Sunday, February 18, 2018

So This is What Normalization Looks Like

My wife and I just came back from a brief vacation in Florida. We were there on February 14th when the worst high school shooting in the United States took place, claiming more lives than even the infamous Columbine High School massacre. Parkland, where the shooting took place, was across the state from where we were staying, but even so it was only a three and a half hour drive away (close by prairie standards). Here's the weird thing, had we not seen our Facebook feed that week we might not have known this tragic event had even taken place.

On the beach and in the bars and restaurants there was no talking in hushed tones, no sad or serious faces, no conversations (that I overheard at least) that centered on this most recent and senseless shooting. The televisions in public places were all tuned to the Olympics, none were showing any news feeds. I only saw one flag at half mast, and that was at a fire station. It seemed like things were just fine, life was going on as normal. I thought to myself "So this is what normalization looks like." American residents are so used to these horrific news stories that not even the massacre of 17 students at a high school in their very own state seemed to have much impact.

Meanwhile on Facebook the (sadly) typical stories and commentary unfolded, the same arguments yelled at each other - maybe just a little louder this time. After every mass shooting we wonder if things will change this time, and sadly instead of positive change something more insidious is happening - we are simply getting used to this new normal.

Slowly, bit by bit, the people of Germany became used to their new normal under the leadership of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party. By the end of it all many of those folks had participated in some of the worst atrocities ever inflicted by one group of humans on another. It didn't start that way, rather bit by bit such evil behavior, such twisted thinking that allowed this behavior, grew and grew, becoming their 'normal' until the end of the war - then it was called something different, it was labeled 'war crimes and crimes against humanity.'

What will the future think of our current generation? How will thoughtful people account for the inaction by officials and the general public in the face of this growing crisis. And it is growing, according to hard data the frequency and number of mass shootings has been climbing over the past decade. What will the future call this normalization of minimally regulated gun ownership in the face of escalating violence against innocents? Societal Stupidity? Mass Mental Illness?

I, for one, don't want to accept this new normal. I don't want to get used to hearing these news stories. I don't want to be numbed to the human suffering spit out from the muzzle of an AR-15 where one person with one weapon can impact the lives of so many. I don't want this to be accepted as normal - not now, not ever.

Martin Luther, in his explanation to the fifth commandment says: We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life's needs.

Inaction on the part of policy makers, gun manufactures and retailers, and quite simply the voting citizenry – is endangering the lives of our neighbors. It's time for a new normal, based on the new commandment Jesus gave his followers - "that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." (John 13:34)  It's time those words became concrete actions - thoughts and prayers are not enough, it's time for some tough love. It's time to recognize and halt the normalization of something that should never, ever be acceptable as normal.

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