Monday, December 17, 2012

Searching for Meaning, Where There is None.

Why.  The question everyone wants answered is "Why did this happen? HOW did this happen?"  We all want someone or something to blame - we want answers. As humans, we crave answers to make us feel safe in our world.  Somehow, if we can understand something, we feel like we can also prevent it.  Do we need stricter gun control? Should we arm our teachers? Is this a failure on the part of the mental health system? Or parents? Is it the media for sensationalizing violence while also densensitizing us to it? WHO is to blame? We need to point fingers.  We need explanations.  We need understanding.

Through it all, I have understood.  I have understood that I will never understand.  As a therapist who specializes in the areas of grief, trauma and abuse, I learned a long time ago that evil exists.  Evil exists inside people, people who you know, people who you see everyday, people who are related to you and are supposed to love you and care for you.  I have looked into the faces of innocent children, and seen in their eyes the harm of evil.  I have met face to face with abusers and pedophiles.

I have held my clients as they wept in my arms.  A 5 year old, raped by a gun, by people her drug abusing parents allowed in the house.  A teenager, raped by a friend.  An adult, raped for years by her father, and sacrificing herself to protect her younger sister.  I have heard stories of children being sexually abused and raped by their own parents.  Being prostituted,  being 'shared' by their parents' friends.  Stories of clients being raped while hearing their siblings raped in other rooms in the house at the same time.  Stories of physical abuse, emotional abuse....I used to specialize in sexual abuse of preschoolers.  Tiny little children used in sex games by their day care providers.  They would draw pictures of their abusers in cages, in rocket ships, and we would send them to the moon, and rip up the pictures of them.  Recently a man in Wakefield Massachusetts was charged on a hundred counts of sexual assault and rape.  A hundred.  One of the many, an 8 day old baby, raped.  Yes, I have seen evil.  I know evil.  It is part of my job, every day.

So I thought I would be prepared to walk into my daughter's school today for my weekly library duty.  My library class is a 2nd grade, not my daughter's class, but a class filled with her friends who I have known since kindergarten.  They were running late and I walked down the hall to check on them - had they forgotten me? Was there a change in schedule? It's pajama day, and all the kids and teachers were in their 'jamas.  The teacher was reading a chapter book to the kids, and said "Thanks for checking in  on us! We will be right there!"  I walked back to the library to wait for them, and was holding back tears, which is surprising for  a stone-cold-Irish-bitch like myself.  The hallways echoed with the sound of children's voices and laughter, kids in the cafeteria eating, my own daughter in her gym class.  I saw teachers walk by each other and touch - a shoulder, a hand - I saw my daughter's teacher give a quick pat to the school secretary as she walked by.  The kids were the same, but I could see it in the teachers.  I held back my tears.

After my class left the library, and I was re-shelving books, I thought 'What would I do? What if I was here and that happened? Would I run to my daughter? Stay put? What if we then both died and left my son without either of us?'  I think of the beautiful 27 year old teacher, Victoria Soto - and I have thought of her often - cramming her kids into cabinets and closets - and I think of my daughter's class - they don't have cabinets or closets.  That beautiful young girl - thinking of her students, putting them first - having the wherewithal in a crisis to hide her kids and then lie and say they were in gym, only to be gunned down.  Sacrificed herself for her sweet students.  What would I do?

I left the school, signing out, saying good bye to the principal and the secretary, who runs the school with an iron fist.  Just last week she had yelled at me for not stopping in the office when I went to the nurse's office to grab my (faking) sick kid.  I'll be back on Thursday, helping my daughter's class decorate their gingerbread houses.  I'll be in her classroom.  What would I do......

I've seen the face of evil.  I've seen the aftermath of evil, everyday.  I thought I was hardened, I thought that 'knowing' there are no answers, no easy answers, would somehow protect me.  But walking through the elementary school today, grades K-5....I cracked.

It's Monday, and the ground is covered in ice.  The blades of grass, branches of trees, walkways and stairs - all coated in a thin sheet of ice.  2 hour delay for students, and then the buses came, and took the children to school, driving carefully through the icy streets.

I have been thinking of the movie "Natural Born Killers" often this weekend - actually a favorite movie of mine.  A serial killing couple become revered in our country, a statement of how the media sensationalizes violence. Thinking about 'Grand Theft Auto' video game, where you earn extra points by killing the prostitute. Thinking about my 7 year old neighbor, who spent Halloween watching rated R horror movies. Thinking about my own son, so prone to aggression since September, his main target being his loving sister.  What would I do......

As much as we all want to feel safe in our homes, our schools, and our families, we need to acknowledge that there are no easy answers and there are no quick fixes.  "God wasn't there, 'he' didn't prevent it" or the reverse  "Everything happens for a reason, God has a plan."  I don't buy either of those.

All I know is that there is something very, very wrong in our country.  I'm just not sure what it is.

Photo, as always, by Shawna Shenette Photography


  1. Evil prevails more often than good, or so it seems. If we look for answers, we will be disappointed. It is time to look ahead at what we can do better.

  2. Great post. I worked in elementary schools off and on from 2007 until this past June. We did the "lock down" drill once a year, and while it creeped me out, I thought, "that's just for high school, God forbid." Today I heard the school nurse tell her story about Friday, and I know what she didn't say. She probably felt guilty for surviving, for not being able to do more to help. I have no idea what I would do either.


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