Jesus shared a parable of a man whose crops had produced so abundantly, he had no place to store his crops. Therefore, he chose to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. As he complimented and comforted himself with the words ‘you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry’, God said to him ‘you fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:16-20)
As we attempt to comprehend the recent horror of the mayhem in Las Vegas, we realize that we have returned to a familiar place characterized by tears, confusion, anger, and silence. There is a growing number of individuals who are refusing to participate in “moments of silence” because they believe that silence doesn’t honor the memory of the victims. Instead, silence mocks their memory.
The devastation is almost incalculable. The scene is almost indescribable. The grieving are almost inconsolable. What words can be offered to the victims–from a widow whose husband died shielding her from a sniper’s perch as they celebrated their first anniversary to the lifelong friends who participated in the annual pilgrimage to a familiar concert?
Almost all reports of the perpetrator describe a man of considerable financial means who was accustomed to selecting from a broad array of entertainment options. A man who was able to arouse no suspicion as he amassed an arsenal of weapons over a series of months. A man who frequented coveted destinations that are often beyond the reach of the masses. A man who from a high floor of an exclusive hotel had an enviable view. What exactly did he see from his physical and economic position? Was it the expressions of love, laughter, and comfort that enraged him? What results did he anticipate from his actions? The large number of weapons and the cache of explosives suggest that he expected a longer duration of engagement and additional opportunities for different types of contact with victims.
While we will be overwhelmed with speculations regarding explanations for the shooter’s actions, it is even more important to acknowledge the pervasiveness of the circumstances for these types of actions. How many other individuals will exercise their capacity to acquire more and climb higher by unleashing a storehouse of pain, frustration, and chaos. Of all the things that he could have left, from scholarships he could have funded to textbooks on accounting that he could have authored, his “barns” were enlarged to house weapons of mass destruction and mayhem.
Unfortunately, the shooter will be remembered. While his name can be artfully excluded from reports and conversations, his impact will reverberate for many, many years. Sadly, the ripples of fear, grief, and anger that he has initiated will probably be interrupted by the larger waves of an even more horrific crime.
We all have an unenviable view of the Las Vegas tragedy. Legislators have positions which offer a view of a somewhat safer America in which high-powered, high-capacity weapons aren’t available or, at least aren’t available in such large quantities. Accomplished, yet frustrated, individuals have a view which regretfully offers a challenge to surpass the ruthlessness of the recent tragedy. Others have a view that simply leaves them gazing upward wondering if those who hoard hatred and indifference will finally be inspired to see possibility and promise, rather than pain and political posturing. It is difficult to acknowledge this view. We can choose to ignore it by closing our eyes or simply observing a moment of silence. Nonetheless, the view remains for both perpetrators and victims. It is an unenviable view for us all.
We will continue to pray for the victims and their families. Let us also endeavor to pursue ways to be instruments of peace.