Make a Joyful Noise

Today was a terrible day. Terrible: distressing, severe, formidable. From the Latin terribilis, or terrēre– to terrify. I still can’t wrap my head around the school shooting. It has affected me more deeply, more viscerally, than 9/11. I felt this after Columbine and Virginia Tech; I feel it after every school shooting. How shocking, how terrible, that I can type every in front of “school shooting,” but no one reading this will be shocked.

I can understand, in a strange way, religious or political zealots. I don’t think that I am entitled to perfect safety simply because I am going about my daily routine. I am female, I live in a society where that fact more than triples the likelihood that I will be the victim of some sort of personal assault, compared to an otherwise demographically identical male. Nor am I particularly afraid of guns.

But school… school is the “olive grove of academe.” People, whether they are children or young adults, should be able to view school as a wonderful place, an exciting place, as a safe space to grow and learn. For many, it is a haven, an escape, the only place they will get a full meal every day. The world, the Terra terribilis, already intrudes too much.

30% of our nation’s children live in poverty. Every year 3.3 million instances of child abuse are reported in the US, nearly 6 million children annually. The United States has the worst record in the industrialized world: five children per day die abuse-related deaths.

And now they die in schools, as if they were soldiers on the battlefield. Cut down like early grain, they die in sheaves, and every day is not that day, the day when we have the conversation. What will be the day? When will it come?

Tonight, we had tickets to see Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe. We went and rustled in the gilt and scarlet with our neighbors, rising and falling with the music and the laughter and the very mundane need to pee. At the end, after the stories and jokes, the inevitable holiday medley of familiar tunes, Stuart exhorted us to sing together, so we sang, loud and strong and hopeful. In the wake of tragedy, we made a joyful noise, and sang a song of gladness.

You sad-faced men, people and sons of Rome,
By uproar sever’d, like a flight of fowl
Scatter’d by winds and high tempestuous gusts,
O, let me teach you how to knit again
This scatter’d corn into one mutual sheaf,
These broken limbs again into one body;
Lest Rome herself be bane unto herself,
And she whom mighty kingdoms court’sy to,
Like a forlorn and desperate castaway,
Do shameful execution on herself.
~Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus


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