Almost 240,000. We can count your number—240,000—but your loss is incalculable. Or it should be at least. To many of our elected leaders, it would seem, your loss is quickly played down and easily forgotten (if thought of at all except in the context of poll numbers).
As nasty and polarized and power-hungry as our politics had become, up until this year and this crisis, I never could have imagined that so many human beings could be so hardened to the horrifying reality of this mass death. At times even now, the colossal failure of our leaders seems inconceivable.
At its root, though, this is a moral, and not a political, failure. It is our collective failure as Americans. We billed ourselves the shining city on a hill, a people who cared whether our friends and neighbors lived or died. But we didn’t, and we don’t.
In fact, we can practically quantify your worth. Here is the bleak and stinging truth: We care so little about life and death that, even in spite of the incalculable loss that your deaths represent, we will continue to push right on ahead getting “back to normal.” We need our college football, our going out for cocktails, our vacations and malls and movie theaters. That is how much and how little your lives mattered.
I am neither ethicist nor philosopher, political scientist nor physician. I am no one important and have very little power to change anything in the world around me. Still, I have this to say to those who can no longer hear it: To each of you who has died, and to each of the next hundred thousand of my brethren who will die by year’s end, I am screaming into the void for you. It never feels like anyone is listening. But to one young woman in one city in one of these united and evermore shamefully divided states—you mattered.
Small comfort will my words be to the friends and spouses and neighbors who loved you—to those who have lost a part of themselves with your death. But this is all I can offer. You matter to me.
To the dead that we failed, rest now in peace. To we the living who have failed the dead, God have mercy on our souls.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. Why do we cease to feel shock or sadness when tragedies extend over weeks, months, years?
2. How can be combat our desire to look away?
3. How also can we resist discouragement and the urge to give up?