I don't just mean hearing what other people say. I mean letting them talk.
People talk to us all the time. And the things they say fall into one of two categories. Either they 1) want help figuring something out or 2) they just want empathy, to know that they are not wrong for thinking or feeling the way they do. There's no problem to solve, they just want to get something off their chest.
(Note: for those of you who buy into that Men/Mars Women/Venus bullshit, this applies to BOTH genders. Women are just as interested in solving problems as men are, and men are just as anxious to bitch about what's bugging them as women are. These lines are NOT delineated by gender UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. The idea of some blanket policy of just empathizing with women and interacting with men is insulting and condescending.)
I woke up this morning at about 530 and went to the computer. The channel, emails, IM's, all kinds of stuff, all talking about the Colorado theater shooting.
Specifically, they were talking to me. Not each other.
This struck me as a bit odd until I realized what was going on -- they wanted to talk, not argue or debate. Everyone knows my feelings on the hot button issues they were talking about, such as gun rights and that. But they also know that I'll let them speak. I assured them of that with my LJ post last night, where I said I was not going to stick my opinion into this right now, everyone needs to grieve and get themselves together. This is not the time for me to declare I know how the world really works and my opinion should be everyone's.
The people talking about this are dealing with human nature. Here is a tragedy beyond human comprehension. Normal people simply do not think to dress up like a riot cop and shoot up a theater of innocent people. So we start looking for answers. Were there any signs that we missed? Could we have prevented this? What could have been done?
The reason for this is simple. Like I said, it's human nature. We do not like being reminded that the world operates independently of us. That bad things just happen. We start off as babies, completely at the mercy of everything around us. As we grow, we learn. We learn skills to help us survive. We acquire knowledge to help us survive. And we see cause and effect so often around us, we like to think that that is the governing force in the universe. Do this and don't do this, and you'll live. So when something so evil (yes, evil. There is such a thing) happens, the immediate reaction is to search for how to change the cause and effect. For something that has no cause and only one effect.
There was someone on the channel who kept telling me that an armed populous is the answer, just look at the Arizona Massacre and how the armed citizens stopped the rampage without turning it into Dodge City. There's someone on my LJ friends list who knows someone in the area and wants tighter gun control to protect a loved one. These people are not expressing opinions or proposing solutions. They are afraid. They are talking about their nightmares and trying to get back in sync with a world spinning on without them.
I bring this up because, in the Internet Age, there is no reflection. There's no time. People say things that they normally wouldn't. People do things they normally wouldn't, such as pulling out their cell phones and filming the shooting to put up on YouTube instead of getting out of there. Expecting people to behave rationally so soon after a completely irrational event is wrong and just isn't fair.
My advice, as I get ready to start my day, is simple -- all these opinions, all this hand wringing, these are people talking. Expressing themselves. Venting their frustrations. Coping with their fears. Let them. Don't judge them. Don't belittle their opinions. Don't try to change their minds. Let them process. We can deal with the questions later. Right now, we all need each other.
Funny thing -- if you let people talk, they are more likely to let you talk. And you'll need to. After something like this, EVERYONE needs to talk.
But first? We have to listen.