This Memorial weekend–a celebration at the threshold between spring and summer–was marred by tragedy in my hometown. A young and very troubled man propelled by mental illness and misery exacted vengeance last Friday night in the college community of Isla Vista. The confusion, outrage and sadness that began with Columbine and continued with Sandy Hook landed close to home this time. You never think that sort of thing will happen in your own backyard.
There’s currently a ton of speculation and a plethora of opinion jamming the airwaves–talk of gun control, mental illness, blame on his parents and criticism of the local police. I’m not interested on jumping on that bandwagon, even though I know it’s just a way for people to try and understand something incomprehensible. It is done and cannot be undone. My heart goes out to everyone involved in such a horrific tragedy. But something is broken and does need to be fixed when any person suffers so completely that they feel the need to make others suffer.
Every single one of us humans has–at some point in our lives–suffered alienation of some sort. Felt on the outside of things, felt lonely or isolated, hopeless and in pain. It takes an extraordinary level of misery to make a person snap. Whether that torture comes from the outside world or is self-inflicted, based on mental capacity, what is needed–what is ALWAYS needed–is empathy and compassion for all concerned. The words from a particularly evolved friend of mine come to mind, “Anytime you are not acting out of love, you’re not in your right mind.”
As with any tragedy, it is my sincerest hope that it will not remain senseless for long, but eventually evolve into a catalyst for change, for growth, for an evolution in community and society as a whole. Disaster tends to evaporate separateness and bring people together. And maybe that’s its bittersweet purpose.