The Virtue of Rawness

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a news program that discussed the aftermath of Sandy. The specific topic that was addressed was that when disasters and tragedies like Hurricane Sandy occur, there is a huge push to help victims at the beginning. Money is given, food is donated, mental health services are provided to the victims. There is a ton of help provided – all of it appreciated – but it tapers off after awhile, even though the rebuilding of the entire destroyed infrastructure is still on the horizon. The irony is that that rebuilding is by far the most difficult and challenging, but there is less help.

Today we are all praying and thinking of the evil act that was committed yesterday in Connecticut. We will continue to pray and think for awhile. We will think about those families more and more as the holidays get closer, and we’ll reach out to them in whatever ways we can. We’ll voice our outrage and clamor to be heard. We will appreciate what we have and cry because our world is sick and broken. But then, before we know it, it won’t be the first thing on our minds anymore. We will sleep through the night and feel safe.

But we shouldn’t. As a country, as a human race, we gave up our right to sleep through the night the moment those shots were fired. How dare we become complacent now that the most innocent of innocents have been taken from us?

I felt raw yesterday. You likely did too. I cried at the store the way I did on September 11, 2001. I refuse to believe that this is only because I’m a parent now. You don’t have to be a parent to know that our country is broken and that we have run out of excuses to avoid confronting the reasons behind the filthy acts that now occur here on nearly a daily basis.

Do what you need to do to make yourself raw each day. Do not forget that our society is extremely sick this very instant. It is dying. Those shots that rang out yesterday were the death rattle. Let your outrage fuel you to defend what shred of goodness and innocence we have left. Do not believe for one second that time will heal the wounds of December 14, 2012. Those children whose lives were stolen will celebrate no more birthdays, will never fall in love, will never have children of their own. Their parents will never smell them again or hold them in their arms or rock them to sleep. That is forever. It is disgusting, and it’s the state of the world right now.

For all that is good and innocent and right, do not slip into complacency. Let’s rebuild our infrastructure. It will be the hardest thing we will likely ever do, but we owe it to all the life that was lost yesterday to defend what we have left.


  1. Well, I just found a way o stay raw today. What you write is so true..for all tragedies…all over the world. Jen

    1. I really feel like forgetting about these kids and all the injustices committed around the world is basically becoming complicite to those who committed the violence. It’s time for change. Thanks, Jen.

      1. How can we do it?

        1. Obviously, I don’t have all the answers, but as a woman and a mother, I am going to start with always making sure that my child knows above all else that she is secure and loved. I am reminded of a post that Ande from & Squatch Makes Three wrote about a year ago about bullying:

          Although he’s a guy raising a son, he touched on some excellent points about how people act out of hate and anger when they don’t have a secure foundation in love. Ande is a wonderful, sweet guy who is at the beginning of this parenting odyssey just like I am, and he’s taking an extremely active role in his son’s life. That’s the answer, I believe. It all begins in the home. If you aren’t a parent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re off scott free. Treat the world as if everyone is your child. Nurture it and love it. When someone doesn’t agree with you, don’t behave like a toddler and throw a dangerous fit. Meet the world where it is, figure out what’s bothering it, and love it into submission.

  2. Very well put, Mrs. Em. To be raw is to feel. To feel is to care. And to care is to live not for ourselves, but for our own collective good – loving thy neighbor…no greater virtue. Thank you for a moving, motivating post.

    1. We are all neighbors. Even if we disagree, we are all in this together. Thanks, SSM.

  3. bellissimom · · Reply

    I think, hope and pray that yesterday was an eye opening moment for this country. The system of gun ownership and licensing is broken and HAS to be fixed. It is time for mothers to take a stand for the future well being of our children. I am so sick with grief and disgust at the rabid selfishness of those who want to be able to buy and own high powered guns. Their arguments so often sound like a spoiled child screaming “but I want it”. Ok, good for you but i want to ask the question how does it improve your life and society? Clearly our society is suffering. Look at other countries and compare gun ownership and gun deaths. And look at all of the violence we are constantly exposed to. Is there really any question that we are perpetuating a culture where gun deaths are becoming the “norm”. It is just sick. I hate it.

    1. I agree with you about the guns. Something has to change. As a country, we have to put aside our differing opinions about “rights” and politics and start seeing the big picture. The problem is that the gun issue has become too intertwined with supposed attacks on personal liberties. When politics is the first thing that pops into people’s minds when atrocities like this occurs, and when people only think about how it affects THEM, then we have a big problem.

  4. The issue is not just guns, it is that people are not “raw” anymore (as you so well stated in regard to your own feelings). If people don’t care about their feel man (or themselves for that matter) then they will find a gun or weapon to kill with, whether or not it is “legal” in their country/state/etc. If a person is mentally ill, or just plain evil, they will hurt others and themselves. Let’s try to be a nation of compassion, to stop bullying and hate, and to help those who are troubled instead of handing them some Prozac and telling them to get on with life. We all need to care about each other, instead of just ourselves before anything will change.

    1. fellow man, not feel…oops.

    2. WORD. Thank you so much for getting what I was trying to say. Ditto everything you said. Thanks, Pepa.

  5. Hey Emily, every year at this time I think about Lockerbie because a lovely acquaintance of mine was killed in that horrific bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. Until then, it had never occurred to me, and probably most everyone else in the world, that someone might use a plane as a weapon. She was on her way back to New York from London to spend Xmas with my friend, a guy who had cold feet about settling down. I thought they made a great couple and was very pleased that he had seen daylight and had decided he didn’t want to continue without her [insert long sigh here]. Xmas that year was tough. He was never the same after she was killed.

    Fast forward to the present and that horrific massacre in Newtown at Sandy Hook and all the people whose lives are now so tragically altered. I’m not a parent, but I again felt that same horror I suffered 24 years ago when my assistant rushed into our office to tell me about what had happened. He’s not a parent, either, but we both felt ill. I can only hope that the loss of twenty youngsters as well as their slain protectors, is the tipping point that will lead to meaningful action to prevent more of these senseless shootings that seem to be occurring with greater and greater frequency. As for the survivors of all that were slain, that’s heartache they will have to live with forever. Unlike preventing acts of international terrorism, I do think we could do something as a society to prevent these acts of domestic terrorism. I truly hope that those children and their teachers did not all die in vain. Personally, I don’t see the necessity for anyone to own an assault weapon. I have lived my life quite securely here in New York City without ever once having the urge to own, much less fire a gun. But that’s just me.

    1. Even though a lot of people are sounding off on the media right now for not handling the coverage in a tactful, compassionate way, I am hearing a lot of dialogue that makes me believe that this will be a watershed event. People are owning up to the truth that nothing meaningful has been done in the past 15 years to deter school violence. Maybe some real solutions will come out of these discussions.

  6. With every new shooting over in America, the British papers dust their frequently-displayed articles about the problems of American gun ownership and the fascination with guns the US is seen as having. In every corner of non-American media right now, you’ll find the same condemnation. In America, the rawness is hitting the nation hard and it’s the time for soul-searching. Crying. Lamenting and finding some arbitrary, temporary and ultimately vapid “other” reason on which to lay the blame. And you are right in saying that eventually all this emotion tapers off. And you are absolutely right in saying that this is the main problem.

    America needs to change its gun laws. Keeping to “what is says in the Constitution” just doesn’t wash anymore. Not when blood is being spilt pointlessly. Not when this is the only thing the world knows your country for. Not when pride and tradition get in the way of what is right. Because the only thing I know is this madness and this unwillingness to do anything about it is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

    1. There are definitely problems with guns that need to be solved immediately. The root cause, though, is that we don’t see each other as humans anymore. The ideas of love and compassion are becoming more abstractions than real things that dictate the ways we interact with one another. The bipartisan reactions that have already sprung up in response to the shootings indicate that we are more interested in fighting over our supposed “rights” than we are in uniting and developing a culture that protects our most precious assets.

  7. I liked that you used the word ‘infrastructure’ because you’re exactly right in that it’s an entire systems change we need. It isn’t just guns; it isn’t just better access to mental health care (those these two need much work in and of themselves); it’s many other factors including apathy and over exposure to violence. Like you, this was as shocking to me as 9/11. All shootings horrify me, but this one really weights the heart and soul.

    1. Thank you so much for getting what I’m trying to say here, Carrie. I wish it were as straightforward as passing legislation that could protect us. But it’s not. It’s about developing a culture from the ground up that values life.

  8. […] come out of this stupor and forget, but that is better expressed in the extremely powerful words of Emily at The Waiting. For now my words are gone and dried and dead. I read not less than an hour ago a list of the names […]

  9. This post is amazing, Emily. I already respected you like crazy as a human and a mother, but this… This is so real, and true.

    We live life in high-speed, with our technology, schedules, appointments, etiquette. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology (Blogging? FUCK YEAH!), but everything is controlled and steered and we have so much to worry about that we forget what we are: human beings that care and more importantly, take care of tiny versions of ourselves.

    We can’t forget what we are, we owe it to ourselves and our families to always remember the only truth that counts: health and happiness. Cause only a healthy and happy person can possess the gift of care and compassion.

    1. That last line nails it, Daan. Once we have health and happiness, compassion and understanding just fall in to place.

  10. Thank you for this Emily. This is a good thing to make people aware of — that we shouldn’t forget. I don’t know when I’ll stop crying.

    1. Me neither, Sandee. This is so hard.

  11. I agree that we move on, and don’t take enough action after these things happen. There is an acceptance that this is the way our society is, and I detest that. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s not too late.

    I choose to stay raw, and to be passionate about bettering our society.

    1. Me too. I read somewhere someone said “I hope this doesn’t happen again for a really long time.” To me, “a really long time” is not even remotely enough. How about “ever again”? I’m a realist and all, but this is too outrageous and despicable to meet halfway.

  12. Thanks, Em. This is a good way to put it, to keep it raw, alive in people’s conscience. Too often people go about their business. If this event doesn’t force us to make some changes, I don’t know what will. I know that I never want to see this happen ever again.

    1. Agreed. If this doesn’t change some things, I won’t have a lot of hope for the future. However, I’ve seen the passion these events have incited in so many people so I’m confident we’re about to see some real changes.

  13. I wish as a country we were mature enough to have a real discussion about our problems. We rush to pass legislation to protect people from so many things that dont hurt anyone, yet we are unable to even speak about how to stop the gun violence in our country.
    The time has come for us a country to begin to talk.

    1. Word, NC. It really does come down to cowardice and immaturity that our country collectively has. We are so afraid that people will accuse us of taking away their “liberties” and “rights” that we haven’t faced our infatuation with firearms head-on. We’re also so scared of people accusing us of living in LaLa Land when when suggest that things can change that we often write our idealism off as naivete. It’s time to quit being so scared and start talking.

  14. I pray that something good comes from this atrocity, some major shift or change that will turn things around. If it doesn’t happen now, if this doesn’t disturb people enough to act and make changes, then what is it going to take?
    It’s gun laws, but it’s a whole lot more. You’re right, we’re broken. Just look at the last election, we are an angry, divided country and we are losing our sense of community and belonging. We need to soften, find compassion, stop judging, and start listening to one another with openness and a willingness to change.
    Thanks for this post… Raw is a good word.

    1. I knew you’d get what I was talking about here, Lisa. It’s SO MUCH MORE THAN GUNS. We are a nation of talking heads; we all have opinions and it’s all about me me me. We have lost our sense of compassion and love and as a result we fight about WHY this happened rather than have a constructive conversation that aims to resolve our differences and work towards saving the lives of BABIES. I am right there praying with you.

  15. I almost can’t watch the news. I see parents cuddling their children in shock and it makes me want to barf knowing how close they came…and I know too many moms who lost their kids too soon. Any time before the parent is too soon. A co-worker lost her baby to SIDS and my aunt and friend’s mom lost their teenage sons in different decades. Parents never get over losing kids. Never. They are forever sad and broken. This is something too close to home for me. And I agree this gun issue is tied very closely with mishandling mental illness. I can’t even with this tragedy…

    1. I’m totally not watching the news. Every time I am tempted to, I cuddle with C or read her a book. It’s kind of like a news fast. This is WAY too close to home for me too. All I can do is protect her and let her know that she is loved.

  16. True. But, how? That’s what I’m struggling with. How do we fix this?

    1. That is a question I wept over on Friday. What can I, personally, do? As a woman and a mother, I am going to start with always making sure that my child knows above all else that she is secure and loved. I am reminded of a post that Ande from & Squatch Makes Three wrote about a year ago about bullying:

      Although he’s a guy raising a son, he touched on some excellent points about how people act out of hate and anger when they don’t have a secure foundation in love. Ande is a wonderful, sweet guy who is at the beginning of this parenting odyssey just like I am, and he’s taking an extremely active role in his son’s life. That’s the answer, I believe. It all begins in the home. If you aren’t a parent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re off scott free. Treat the world as if everyone is your child. Nurture it and love it. When someone doesn’t agree with you, don’t behave like a toddler and throw a dangerous fit. Meet the world where it is, figure out what’s bothering it, and love it into submission.

      1. Yes. We all need to love the world into submission. I like that.

  17. I like what you said, “do not slip into complacency”. It seems as humans it’s something we do so well. People are shot to death, we get angry for a day and settle down the next. It isn’t right.

    1. I agree. I am finding it oddly reassuring that I haven’t been able to sleep well since all this happened. I’ve been waking in the middle of the night and thinking about how I can 1, protect my own child and 2, ensure that I don’t in any way perpetuate this kind of violence and hatred. These are scary questions to muse over alone in the middle of the night. None of the answers I’ve come up with are easy and simple, but I know that I’m not the only person with these thoughts right now. I know a lot of people are suffering insomnia and thinking just as hard just like I am.

  18. It was a bad day indeed, I was at work and being the only American there all the question were addressed to me as if I had the answer.
    I felt sick, still do.

    1. It makes me sad when people think that we as Americans are ALL like this. When my husband and I lived overseas, our friends would ask us what it’s like to shoot a gun, to which we always replied that we had no idea and that we had no interest in ever finding out.

  19. Thanks for writing this, Em-a-roo. This is just one that…I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from. It’s hit me pretty hard. And more than anything, I agree with you: I don’t want it to just be forgotten. I don’t want everyone to just dust themselves off and walk away from this like it never happened. I really want to keep it raw and have the fights we need to have to change things.

    1. It’s hitting me really hard too. It just keeps running through my mind that 12 years from now, those kids’ parents will hear about their children’s classmates graduating from high school. They will hear about it later when their nieces and nephews are getting their first jobs. They will feel it when 20 years from now, they receive invitations to weddings. They will never, ever forget this pain. It will always be real. It should be just as real for us too.

  20. Well said. I don’t have much to say that isn’t coming from somewhere obvious. I wish there was a solution but unfortunately with this case I can’t even understand why someone would do it. The first step I think in these instances is figuring out the why. I’m clueless.

    1. I totally don’t understand it, either. We can blame it on guns and undertreated mental illness, but it’s so much more complicated and insidious than that. I don’t even know where to begin, except in letting my family and community know that I love them and that I value them.

  21. this is very good, my friend. i find this so mind-blowingly disgusting that i can not even gather my thoughts around it. as a result, i haven’t written about it. yet. YET. in fact, i find myself purposefully having to focus on other things so that i don’t entirely condemn and hate the human race, but i’m working my way out of that deep hole slowly. very slowly. stay strong. mother.

    1. Thanks, Moms. I am really looking forward to hearing what you have to say about all of it because your thoughts on these types of events are always on point. It’s scary to confront these issues, but it’s time. xoxox

      1. i will write something. i’m just not sure when, but it’s coming. and i loved yours. xoxox, sm

  22. Thank you for writing this, Emily. I was unable to read it until today b/c I am just so over-wrought (on several levels and for a myriad of reasons) about this and what it means for those families, that community, and the state of our society.

    1. It really is incredibly overwhelming. How do we even begin to address the atrocities that have been committed? There are no easy answers, but for the first time the “no easy answers” explanation is just not enough. It’s time for a 100% overhaul.

  23. When you eat an elephant, and believe me this problem is an elephant, you eat it one little bite at a time. One of the first bites will be concerning the issue of gun control specifically automatic weapons. You will hear this statement made time and time again: “you don’t need automatic weapons or handguns to hunt.” The implication is that the “right to bear arms” was provided this country in order for its citizens to be able to hunt. This is incorrect. The “right to bear arms” was given to the citizens of this country in order that they might protect themselves from their government. Whether you believe this needs to remain a reason can be debated. However, I request any debate start with the correct facts.

    1. And I hope that the people who drag out that old, tired “right to bear arms” argument can put their egos and their false ideas about what liberty is on the shelf when the discussion begins. True, freedom isn’t free, but it shouldn’t cost us the lives of innocent children and our mettle as a society.

      1. Of course, Emily, but don’t forget this government that you put so much faith in took us to 8 years of unnecessary war in Iraq and we’re still in an unnecessary war in Afghanistan. The right to bear arms against tyranny may be old, but it isn’t tired. HF

        1. Completely agree, and I guess what I said came off as pretty flip and I apologize for that. My main complaint is that some gun owners have a lot to say defending their right to possess their firearms, but they don’t claim the responsibilities that come with that ownership.

          But I don’t think we can solve our problems only with firearm legislation or with mental health awareness. We live in a society where it all comes back to the me, me, me. There is a stark lack of compassion and reverence for life. Isolation is rampant. Tackling those huge problems is where I feel the answer will be found.

          1. 100% agree! Preach it! HF

  24. Thank you so much for sharing this… well said. I’m honored to have read it.

    1. Thank YOU for reading and sharing it on Facebook. This is one I stand behind 1001%.

      1. as you should!

  25. I couldn’t agree more. The time for action is now, before we have to write more posts like this…

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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