I’ve noticed a common theme running through my life this week, woven through the books I’ve been reading and real-life events. The theme of trying to assign blame for tragic events…a school bus accident (fiction), a teenager’s death from cancer (fiction), a shooting in Arizona (real life.) As humans, we have a need for someone to be at fault for things that happen. Because something inside us believes that if we know who’s at fault, we can figure out why it happened, and then we can figure out what we need to do to keep it from happening again. And then when we figure that all out, then no one we love – or anyone, for that matter (well, the good people anyway) – will have anything bad happen to them anymore.
But the fact is that not everything we want to know is knowable, and not everything we want to prevent is preventable.
There is risk that comes with living. Each morning when we walk out the door, we take a risk that we could be in the wrong place at the right time (or is it vice versa? I can never figure that out.)
I’ve heard the following causes this week for the shooting in Tucson: lax gun laws, lax state reporting of gun ownership, political rhetoric (aka vitriolic speech), parents who didn’t do enough, community college faculty and staff who didn’t do enough, state police who didn’t do enough. And it’s likely that all of those things were contributing factors to the events of last Saturday.
But there is no one cause. No one to blame. It’s complicated. And random. People suffer from mental illness and don’t get help, because they can’t afford it, are ashamed of it, or don’t recognize it in themselves. Parents do the best they can. The police do the best they can. Reporting agencies do the best they can. We all do the best we can.
Each of us makes choices every day. Hundreds or thousands of choices. As adults, we have the God-given right to make our own choices. We can drink, smoke, take drugs (or not take drugs), drive under the influence, drive over the speed limit, keep our vehicles in good working order or not. We can walk outside the crosswalk, wait longer than we should to investigate that cough/lump/headache, and put off until tomorrow the difficult conversations we should have today.
And we all have to live with the consequences of the choices that we make. Other people have to live with the consequences of the choices that we make. The part we don’t like is that we have to live with the consequences of the choices that other people make. But that’s the way it works. You can’t have one without the other.
And the part that we really don’t like is that we can do everything exactly right and bad things will still happen.
It’s just the way it is.