Searching For Relevance

Now What?

October 6, 2017

It has taken nearly a week to formulate any kind of response to the horrific shooting in Las Vegas this past week. How does one make any sense out of the insanity of such an act? It’s crazy! It’s surreal — beyond my imagination! It’s becoming an everyday happening! The only difference I now discern between the killings taking place one day or another is the increase in their size, and sadly, their involved planning and creativity.

Like most everyone else, I can offer no quick or sure-fired solutions, primarily because, I just don’t think that way! And since the deed itself never crosses my mind, I cannot anticipate any way of preventing it. Or, at least, minimizing it! It seems that when we lessen the threat of a plane as a weapon, then a truck will do. Tighten security at airports, and an outdoor cafe or country western concert will suffice for a target. But, wait a minute, doesn’t this succession of tactics also reveal some success in the prevention of killings?

Perhaps the reason that trucks and cars are being utilized as weapons is a reflection that it’s become more difficult to use planes. Maybe, the additional “inconvenience” we now go through at airports has worked! And yet, I still hear people grumble about the time involved in going through security. Passing through Heathrow airport in London this summer involved submitting to not one, but three check points. If you used the airport WiFi or purchased an item in the terminal, the first thing requested was your name and flight information. Do I wish this wasn’t necessary? Do I long for the “old days”? Absolutely!! Am I glad we are doing everything possible to promote everyone’s safety? Without a doubt!!! It’s just the way things must be in our world today!

Can we totally eliminate the tragedies? “No, that’s impossible.” If you want to take a life, especially if you have no concern about being killed or caught, there will always be a way. The long range strategy for decreasing some of what is behind this, is to change the all too prevalent acceptance of violence in our society. This begins with each of us! How people act toward one another these days so quickly manifests itself in anger, violence, and threatening speech. Disrespect no longer seems to be a negative characteristic to be avoided, but an attribute that is fully accepted and even rewarded. And this is evident, not just from the bottom up (i.e. what I used to associate with bars and bikers and very tough people), but from the top - down. So, until our common values are reversed, the fermenting hostility we suffer from these days will not dissipate nor disappear.

But now, the short-term solution. A solution which requires some kind of compromise and agreement between diverse spectrums of rights, privileges, and accountability. My thoughts in this regard begin with other areas of our lives where I think, we probably do agree:

If you want to live with no responsibility or accountability, then I would encourage you not to get married or have children.

If you wish to drive your car as fast as it can possibly go, take a trip to Montana where the highways have no speed limits.

When I attended college, the State of Washington’s legal drinking age was 21, but the neighboring State of Idaho was 18. So, what do you think occurred every Friday night? A large number of students drove to the stateline to frolic at the many bars, a mere 20 miles away. Which was legal, til’ they recrossed the stateline. That’s when values clashed as unnecessary car accidents and unwanted deaths occurred. This continued until both states agreed to the legal drinking of 21.

Do deaths still occur because of drinking and driving on that stretch of Interstate 90? I’m certain they do — drinking and driving is a real problem everywhere! Can underage youth still obtain liquor? More easily than we would like to admit! But the population of those two states did what they could to lessen alcohol related deaths. Do young people still make poor decisions? What do you think? Were you ever 18? But adults also act in unjustifiable ways.

The question is, can the sane protect the innocent from the insane actions of others — can the sane protect the insane from themselves, along with innocent by-standers who are unwittingly the victims of these crazy deeds?

Personally, I do not see the logic behind what appears to be a gun obsession in our country. Likewise, I do not see the need for any civilian to possess the kind of weapons designed, not for sport or protection, but rather for large scale killing. If I want to drive fast, I load my car on a trailer and take it to a drag strip or professionally managed speed track. Otherwise, I try to live within the posted rules of the road deemed safe for me and you.

Why? Because life is not always about me, but us! And sometimes I too do things that might be classified by others as crazy. The prophet Isaiah shared a message for his people, in this regard, after they had experienced

a time of great tragedy in their culture. And that message involved the dream of turning “swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks”.

May that same dream still motivate and empower our actions today, enabling us to somehow find a common ground built upon respectful courage and a desire for the safety, of us all.


Rev. Dr. Keith Haemmelmann