I just heard there was one survivor in the class of the dead in Sandy Hook on Friday.
One little girl played dead, lying with the dead, and then snuck out covered with the blood of her classmates. She told her Mom, “I’m OK, Mommy, but all my friends are dead.” I am not certain, but it’s a good guess that she was 6 years old.
For me, it’s a ruthless and unstoppable hop from there to my Moon Bear beloveds in China who are caught in bear farms, agony houses that stretch out death for years. Or to the family made homeless by the financial debacle. Or the guy who is now living on the street, broken by his inability to be of value in a culture that values one thing above all.
I know it all looks like it’s about guns. And mental illness. And black marketers. And banks. And cheap imports from China. And health care gone wrong.
But it isn’t. It really isn’t. It’s a spiritual crisis at heart, and all of these things, and those 27 dead bodies, are all symptoms of one brutal and inescapable truth.
We value money more than life.
This is the center. This is the wound. It is from this that all this unspeakable, unendurable agony flows.
The gun business makes around $3 billion bucks a year. The black market animal business is worth more than that. What is the connection?
We value money more than life.
Only people profit from from all this agony. And it is all conveniently and nicely camouflaged by the distance of transactions. We buy things from safe little stores, denuded of the suffering that is created by the creation of all that stuff.
To say the death of the polar bear and the funeral today of Jack Pinto, age 6, are related may sound like a reach, and maybe even as insulting, but only if you quantify life as being more important for one being than another. And that is, once examined, a game that will get you closer to nothing but more death.
We are one tribe only. One. A tribe made of the miracle of life in school children, and grandparents, and parrots in South America, and tigers and redwoods and dolphins and ocean tides. But we are also the life in the insane living in agony, the sick moaning in pain, the homeless shivering in the dark. The politicians who seethe, and the hucksters who shill. When we look at what really makes us one tribe only, it is the spirit of life that holds us all, and must be the container. It is the only container large enough to hold the tribe.
We do not heal this without going to the deepest, darkest place of all. We all pulled the trigger on these children. I know I did, and no, this isn’t guilt or craziness. I know I did because I knew the guns and crazy people were out there. I know the bears, with their bellies cut open as they live in coffin-sized cages, are being milked as I sip my coffee as I write this. When I finally turn on the air conditioner in summer heat because I am uncomfortable, I know what I am doing to the environment.
I am not a monster and neither are you. I try to do what’s right, and I bet you do, too. No, we are not monsters. It’s the insane and silent agreements we have that are monstrous, and are against absolutely everything that I hold dear. And I bet you feel the same.
We are each other. I know we all pulled that trigger because we have a culture that has an agreement, and we willingly remain unconscious about it:
We value money more than life.
And the only good news about that is this: we can stop.
And, As President Obama said last night at the Vigil in Newtown, “We must change.”
Today, staunch NRA members are coming out for gun bans. Spiritual and every manner of church leader are holding hands, no longer concerned with differences, but with what is central to each of us. All parents are Parents of the Slain even as they drop off their own precious kids in school today, scared for their kids because they feel like the parents of all the children who are being buried today. And they are their parents. In their hearts, in their bones, they feel the truth in this.
We can stop buying guns. Buying from Walmart. Buying weed killer that kills rivers. Buying lethal injections for death row. Military redundancies. Yes, we can buy holiday gifts for the kids, but less of them so families can have food and warmth and one of our kids without a home can have a teddy bear or certainly better still, a home to play in with the teddy bear.
We all have to admit we are complicit for this to change. And that we are beginners at learning that life is more important than money. Which means we need to pause and really think about what we are doing when we open our wallets. When we open our wallets, do our hearts open or close as a result?
We have to be very kind to ourselves if we are to change. This is going to be damned uncomfortable. And humbling. Continually humbling. And, of course, the gun laws have to change. And that will be a struggle. And the mortgage crisis has to stop. And will be too slow. And, yes, taking on the millions of ways we subtly vote for profit more than life every day will be painful IF we are all honest.
No more species superiority. No more finding the Grand Canyon of difference between Republicans and Democrats. No more us and them, whomever “us” and “them” are. If someone doesn’t get it, we don’t rise to hate or a superiority born of our own stubbornness to admit our imperfections, but mutter, please, give me more patience because I know – in my own way – I am just as blind.
And we continue to work to integrate this with every breath: we value life more than money.
It will be worth it, all of the discomfort and pain, because I know what it could look like, valuing life more than money.
Schools instead of submarines.
Food instead of hunger.
Help for the mentally ill.
Homes for the homeless.
Money as a unit of measure of how much good it does as opposed to how much any one person or group of people make.
Art instead of nukes.
Jobs in industries that support life and its workers.
A wounded planet healing.
And like this. A little school called Sandy Hook opening its doors on just another Monday, a group of kids excited about their Christmas plays and their Hanukah candles and their dogs waiting for them to come home. Instead of graves and funeral homes.
It looks like life.