The week’s events brought back a morning in Spain from seven years ago.
We were about halfway through our sabbatical. Quentin and I had taken the metro to where his soccer team was to have a game. We got there early. So I walked to a nearby place to get a cafe con leche. There behind the bar, on the television, in a banner at the bottom of the screen, under horrific images, appeared a word I had never seen before.
It was a word that in my 20 years of trying to learn Spanish I had never had occasion to learn. But now it was on every channel.
I knew it from the context, but I remember checking my app translator anyway.
Pretty quickly, it became a part of my active vocabulary, not just because it continued to appear all over the news …
… but because people would bring it up with me often. Soccer dads. Other friends. Random people across Madrid once they found out we were Americans. All asking the same question:
How is it that your country has become the only place in the world where shootings like this happen?
It was a question I did not have an answer for then. Nor do I today when once again the Spanish press is using the word to describe events happening here.
I was supposed to return to work from my sabbatical on December 1st. Our connecting flight in Chicago got delayed. So I didn’t end up getting back to work until the 2nd. We had an all-staff going on that day. It was interrupted …
… by a shooting that happened in a facility adjacent to a charter school. Parents were waiting in the parking lot to pick up their kids. CCSA team members huddled to provide whatever support they could to school staff who were in total lockdown. It was terrifying …
… as was reported the next day in Spain.
Last month, CharterFolk readers may remember that I started a post referring to a shooting that had occurred a couple days before in Sacramento.
It happened at an intersection I could see from my old office at CCSA. Since then, there’s been another shooting in Orange County …
… and in Buffalo …
… all of which the people of Spain follow.
Across the entire Spanish speaking world, the question remains the same.
As it does in other languages …
… from countries across the planet:
Why the United States? Why does it happen there and virtually nowhere else?
It’s a question that some will literally run out of a room to avoid answering …
But it seems to me to be the question that we should be pushing ourselves to confront as often as we can.
While we push ourselves to recognize as deeply as we can the connections that we have to each event, like the ones that happened near a school your organization existed to support, or just down the block from where you used to work, or affecting the very same age and cultural background of the kids you used to teach …
… with one of the lost sharing a name with your daughter.
Making these unimaginable losses as real to ourselves as we can lest we give way to the greatest risk. Growing immune. Allowing ourselves to fall into a belief that this is in some way normal. Or inevitable. Or something that is not entirely unique to our country.
As it so happens, Amy and I have scheduled a virtual reunion next weekend with our closest friends from Madrid. And so we prepare to find the word tiroteo re-surface in our vocabulary as they inevitably ask yet again:
Why? Why your country?
And yet again we will be without answers.
But seven years further down the road, this much at least I will have to offer them:
A deeper understanding of where the answers are not going to come from.
They are not going to come, as I used to think, from one side of the political spectrum or the other, with one side ultimately prevailing in its point of view and vanquishing the other.
That’s the way I used to think at 49 or 42 or at many seven-year increments younger than that.
But it’s not how I think about it at 56, where now I see that, if any solution is going to come at all, it will emerge from some space where people coming from very different points of view can surface and discuss deeply vexing questions without running out of the room.
A room wherein relationships have been able to grow over time. Where wells of trust have the potential to build.
Like the enormous, complicated room we all occupy.
The one that supports charter schools.
And while this may not be what drew us together in the first place, it’s becoming one of the most important themes of our unfolding story. Serving as one of those very few, immensely valuable places where people from opposing sides of the political spectrum can come together.
Have been able to come together for decades now.
Where if anything, the number of people and range of viewpoints coming together is only growing over time.
And yes, it is a space within which we all find things that others say or do or believe immensely troubling. And there can be all sorts of rationalizations for tolerating things that we shouldn’t.
I confess to sleepless nights when I question whether I’m just justifying not saying a hard truth for fear of pushing people out of our shared room. And maybe in some calculations, I am making a mistake, or am simply lacking courage. And I invite CharterFolk of all political persuasions to let me have it whenever you see me failing to say the things that need to be said.
But at this time in my life, I see myself growing more deeply rooted within a recognition that seems to return whenever I get my head on straight, one valuing even more the need to foster the emergence of a space where as many of us as possible, with views as divergent as possible, can come together and can remain together.
Not just because that incredibly diverse political coalition will prove the one best able to help us advance the cause that brought us all together in the first place, but because, in drawing people together to craft solutions within our realm, we will build relationships and trust that can be put to work in others …
… such that we become right now, and even more so seven years down the road, and even more another seven after that, a space from which ever more profound solutions can emerge …
… helping us to overcome challenges as difficult as any that we face …
… including how we can finally find a way to banish the word tiroteo and all its equivalents from our shared vocabulary, once and for all.