I have been dreading this space since August 23. Like most tragedies that hit our nation, there are simply no words. I’m writing this to share some insights on internal factors that I feel were informing events at the Quirino Grandstand and on the internet.
There was so much anger and blame online. I was part of it until I realized it wasn’t really accomplishing much. After feeling utterly useless and overstimulated by the horrible images, I turned everything off. I could not watch any more of the live coverage. I could not believe I was watching it blow-by-blow as it happened. I left the room and lit a candle for those who died–and for humanity in general–sending out all the love, comfort and warmth I could muster. A few minutes later, D. came into the room and sat with me in silence and prayer, exactly the way we do when someone we know has crossed over. We made a conscious effort to get out of the virtual world and engage in something human. Someone later tweeted, with an expletive or two, that he was tired of all the calls for prayer. What he wanted was action. Those who know the power of prayer, know it is action. Prayer (not the emotional asking for the moon kind) is thinking and reflection with compassion. At that moment, it was a very powerful deed. Nothing else would be accomplished online.
As a people, I have observed that we are sorely lacking in boundaries. You see it in our geography, too. Water surrounds us, the earth constantly shifts beneath our feet and we like to be fluid and soft and warm. Our challenge is to create boundaries where needed. The police didn’t give it to media and could not muster enough for themselves. People around couldn’t keep away. The media got too close and, in my opinion, did not exercise enough restraint. I am all for reporting and bringing truth and facts across, but when lives are in the balance, delayed broadcast would be the better choice. Everyone wanted in on the action. Some people from media decided they could get close and interview the hostage-taker and voila, they did. Everyone wanted to do everything except step back and create boundaries.
We need boundaries. We ought to have them in the form of laws, which we seem to be able to craft. But implementing and following them–these are difficult for us. I believe it is because most of us are extremely boundary-challenged. We don’t have the internal alarms that tell us when we are too close to the person beside us in the queue, or that the question we want to ask is inappropriate. We grandstand during hearings because we have a bigger sense of ourselves and none of the other. We grin and laugh during a hostage crisis because the cameras are rolling and somehow we’ve blurred the lines between virtual and real. We take souvenir shots of ourselves in front of the bus where so many lives were lost and post them online. We don’t care that the money we used to build our fortune — the one that allows our daughters to buy their exorbitantly priced designer bags — came from government. That means we robbed hardworking taxpayers. Did you feel that when you crossed the boundary? Did you know there was a boundary?
Someone else tweeted that if we tried to figure out the motives of hostage-taker, we would end up going all the way back to his mommy. I think that was meant to be funny, but in the end I have to say, absolutely.
As a mother, I make sure I raise my children to recognize boundaries. How? I create them. Discipline, consistency and integrity. Rules are clear. Consequences as well. And I try with everything I have, to be true to what I say. Whatever comes out of my mouth is followed through. I live what I preach. They see it and grow up in it. Strengthening these inner boundaries make up a well-structured moral life. Having a sense of where you stand and where others do is a healthy social skill to have. It is inside that we have to look to see what went wrong.
Everyone wants to say enough talking, let’s start acting. Well, I have news for you, we can’t walk the talk if we haven’t figured out the talk. We need to connect the dots, see the relationships that make us whole as human beings and make sure that we are always walking that path of integrity. This brand of thinking is self-reflection towards conscious, purposeful and directed action. What ails this country can only be healed within. The future of this country depends on what we do today, inside ourselves, because that will inform how we behave and create and move in society. We start at home with ourselves and with our kids.
Until then, we continue working furiously at outer structures that keep crumbling because the foundation we keep avoiding has long been rotten to the core.