Ever since the carnage in Orlando my moods have careened wildly, from tiny slivers of hope, to despair, to grief, then rage.
I’d like to be able to say that my hopes are ascendant, but they’re not. Any solution to the ongoing slaughter seems to be all but impossible. The agencies tasked with protecting us from the evil in our midst are overwhelmed. F.B.I. Director James Comey recently said that stopping the lone wolves intent on murder and mayhem is like looking for a thousand tiny needles in a huge haystack. He admitted that the Bureau’s resources are paper thin. There are too many lone wolves and not enough agents or tracking mechanisms to deal effectively with them. In essence, he was telling us that incidents like Orlando have become part of our everyday landscape.
My despair deepens as I ask myself, “Who can fix this?” Can Donald Trump? Hillary Clinton? Our political parties? Governors? City or County Commissioners? The answer to each of the questions is, unfortunately, “No!”
We’ve all seen it played out. “It’s the Republicans’ fault.” “It’s the Democrats’.” “It’s the Muslim world’s.” “Conservative Christians are to blame.” It’s maddening. Recriminations aren’t solutions, but we sure love wallowing in them. What else can I feel but despair when this seems to be the only response to the terror we can muster up?
Then, grief sets in. I turn on cable news. The names and faces of the slain scroll, like the after credits of a Hollywood film. So many of the faces seem to be joyful. They’re brief glimpses of lives that once were, with promising futures ahead of them. But, they’re all gone now, taken by a malevolent creature I’ll forever refuse to give the dignity of a name.
I don’t know any of them, but I know that had parents, friends, and loved ones who are feeling an even deeper sense of grief that I am. I think if the names and wonder how wounded my heart would be if I saw the names of my sons and daughter as they passed by on the screen. “Jarrod Thomas Dillon…Born October 30th, 1968.” “Elizabeth Noel Hook…Born December 17th, 1970.” “Michael Joseph Dillon…Born November 14th, 1973.”
My grief intensifies, then gives way to deep seated rage. Like an Old Testament warrior, I want to “dash them to pieces.” But who are they? I can’t see their faces, nor do I know their names. They’re more like wisps floating around in the mists of evil than human beings. How can I possibly direct my rage against something like that? It might hit some target, but would it be the intended target? Would it make me feel better in the end? No! It would be like running the proverbial fool’s errand.
But, the rage doesn’t go away. It lingers. I’ve got to release it and the only direction that makes sense to me in my muddled state is heaven itself. I ask the same questions that have been asked for millennia: “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?” “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”
There are no bolts from the blue in response, but I find myself once again realizing that somehow, some day, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight.”
We really need to cling to our hopes for the future, but what of today?
For me, the clearest expression of what you and I must do today comes from the mouth of Samwise Gamgee, Frodo Baggins’ companion in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” At a perilous point in their journey, Frodo is so burdened by his task that he’s ready to give up. Samwise reminds him of the past and the promise of a beautiful future- “How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.” He reminds him that others before him felt like giving up, but didn’t because “they were holding on to something.” And, finally, he reminds Frodo of what they held on to. “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”
And, so it is for our time. It’s come full circle. There is some good in the world and we must do our part and fight the good fight of faith to preserve it.