Saturday evening I chatted on the phone with the woman who had designed and then made all the costumes for our childrens’ musical at church. Today I saw her crying in the pews after her husband, also fighting back tears, announced the terrible news from Knoxville from the pulpit. The woman who had had the exact same job at Tennessee Valley UU Church is now a widow, Greg McKendry was her husband.
Our emotions are in turmoil. Our thoughts are with the victims, and at the same time something not unlike survivor’s guilt is creeping up. It could have been us. They were us. We are them. Here in the Denver area, we still sometimes see bleached stickers: Columbine is everywhere.
A footnote on the horrible events: I was reading the comments by viewers of the local station. Apparently, several posts had been marked as abusive and were taken off, leaving the reader to wonder what was said. Reactions from other readers tell me they were (probably) of two kinds: 1) an angry atheist who made assumptions and generalizations about a dogmatically motivated attack by a fanatic Christian; 2) someone who derided UUs, knocked the performance of an ‘un-Christian’ musical, and said something to the effect of ‘serves them right’, or “God’s wrath”.
Part of me wishes those deleted posts were still there. Maybe I’m naive and we can’t really learn anything from them, but this is the country where “free speech” is a universal idea, and yet, we’re timid and censorious in many situations.
My guess is that uncivilized ranters often say things that are an undercurrent in certain groups of society, expressing prejudice, irrational fears, rumors and hate speech that are prevalent but not on the surface.
The other part of me hopes we can minimize the pain for the victims who have already suffered too much.
But what also surfaced in the reader statements was that some people either couldn’t place UU or had some odd ideas about it. In these coming days we may be asked about our faith, be ready.
Of course, this may turn out to be just a sad case of untreated mental illness, a specter that is haunting the United States whose voters so far have been denied inclusive healthcare available to most other industrial nations. We may know more soon. Let’s hope we don’t have reason to be fearful that UUs are now an identified target.
Finally, if you are sending letters to Tennessee don’t forget that several visiting members of the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church were also injured and traumatized (one, Linda Kraeger, is among the dead).