It's hard to feel sad about the loss of people you didn't know existed and about whose deaths we have no information. But surely someone is feeling the loss. Surely someone is grieving.
But on Saturday, January 8, 2011, these six people, all Americans, died in Tucson, Arizona:
- John Roll, 63, Arizona's chief federal judge.
- Christina Green, 9, a third-grader who had been elected to her student council. She loved politics, animals, singing, dancing, swimming and gymnastics.
- Gabe Zimmerman, 30, director of community outreach for U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
- Phyllis Schneck, 79, a widow who spends her winters at her Tucson home.
- Dorwin Stoddard, 76, a retiree resident of Tucson.
- Dorothy Morris, 76, a retired homemaker and resident of Oro Valley, Arizona.
These people too were total strangers to me, but because of the torrent of information in the media about this incident I've felt stirrings of compassion and sadness. Especially for the little girl, Christina, who seemed to be the kind of special young person who represents our hope for the future, and whose life journey ended abruptly before any of what was possible for her was allowed to happen.
And of course feelings of revulsion for the killer, otherwise referred to in the media as "the suspect" or "the alleged shooter."
This incident has reminded me of the nature of compassion. We literally have to "reach out" to feel compassion for people. We have to make the effort to learn more about them, their journey and their situation in order to feel genuine compassion.
And I've had thoughts about guns. Such as, what more can we do to keep guns out of the hands of disturbed people? And what's the best way to defend your home and family from evil people?
And about insanity. Is it possible for a sane person to do what Jared Loughner did? Apparently, he had a normal brain, with no brain disease or brain damage. Seemingly, his problem was bad data. He stuffed his brain with erroneous nonsense, which triggered his violent thoughts, feelings and actions. Does bad data make a person legally insane?
Also about criminal justice and corrections. Do we really want our taxes to pay for Jared Loughner's food, lodging, medical care, physical fitness, education, entertainment, and security every day for the next 70 years? As we've done for other deranged murderers and assassins?
These are troubling thoughts and feelings, which get mixed in somehow with feelings of sadness and compassion for the victims.
Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Mug shot photo of Jared Loughner by Pima County Sheriff's Office)