By Rev. Ellie Stock, Honorably Retired

One more time the alarm shrieks!
(Ironically, paralleling folks’
being attracted to Halloween week’s
scary, shriek-filled haunted houses and horror flicks,
and faux death skeleton and ghost yard décor,
while, simultaneously, shying away from engaging
with life’s real scary issues)
Another mass school shooting!
This time, it happened (well, it doesn’t “just happen”)
in Central Visual Performing Arts HS,
St. Louis, MO (still dealing with implications
from Michael Brown’s death, Post WW II radiation waste
contaminating Jana Elementary School and other places,
and having one of the highest murder rates in the U.S.):
3 dead: a 16 year-old girl,
an early November 1 All Saints Day teacher,
dying while protecting her students, and
an isolated 19 year old shooter, a former graduate,
plagued by mental health issues;
7 others injured,
more casualties, certainly, except for the quick police response,
mostly young life,
facing the unexpected real horror of : “YOU are going to die!”
by long gun—acquired via lax state regulation,
maximum capacity cartridge,
600 rounds of ammunition—
now a long crimson line of school terrorism
stretching from here to Uvalde, Parkland,
Sandy Hook, etc., etc. etc. to Columbine.

The next evening, I look around
the intermingling, interracial Vigil crowd,
gathered under moonlit shadows, outside the school
a place of learning, growing, enjoying the arts,
a place of discovering, developing and deploying
the gifts of young talent;
now a crime scene of bullet holes and shells,
shattered walls and windows and scattered belongings
abandoned as panicked, shrieking students quickly ran for safety,
barricading doors and jumping out windows;
now mostly calmly quiet with an occasional sob or wail
or car revving by, honking in solidarity,
black, yellow and white balloons reaching skyward,
tethered to lit candled hands,
flames flickering in the wind,
cascades of wax tears,
dropping to the asphalt covering PACHAMAMA
as she also weeps.

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .

Preachers and others invoke the name of Jesus,
(or whatever other name or tradition may be present)
praying for comfort, healing, peace, justice,
words of accountability
for the litany of gun violence in this nation,
for impotent politicians and a public
that choose guns and death over safety and life,
for the sickness of this society—enough, already!—
words spoken about being community and
supporting one another,
interspersed songs, lamenting—How long, O Lord?—
words lifting up the name of each person killed and injured,
and words of deep gratitude for
those who heroically rushed to the scene to stop the shooter,
sad and angry words of hurt, broken, and traumatized souls,
mothers grieving from the depths, echoing PACHAMAMA’S lament
for this Pandemic of Empire and Colonialism:
violence and racism,
nationalism, autocracy, aggression, and greed
that fabricate lies and threaten to destroy
the fabric of families, communities and nations:
Mother Emanuel AME, Tree of Life
El Paso, Las Vegas, and Boulder,
Iraq, Afganistan, Yemen, Syria,
Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine, Russia, etc., etc., etc.—
their predecessors and successors.

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .
The loud speaker bleeps off and on,
muffling some words, making others unintelligible,
yet one does not have to hear them to know what is being said.
Candles melt down as balloons perk up,
earnestly alert for the signal to be launched heavenward
where some hope their loved ones are waiting.
And, finally, in a cathartic expression of memory and hope—Lift Off!—
a cluster of sparkling dirigibles, airborne, gently separating,
filling the sky and fulfilling their mission, dancing with stars,
temporarily escaping the bonds and suffering and pain.

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .
Humanity’s violence spills beyond itself—
seeping into the land, water, air—
destroying ecological systems and irreplaceable Beings while
fossil fuel and other invasive mining
contaminate, infect, poison, and suffocate,
heating the planet, melting glaciers,
causing erratic storms, drought, and fires
and increasing the wealth-poverty divide,
conflict and warfare.
Climate refugees flee homelands for an uncertain future;
carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane gas erupt,
food and supply chains are disrupted and disrupt,
shortages abound as fields become barren
and mighty rivers run dry—
another Pandemic of devastation

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .
But wait, there’s more . . .
COVID and other deadly diseases
continue to evolve and mutate,
killing millions, many in their prime,
rooting where protocols are not honored,
where vaccinations are neither
welcomed nor equitably distributed,
a Pandemic tide of germs, surging and ebbing,
perhaps waiting for a more opportune time
to discretely emerge and merge with a populace
that defends individualistic freedom over vigilance,
the Common Good and the well-being and freedom of All.

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .
The next night, the Scene segues
from the school grounds to a Town Hall Meeting
on gun violence and schools and bullying,
hosted by a U.S. Representative, where
more words are intoned and gods invoked
in a citizen-filled room—
school administrators, teachers, preachers,
politicos, students, first responders,
parents (including the mother of the girl killed),
feeling powerless,
trapped in a cycle of unrelenting violence
and unraveling of civilization,
looking for answers, for wise and bold leadership.
A panel of speakers portends business as usual
until a young lady on the dais, a senior at CVPA,
rises to her feet.  Incredibly poised,
she passionately and prophetically reads her Truth to Power,
a letter of proclamation to the Representative,
and demands that something be done:  Control the guns!
Stop the killing!  Enough is enough!
No more excuses!  No more thoughts and prayers and vigils!
No more political posturing and editorials,
postmortem speeches, and funeral eulogies!
No more Cross and Stars of David memorials,
stuffed animals, votive candles, and balloons.
SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS with equitable resources,
And a child shall lead them . . .

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .
And, finally, to close the gone-overtime,
anxiety-fraught meeting,
more words are spoken and then,
a Word Benedictory:
we are all connected and are all called,
for such a time as this,
to live into our connectedness and interrelationship;
words of gratitude for those who came and who care,
who show up day after day, year after year,
who have a vision of working together,
who overcome paralyzing fear, despair, and powerlessness,
who bridge polarizing politics
and passionately and compassionately
pour heart, mind, soul, and strength into creating
resilient communities and a world of
equity and justice for all our relatives—
animal, vegetable, and mineral,
who carry within and elicit from others
the unfolding adventure of
an ever wondrous Creation Way of Possibility,
Hope beyond hope and Love unconditioning,
Truth consistent with Earth’s Truth,
Peace, Wholeness, Shalom,
turning swords into plowshares,
instruments of death into tools cultivating Life.

As the crowd exits and trickles into the night,
into separate domains and spheres of influence,
many wonder:  just mere words,
their urgency and agency eventually fading and fizzling
or real change this time?

PACHAMAMA pondering . . .

1 Comment

  • Posted November 1, 2022 5:57 pm
    Julie Allen Berger

    Thank you Ellie.

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