Closing the Evil Book
I wish I were writing under more positive circumstances, but I’m not. This week, we learned about another horrible shooting which occurred in a small town in Texas. As a result of this senseless act, 26 people are dead, including an 18-month-old child. It’s hard not to be heartsick and depressed when something like this happens in your country. Especially when it happens so soon after the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest in United States history1.
These malicious attacks leave even those of us who are not directly affected by them to feel victimized, because we feel so helpless. Every time something like this happens, it is hard to know what to do. So, we offer the only thing that we can do to make sense of these senseless acts: our thoughts and prayers. Horrible things happen so often, however, that offering “thoughts and prayers,” is beginning to lose its meaning. It’s like when I picked up my nieces from school the other day, the flag was at half mast. It seems like it is flying at half mast a lot. A flag that always flies at half mast also starts to lose its meaning.
So, offering “thoughts and prayers” sounds so empty, so hollow. If it was the only thing we could do before, and now doing it doesn’t seem to be helping the problem, what can we do? It’s as if we are in an impossible situation. A situation where we are powerless. Victims.
Let me back up from this bleak situation for a tiny bit to reminisce about my childhood. When I was younger, I really loved the Care Bears, especially The Care Bears Movie. The two main children in the movie were named Kim and Jason, so naturally, I was drawn to the child with my same name. They were in an orphanage after their parents died, and they believed that no one cared about them. The Care Bears were off to rescue them, letting them know that they cared. Meanwhile, a magician’s assistant named Nicholas found an evil book which began to whisper horrible things to him about how no one cared about him, and about how the world was a terrible place. After the Care Bears rescue Kim and Jason, they try their Care Bear Stare action on Nicholas to no avail. The evil book had penetrated his soul too deeply, and their magic had no effect. Luckily, Kim and Jason were there. They were able to let Nicholas know that they used to be like him, and they used to believe that nobody cared, but they were wrong. People do care! Nicholas was finally able to close the book. He ended up growing up to do wonderful things for others2.
Like Nicholas, we also have the equivalent of an evil book whispering things to us that are simply not true. When things like these horrible shootings happen, it may seem like the world is a terrible place and that no one cares. Bad things happen sometimes. They happen to people who definitely don’t deserve it. Did I deserve to be permanently paralyzed from the shoulders down for driving with my seatbelt off for the first time in my life? I could listen to the evil book all day if I chose. It tells me that life is unfair, that I was robbed, that I can do nothing meaningful in the world because of my disability, that I am a burden to my family, that people only think I’m cool/righteous/nice/awesome because I’m in a wheelchair and don’t want to die, that people are pitying me, and on and on and on and on. You can’t help but hear what the evil book says sometimes. But you can choose to close the evil book. Once you do, you can do wonderful things for others. With the book open, you can be paralyzed by hopelessness, shackled with self-doubt, and you become what the evil book tells you you are. Close the evil book!
You might be thinking, “Care Bears are great, Kim, but what does this have to do with the horrible things happening in our nation right now?” I’m so glad that you brought up that point, hypothetical reader. There is something that we can do for our sick nation besides “thoughts and prayers.”
According to politicians, shootings like this happen because of one of two issues: gun safety laws or mental health issues. I am not writing here to debate that at all. However, I think we can all agree that a well-adjusted, otherwise sane person doesn’t open fire on a crowd of people for seemingly no reason. Who are these shooters? Why are they committing these unspeakable acts of terror? I will tell you who they are, although I don’t understand what they do. They are our neighbors. They live next door to us, they work with us, they shop with us, they visit the same websites as us, they post in the same forums, they go to school with us, and they are constantly by us. If we want to help by doing something, we should be making friends with our neighbors, building up our workmates, being kind to others while we shop, acknowledging the others who are on the Internet with us, offering a shoulder to cry on for those who need it, and repairing our relationships with old friends and family members.
Mass shooters (and would-be mass shooters) are not formed in a vacuum. You can influence them! You can help them understand that SOMEBODY CARES. You can convince them to shut the evil book so that they realize that there is so much to live for, and so many positive things that they can do with their lives. You would never have even recognized past evil Nicholas with who he became in the future. It is that different. I’m including a screenshot below for the visual learners.
The Care Bears couldn’t use their Care Bear Stare on Nicholas, because The Care Bear Stare, however well-intentioned it might be, essentially takes away the freedom to choose from the receiver of the stare. You can’t force someone to care. But, we all can be like Kim and Jason, who used their own experiences to empathize with Nicholas, even when he was in the midst of destroying the world. Can we care that courageously? Can we love that unconditionally?
Doing so is incredibly difficult. It is the hardest to love those who need it the most. But we can do this! We can try our best, and then the next day, do it all over again. This just reminds me of what Shakira says in her song “Try Everything“:
Look how far you’ve come
You filled your heart with love
Baby you’ve done enough that cut your breath
Don’t beat yourself up
Don’t need to run so fast
Sometimes we come last but we did our best3.
From a religious viewpoint, this is not new news. Jesus said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”4 This is hard! It seems like some people don’t deserve our love, our friendship, or our goodness. Fortunately for us, it is not up to us to figure out what people deserve. Our only responsibility is to love others, regardless of what we believe they deserve, of what they have done in the past, or any other reason. Those outliers who shoot up (or could potentially shoot up) theaters, churches, concerts, and schools need someone to show them this kind of love. If someone had been there for these shooters, maybe they wouldn’t have taken out their feelings of disconnectedness on random strangers with bullets.
If we are serious about not letting this happen again, there is plenty for us to do aside from offering our thoughts and prayers. We can do the extremely difficult thing: love our neighbors. Right now, our country is extremely divided because of this whole Democrats versus Republicans hate fest. Even smart, normally good-natured people have expressed violent viewpoints toward those who had voted differently than them. Hating someone because of who they voted for never once changed their minds. If you really believe in your cause, you need to do the hard thing and love unconditionally. This is something that everyone in the entire world can do, and day by day, loving this courageously will become easier. It isn’t a quick fix that any kind of gun control or mental health policy might feel like. But let’s face it, we are probably not going to get the laws we want anyway. And if we did, they would be mere Band-Aids to what is really going on in America. But you, a single person, working and living and being right where you are, you can have an everlasting effect on those around you, and then your entire community, state, nation, and world.
This video doesn’t have anything to do with Care Bears, but it has a nice message of hope regarding our collective future.