcoholic step-father when I was in my early teens, I was so angry that I considered sneaking into bars to light them on fire. I wanted to get rid of my pain and the problem of alcoholism.
I’m uncertain how to go about grieving and having righteous anger in a healthy way. I know it isn’t wearing a gun in public to prove I have rights or burning down places I consider hell holes. I also know that although a time will come to remove my mourning clothes, I will not relinquish all of them. I have lived long and I have learned the names of sorrow, so I will wear some of this grieving to honor those gone before me, to be vigilant for righteous change, to be humble, and to wait for mourning to turn to dancing, for I know we can always dance again.
And then I mindlessly flipped through the Sierra magazine to the last page, and read the title, Last Words, and exhaled some of the sorrow I was holding tightly in my chest as I viewed the photo and description. I know without a doubt that nature can teach us, heal us, and can bring us together:
And so for my friends who disagree with me about gun control, this is my last word here to you. And to all of us responding to the tragedies and loss of our times, we can, through the best of our humanity, sip the tears of the sorrowing and be changed.