A bad week on the coast

What is it about the death of the innocent that brings attention to the sins of the indifferent?I’m not talking about those who took a life – the sins I’m talking about belong to the rest of us.

You know what I mean… An horrific event brings the attention of the whole community to a particular issue – and we all begin to consider our own attitudes – our long held prejudices – our silent complicity in the act, because we did not speak out; we did not notice the problem as it developed; or, most despicably, we thought we were above such destructive thoughts and actions (“…oh, that sort of thing doesn’t happen (in Canada/Nova Scotia/Pictou County…”)

There is no excuse for an indifferent attitude – we are 21st century people – we have access to excellent education, a wide range of opinions are presented to us, and we have the brains (if not the inclination) to form our own opinions based on what we hear, see, and experience. Still we would rather “not get involved” – the subject is difficult – the territory is fraught with dangerous history – we might have to admit that we were once wrong in what we thought / believed. I am referring to the brutal beating death of Raymond Taavel, last week in Halifax. His was a needless death, that points at flaws in our treatment of the mentally ill, and to gaps in our willingness to treat one another like beloved children of God no matter our colour, creed or sexuality.

Much has been made in the media of the hateful nature of Raymond’s death – and at the same time, the treatment of his alleged attacker, Andre Denny raises real concern about the difficulty of finding and maintaining a treatment regimen once a person is “in the system” (never mind the horrific tales of trying to get access to the system for those who need it…).

When the innocent die by violence – the community is always changed. And in an age of constant, instant communication, the effect of these events is cumulative. The constant news of horrific death can render us indifferent to our pain, and it can grow (hatred/bigotry) where none existed…and our struggle will always be to find a way to remain engaged in the struggle for real justice – for true equality – for genuine compassion – when all within us (and all around us) cry out for instant answers and defensive postures push us further apart. We may, in the aftermath, discover that being wounded by the revelation of our societal tendancy to abuse and mistreat one another can be a catalyst for real change and significant progress, both in our attitudes toward those who we do not understand, and our treatment of those who are seemingly wounded beyond repair. The world is changing, but it is not too late for you and I to affect change in the world.

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