Like a lot of people across the country I've been struggling with all sorts of emotions in response to the recent tragedy of the shootings at VT.
Greg Burgas has a bit different take on it over at Delenda Est Carthago. His post about the senseless crime brings up several different issues for me.
What sort of things does it make sense for me to get "upset" about? What sort of things is it appropriate for me to shrug my shoulders over and simply let go?
I believe apathy is a spirit murdering monster. I think being passionately connected to life and other people really matters. However, I recognize that with that passion comes mind wrenching sorrow and outrage when things go wrong.
There is ALWAYS something wonderful, magnificent, miraculous and kind occurring somewhere on the planet every moment of every day. There are also ALWAYS layers of depravity, cruelness, senseless atrocity and just plain ugly meanness. What is the best way for me to respond to that? Some would say you manifest whatever it is you focus on, so choose to focus on the good. Others would say we must be attuned to what's wrong around us in order to be a part of making things better.
But I'm not talking here about things I can take social action to change. I'm talking about world events in general - things utterly beyond my sphere of influence. What do I allow into my emotional radar screen and what do I choose to remain oblivious to? What things will I stay neutral to or uninvolved with and what will I allow to have major impact on my heart?
If I go around feeling hysterical because of all the bad there is in the world, eventually I emotionally short circuit to the point that I'm less able to function. So, almost as a matter of self preservation, I "tune out" thinking about or responding to many layers of the world's pain. But how far should I shut off the faucets of my empathy for others? At what point it it acceptable to me to NOT be involved?
I makes perfect sense to me that I generally care more about what happens to my immediate family than I care about what happens to strangers in another state. But when does what happens to stranger matter to me?
What makes the difference whether YOUR pain impacts MY heart?
I certainly don't think media is a good indicator of what is or is not important.
During the genocide the Hutu people of Rwanda carried out against the Tutsies, thousands upon thousands of men, women and children were brutally murdered in a period of just a few months. But it barely make the six o'clock news here.
Yet when one little blond, blue eyed girl in Colorado named Jon Bennet Ramsey was murdered, every news station and tabloid covered the case extensively for months. This was done while completely overlooking the fact that HUNDREDS of other little kids went missing or were found dead all across the country the very same week as Jon Bennet. But we never heard most of their names, unless they were in our same town or related to someone we knew.
Right now the country is reeling in shock from the senseless violence that occurred at Virginia Tech. But how many people were shot dead in single person crimes yesterday? How many died from snake bite? How many learned their beloved had betrayed them? How many lost their jobs?
WHAT does it take for me to care about another person's suffering? Is it the number? Is it the amount of detailed information available? Is it how closely their life resembles my own?
How to tell when to care, when to cry, when to cringe and move on.... there are no simple answers to that for me.