Last night, as I was winding down and unplugging from my day, I got a text from a friend asking me if my family was ok. "Active Shooter in Lewiston, Maine" was the headline my friend shared. I immediately reached out to my niece who lives not far from Lewiston. She told me that she and her brother were both ok. One on either side of the Lewiston-Auburn area. Both sheltering in place. Both afraid.
I then went searching for information about the situation only to find the kind of headlines designed for clicks (i.e.. revenue) and not for accuracy. At that moment there were no official numbers about dead or wounded but plenty of "a source said" information ranging from 10 dead and 34 wounded to 24 dead and 60 wounded. Either set of numbers is horrific, but the hubris of guessing at a moment like this....
I have no words.
As of 5PM PT today, the number of dead is 18, wounded, 13. The gunman is still at large, and the community is still on edge as they await news of the multi-agency effort to find the suspect. Thoughts and prayers are coming in. The President has called the Mayor of Lewiston and Governor of Maine. Schools, grocery stores, and most public places are still in lock down. And the trauma of gun violence just keeps rolling along.
Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel: Thus, you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them: As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 33:9-11
This latest mass shooting incident leaves me, and maybe you, at a loss for what to say about a society that values the "right to bear arms" above the right to life. I'm sick of hearing from and writing about so-called "Christians" who think that arming more people with more assault weapons is the answer to the problem. And I am beyond exhausted by nations that see "self-defense" as the right to shoot first and ask questions later. Is it any wonder that individuals feel free to act in the same way?
As I listen to the interviews of survivors of yesterday's shootings, I can't help but think about the nearly three-week long shelling of Gaza, and the life of the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank. It is startling to watch the precision of law enforcement in Maine as they look for the suspect, doing everything in their power to ensure the right person is brought to justice while keeping the community safe. It is equally stunning to watch Israel carpet bomb two million people in the Gaza Strip. The privilege of a 40-ish White man in the Lewiston-Auburn area to not be lumped into the category of "terrorist" (i.e., sub-human) while Black men are shot for having a broken taillight, is the same mindset that allows each Israeli murdered to be seen as a person and all Palestinians to be seen as "monsters". This is the colonial mind at work.
I wonder what would have happened had the IDF and Israeli Special Forces approached the October 7th atrocity with the same kind of precision that the Maine State Police are exerting? Can you imagine if the Maine State Police had determined that killing every 40-ish White male in the Lewiston-Auburn area was the appropriate response to yesterday's shootings? What an unthinkable nightmare that would be!
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi for the Messiah's birth. Matthew 2:16
The moment in which we find ourselves is deeply complex, layered with attempts to both de-Colonize the world as well as hold on to as much of that system as possible. We want the right to "bear arms" and the right to live without fear of being shot. We want the right to declare who is a "terrorist" and who is a "Freedom Fighter". We want the most sensational headlines (the "Breaking News" addiction), and we want the truth (even though we prefer the "truth" confirmed by our bias).
And yet, as people who seek to follow the Way of Christ, the teachings of a Palestinian refugee who gave his life for the path of peace and non-violence, we must ask ourselves who we are listening to and why. We must do the hard work of living the incarnation and seeing the humanity in others. We must keep taking the opportunities for internal and external activism in order to change the systems that keep the status quo of violence and war. We must keep being the salt and light in the world that, for 2000 years, would rather take up arms and perpetuate a cycle of revenge over making a commitment to "study war no more."
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will die by the sword." Matthew 26:52
Let's press our elected leaders to pass the Assault Weapons Ban again. Let's demand a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of all captives along with the free flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Let's create a space to hold one another's pain and rage and grief. And let's keep loving one another, loving our neighbors, loving our world back to life, because Love is the only thing that will end this Groundhog Day.
With so much love.