Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Ironies are Killing Us

The Ironies are Killing Us
by Thomas B. Woodward

            There are times when the ironies of life get to be too much. One in particular had to do with the Sandy Hook massacre of those little children. It shook me to the core. Others have followed, but I will stick with Sandy Hook.

            Besides the terrible carnage in it all, there was this newspaper headline: "NFL Honors Victims of Sandy Hook School Shootings." Now there, I thought, is something close to the ultimate irony: fans and players of a sport centered on violent confrontations of every minute of every game are somehow honoring not the perpetrator, but the victims of violence. That few would find such an irony startling is probably a good measure of how deadened we have become to the symbolism and reality of so much of our life.

            The more I thought about that headline, the more upset I became. The National Football League thought it was honoring the victims of Sandy Hook shootings by doing what, in good part, led to the shootings in the first place! Keeping silent. "My God," I thought, "a secondary and even worse irony." The symbolism and the reality of those moments of silence in the sport's pregame ceremonies surely should have pushed at least one commentator into paroxysms of disgust. "Dream on," I thought. This holy moment of silence, ironically, speaks not for the victims, but for those who have been observing decades of silence in the face of innocent suffering. How civil we are. We will honor the fallen by keeping our mouths shut.

            So what was the story I wanted to read?  I would keep the headline, but the story would have a different direction. It would read something like

Yesterday the National Football League set aside a period of time before each of its Sunday games to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings with five minutes of outrage. Following the lead of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, each stadium crowd was led in five minutes of chanting "No More. No More, It's Enough! No More Guns!" by officially clad cheerleaders of the competing teams, each flanked by their own children or nieces and nephews. The response seemed to vary from stadium to stadium, with voices barely heard in some locations while the chanting was deafening in others, often lasting fifteen minutes or more after the cheerleaders had retired to the sidelines.    
            I wonder if anyone inside or outside our churches, synagogues, or mosques expects anything but the ironies, with the silence and relief that community acquiescence brings. It frightens me that there is no institution we can count on for focused and continuing outrage. In that fear my mind went back to the words of the athiest, Albert Camus, as he spoke to a group of Dominican monks about what the world expects of Christians:

What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face  history has taken on today.[1]

Silence, yes, if it is to recall the holiness of innocent life. Silence, yes, if that remembered holiness leads us unequivocally to safeguard that holiness against the worship of anything that might threaten or snuff it out, even guns. However, if that silence dies outs in the stadium, let those Dallas Cheerleaders and their sisters take over, thrusting their pompoms into the sky, demanding, "Enough. Enough!" as they stand with all those who fear for our children and who refuse to accept legislative loopholes and clever judicial distortions of the Second Amendment. Ironies and oxymorons are clever and original intent justices may be even more clever, but they won't be able to stand up to a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader with a child on each arm.

[1] Camus, Albert, "Resistance, Rebellion and Death," Knopf, NY, 1961, p. 71