Friday, October 06, 2006

The Amish Story

I have been thinking a lot about the Amish school shooting this week. I know that area and I treasure the beauty of their lifestyle. It cuts me to the heart to hear about the killer and his plans. I want to block it all out and turn away. It’s impossible. As I feed my children, dress them and put them to bed I keep thinking about those families and their losses. I see lines of black buggies between green fields… not just simplicity this time, but funeral marches.

One thing that bothers me a lot is that we are getting used to these tragedies. The news is full of one story after another that brings us to national mourning. Refusing to live in fear is a full time job. I don’t watch much TV anymore, but I did still love to watch the national news. I rarely watch it anymore because it seems there is always a sensational story I don’t want my boys to see. There must be another way to be informed and to participate in a national life without having to defend my sensibilities against the way everything is presented as titillating horror dramas. No solutions or strategies, just the gory details, then cut to commercial. I want to be in conversations about how not to go on like this; how to change the violent course we are on; how to bring up children that won’t learn these ways. TV and the newspapers are clearly not the places for that type of information.

What I have gleaned from the news I have heard: The Amish community doesn't want to be in the media attention. They are being protected with a 2.5 mile no fly zone above their air space, where no media helicopters are allowed to fly during the days of funerals. The roads surrounding the community affected by this tragedy are closed to outsiders for these few days of mourning. They are dealing with their grief in their own way. The newspaper articles, and of course we have them, protection or no, are telling of forgiveness and community solidarity. I hope we can learn something from them, something about another way to respond to terror. Instead of increasing the security level they are offering forgiveness and kindness to the shooters’ family.

Amish families don’t carry health insurance and they don’t ask for monetary donations. But the Mennonite Central Committee is collecting funds for them anyway, and their bishop has said he will accept them for the victim’s families and the community. You can help ease their financial burdens by sending something here. It’s something to do, other than shake our collective heads. Maybe it is a vote for peace and forgiveness in the world.


Anonymous said...

"One thing that bothers me a lot is that we are getting used to these tragedies."

I completely agree. We collectively don't seem to understand what a dangerous course we're on, for the world certainly but for ourselves as individuals. Being exposed to as much violence as we all regularly are is taking a toll that I don't think we even fully understand.

And for the victims of all of this violence, it's hard to even know how to begin to respond, what to do.

What frightens me, too, is that we've become almost numb to ugliness, pain, horror. Not only are we bombarded with it in the news, which reflects the reality of the world, but even our fantasy and entertainment often focus on what shocks. And if you don't buy into it, if you don't accept it as "the way things are," you're dismissed.

We are living such diminished lives when we accept this. Very sad.

cloudscome said...

I agree. I have been thinking about this more, and I have a few more thoughts. First, it's not like kids don't get shot in the city or suburbs too... standing on the corner, playing basketball, going in to school, riding in their mother's car on a Sunday morning. It might come one at a time that way, but in a year it is several hundred for the city near me. Horrendous! I don't understand how we as a society can accept that as sad but normal. My state legislators were debating gun control this week. They say they can't figure out what legislation would make a difference. How can that be? Isn't that their job? Aren't they talented and experienced and intelligent? What are they doing????

Also I am angry that the media is taking heart-breaking details of the Amish girls story and making me feel more tragic about it... they are buried in wooden hand-made coffins . In little white dresses their mothers made. The horse and buggies drive by the killer's house on the way to the cemetery. Why does that make the story more compelling and entertaining and tragic ? We cry to hear it but nothing changes. It's being fed to us as entertainment.

Inkling said...

I refuse to watch the news. I read the paper, and sometimes I click on internet headlines, but I find news magazines the best way to get an intelligent insight without sensationalism.

On the other hand, stories incite compassion--speak to our humanity in a way bald facts do not. It's not that the stories shouldn't be told, they need to be told carefully and respectfully without cheapening our emotions.