Shamed, but Trying to Smile

Note from Pam – Below I’m going to paste in a post I just put up on my personal blog, as it might be helpful for some of you today in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy in Newtown, CT. I may be out of touch for three weeks or so, not sure — have some surgery coming up (no cancer :-) ) Several of you have gotten in touch re guest posting and I will try to get back to you in the coming week, before surgery, but don’t hold your breath — there’s this little thing on December 25th nudging me to over-do a bit before I go under the knife. But, I will try to get back to you!

Turning to the page after the national trauma we experienced yesterday in Newtown, CT is a challenge. In Milwaukee, as I write this, the sky is grey and a cold rain is falling. Dreary in action. The grass is too green and may, in fact, be growing, which it should not be on December 15th at this latitude. Global warming in action. The front page of the local paper cries “Hearts are Broken.” Despair in action. I try to find meaning, because that’s what many creatives are wired to do. Futility in action?

Like many of you, I have followed our national tragedies with shock, dismay, anger, fear and incredibly deep sadness. And, these tragedies — with their accompanying vitriolic social media discourse on the right to bear arms — leave me, again, wondering where my place is in this dialogue, in these events. I have never felt called to “change the world” or to strive to make a huge impact. I have always felt blessed to seek to do my best in my corner of the world, wherever that is. But, I am having to acknowledge shame at our country’s, and my own, lack of facing this issue. In these cases of multiple murders, we seem often to be facing middle class, relatively privileged young men with serious problems, who want (?) to end up dead, but certain of the knowledge that they will be remembered and plastered on the news and filtered into the nation’s memory banks. The metropolitan area where I live faces a high rate of gun violence in the poverty-stricken areas of Milwaukee, so yes, in this incredibly segregated city, that translates often to black on black crime – rarely multiple murders – which doesn’t attract the same national outrage as a violent attack on a little town in New England.

Me, in 1st grade in my little New England town

My mother remembers me walking in on a crashed Christmas tree, after the family cat had climbed it. Mom was angry and sad. Ever the peacemaker, bright-side finder, I said, “Look at all the pretty half-bulbs.” I’m wired to be a glass half-full person. I’ll try to find the bright side whenever possible, and honestly, that can annoy even me at times – like the day after learning that 20 young lives were snuffed out in a horrifying shoot out. When I was in high school, one of my best friends and I were in Latin together and we learned the term “plus quam perfectum,” which in English means pluperfect, or the past perfect tense, but my friend and I clung to the literal translation, “more than perfect.” And, she started calling me P.Q.P., perfect Pam Parker, always happy, always bubbly, always getting straight As, always doing well, in her eyes. I realized then that the public Pam was intentionally optimistic. I didn’t — and don’t — want to live my life being a frequent frowner (translation: downer) to those around me. But that never meant I was, in fact, always happy. No. I struggled with the stupid things many of us struggle with in my teens — I wasn’t pretty, I was too short, I was too smart, I wasn’t “cool” — blah, blah, blah. Like most of us, I survived, no, I’d have to say I more than survived. I succeeded and moved on. I’ve tried to keep an optimistic viewpoint alive in my adult years, despite a tendency, like many creatives, to depression. I don’t see a bright side in yesterday’s tragedy, and, I don’t want or expect to (although, I hold out hope that perhaps this tragedy will be the proverbial last straw, that the camel’s back is, in fact, broken). Still, I don’t see the good in allowing myself to stop fully living, which for me, means trying to be optimistic.

So, in the spirit of trying to find something to smile about, while I still ponder my role in facing our country’s obsession with the right to bear arms, I give you a post I stumbled, most gratefully, on to today. May it help you smile – despite the tragic events of yesterday – and if you’re writing today, good for you. Please enjoy 26 Moments that Restored Our Faith in Humanity.

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2 thoughts on “Shamed, but Trying to Smile

  1. Pam, nice post. And I applaud your intentions.
    But to call the 2nd amendment “an obsession” is a disservice to our Founding Fathers and our Constitution. Would you call our right to free speech “an obsession”? Freedom to vote? Right to assemble?
    This horrible unspeakably evil tragedy is more about mental illness than guns.
    If the guns were removed, this guy could’ve just as easily blown up the school with quickly accessed fertilizer. Or slice throats with knives and machetes a la Rwanda. The list of potential ways to kill is, sadly, endless. But guns provide a very convenient “answer to the problem” whenever we don’t want to discuss the deeper issues. Like mental illness. Evil. Hatred. Security needed at public places, especially for children.
    The simple fact is this: When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
    Notice that these pathetic killers choose schools and post offices and malls. Most of these places are “gun free” zones. They know nobody can fire back.
    One well-armed teacher or principal could have saved lives, and sent the necessary message to any copycats which the media will inevitably create.
    Sad all the way around.

    • I just wrote a long reply, but it seems to have disappeared. Hopefully this isn’t a double!
      Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Sibella. I really mean that. I see we disagree, but you haven’t made me feel attacked or stupid, and I appreciate that. I see so much thoughtless, mean-spirited chats on facebook, that it is refreshing to see a disagreement that is respectful.
      Obsession was probably not the best word choice, fair enough. And, I wholeheartedly agree that gun violence in our country, particularly these horrifying mass murders, conducted often by young white middle-class men, is definitely linked to untreated mental illness. There was an OpEd in yesterday’s NYT that is making the rounds online now. It has a great line in it: “Every country has a sizable contingent of mentally ill citizens. We’re the one that gives them the technological power to play god.”

      I don’t believe guns will be outlawed in the United States, ever. It’s impossible. We have millions of guns in people’s homes and on our streets – those guns won’t be surrendered. Whether or not I want guns to disappear and their ownership to be outlawed, I understand that can’t happen in our country. I doubt very much that the Founding Fathers could have foreseen the improvement in technology and accuracy with guns or the increase in mental illness. I doubt very much that they would have left that amendment as is if they had. What I hope will happen, at the very least, is that we will address our treatment of mental illness and we will address the ease with which people can acquire guns.

      And, yes, I also agree with you: “Sad all the way around.”

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