Suffering in the shame of silence after another mass shooting

Another mass shooting and I’m left feeling the same–ashamed.

As I wrote about the Syrian refugee crisis, empathy should be our default setting, and it’s where my heart and mind go every time I hear news like that of the mass shooting in San Bernardino or [insert the most recent mass shooting].

What if that were my son, daughter, wife, brother, sister, mom, or dad gunned down simply for showing up to work or to school or to church that day?

My daughter is in first grade and several times a year the school has active shooter drills. They don’t call them that. She just knows to hide in the corner or in the bathroom and be really quiet.

What if that weren’t a drill? What if a real-life shooter held a gun to her head and pulled the trigger blowing away the dreams of her becoming a cowgirl/writer, our plans of going to Harry Potter world in February? Her laugh, her joy, her hugs, her, all gone.

I can barely write this. Or imagine it.

If that happened to her or someone close to me, I would stand, I would speak out. Ending gun violence would become the cause of my life. But it hasn’t happened to her or anyone close to me. So I hear the same arguments from the talking heads, and I do nothing and I suffer in silence from the shame of my silence.

Writer Colum McCann’s writing space is littered with notes from himself and from others. One of them reads:

“What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us.”

The NY Times’ piece that profiles McCann follows him to Newtown Connecticut, where 20 children and 6 adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. The students  were reading his book Let the Great World Spin and discussing how to move forward after tragedy. Here’s what he told the students:

“I’m not interested in blind optimism, but I’m very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, ‘This is not enough.’ But it takes time, more time than we can sometimes imagine, to get there. And sometimes we don’t.”

Being ashamed and having empathy is not enough without action.

The reality is that since I haven’t experienced the tragedy of this type of violence, I’m not going to make this the cause of my life, but I can support those parents, brothers, sisters, and spouses of those who are.

Here’s how I’m planning on acting: This morning I made a donation to Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark. I also signed the group’s petition to congress.

It’s a small something to do, but it’s not silence. It’s not nothing. It’s not recycling political talking points and arguments. It’s supporting those who are acting.

Empathy without action is numbing. As a nation, we must continue to feel these tragedies and continue to act.

Sharon E Cummings says:


Thank you for this. As a nation it seems we have become numb to all the violence. My prayer is that this is not so. I took action by dedication my blog to those who lost loved one due to senseless killings. I believe that our nation must pray. It is not a gun issue at all, it is a heart issue. I know some will disagree with me and that is ok. I am sharing your post. It is necessary for all to take action in a peaceful way.

Let your voice be heard!