Sometimes with horrific events in the 21st century, it feels like we all have to respond so quickly. While the bodies of the dead are yet to be collected from the scene of the crime, we're already having debates over whether a shooting is domestic or foreign terrorism, if it's an Islamic extremist issue or isn't, if the act was inspired by a hatred of gay people or lack of mental health support, if it should lead us to more gun control or not, if it's the fault of conservative rhetoric or jihad or xenophobia or ISIS. Sometimes it feels like the commentary is so loud and constant that we can't truly LISTEN or REFLECT.
Today I've spent listening--to my contacts on social media, to firsthand witnesses interviewed on the news, to comments from friends via text, to commentators and analysts. I think I listened, in part, because I just was so weary of this pattern, this conversation, this feeling that this is not how we should be living on this earth.
In the end, I find that I can say nothing for certain. But sometimes I think the most profound emotions are the ones language cannot contain. Of course we must try to make sense of such atrocities; we must make political decisions; we must come to grips with how we got here and how this is possible; we must identify who and what ideology is responsible. But today, as I've experienced a day of contrast--celebrating my dad's birthday on a beautiful summer day, with the family I love, while simultaneously realizing that the family and friends of 50 Americans will never spend time with their loved ones again--I just keep circling back to one scripture verse. In John 11, after the death of a beloved friend, we read that Jesus responded to loss with the same absence of words many of us feel today, and right now, for this moment, I feel like that's all we can really do. Like us, "Jesus wept." And I believe he is weeping today...
Cara Snider Williams is a professor of English, who holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in English from West Virginia University and teaches rhetoric, composition, and literature at Shepherd University. Her scholarship includes intersections of race, religion, and social justice in American literature, with a focus on Christians "on the margin" who advocated for a social gospel. When she is not grading papers or writing, Cara immerses herself in contemporary global and national politics, runs and gets outside with her Jack Russell. She lives with her husband in Colorado.