One of the defining characteristics of our country is the dramatic mass shooting. We’ve had so many of them. We’ve had many many more less dramatic mass shootings, many many many more shootings. While mass shootings don’t account for a large percentage of our deaths from gun violence, they certainly account for the national trauma of gun violence.
Every president has had to lead in grief and disbelief as we struggle to cope with shock and trauma. In many ways it is the measure of the character of the person in the office.
President Obama deepened my emotion bringing me to tears and to my knees after so many mass shootings, but especially after Newtown and Mother Emanuel AME Church. When Obama was moved to tears while grieving the children of Newtown lead brought me along with him into the depth of grief. His tears were my tears. We were literally expressing the intensity of our national pain together, a pain that we had not known before with so many children brutally murdered. It was comforting and healing to watch him wipe away his tears. It carved out the space for me to openly weep and convulse with the agony of the unspeakable unimaginable horror of Newtown.
I will never forget Obama singing “Amazing Grace” during the memorial for the dead of Mother Emanuel AME Church. It brought me to my knees. It moved my soul. As a nation and a person, that shooting hurt us me deeply. Walking into a prayer meeting, praying with the people who would be murdered, to be welcomed as a stranger into their midst, and then shoot every person there. Hearing his tenuous tenor once again made the space, opened my heart, accepted my grief, and mixed it with the entire nation’s grief allowing us to externalize and manage our trauma.
That was leadership in a time of crisis. It made us better people and allowed us to hope for the future.
Trump has shakingly read from his teleprompter that others wrote for him that he seemed to have never seen before finding them before him. He appears as if a deer in a headlight being drug to the limelight to say things he doesn’t believe and makes promises he does not want. His diction would suggest he is in pain saying them.
He does not create the safe space where I can deepen my emotion and express the shock and trauma of two mass shootings in 12 hours. At the moment that the ship of state is swamped by violence with brutality washing over the transom unabated.
His very reluctance to utter the words minimally necessary for the moment divides us. The vulnerable must work to cover and protect themselves from the imminent violence that seems to be around every corner. The violence that he seems to gleefully revel in.
That is deepening the division that is already between us in a time of crisis. It weakens us, worsens us, and coarsens us. We are worse as a people and nation because of it.