Growing up in the Midwest, I learned at a young age that eerie outdoor silence is nature’s harbinger of severe weather–calm before the storm. The wind might kick up a little, but the birds and animals are keeping quiet vigil in their safe houses. Recent events have me asking myself, why didn’t I hear the silence before the storms?
Silence, it could be said, has a multiple personality disorder. Silence can be a warning, yes, but it can also be an emotional weapon—the silent treatment—a passive aggressive punishment. And silence can be a sign of depression, ennui or a certain kind of impotence—an inability or unwillingness to take action. Silence exerts power, significance and solemnity when she walks or sits in silent protest.
I’m a big fan of the good silences. I know that when I practice meditation it makes me calmer and clearer. There is peace in silence when you can find a sliver. I also believe an intentional moment of silence alone or with a group holding vigil is holy, and a way of radiating peaceful, positive energy to salve the crackling rage and violence that is smoldering just below the surface all around us ready to conflagrate anywhere at any time like it did in Las Vegas.
It has become a tradition for US lawmakers to hold just that kind of moment of silence after a major tragedy. Some of the Democratic lawmakers refused to partake in the ritual after the mass murder in Nevada stating it was not enough anymore. Several social justice groups and individuals also made that declaration. What we need is action, not silence, on gun control and not just on bump stocks and other similar devices, though that’s being touted as the first step toward “real” gun control legislation. How long will that take? And how many more silenced lives?
Gun control is a particularly divisive issue in the US; the UK took further legislative action in 1997 after the Dunblane massacre of the previous year. Here we have massacre after massacre and still cannot kick our addiction to guns and violence.
We need the silence of contemplation and the rational, just action that arises from it en masse. Because more storms are coming, and we have run out of safe houses.
Some sites to check out if you wish to become more involved: