What happened on Friday has shaken me.
I am a fierce optimist. I search for the kindness, the beauty, the love in everything around me. I rarely have a hard time finding it.
I have believed, for quite some time now, that the world is equal parts darkness and light. There is much suffering in the world, to be sure. But I have believed that out of great suffering comes great compassion. You can choose to focus on the worst parts of the world, or focus on the best. You can be bogged down by the horrors of humanity, or fight to heal them. I have always chosen the latter.
Of all the tragedies I've heard of in the news, none has ever hit me as hard as this. I know terrible things happen every day. I know many parts of the world are no strangers to senseless violence against children. I know.
But I can't stop thinking about these kids. I can't stop thinking about how scared they must have been, how much they must have wanted their moms and dads. I can't stop thinking about the teachers. I can't stop thinking about the parents. I can't stop thinking about the lucky ones - the parents who, upon finding out their children were among the survivors, must have then felt the sickening guilt knowing their relief meant another parent had lost their child. The little, little, little kids who escaped, but had to run past the bodies of their teachers and friends. I can't stop thinking about Ryan and Peter Lanza.
As I was driving to perform in my show Friday night, I heard on the radio a candlelight vigil was taking place in front of the White House. Once my show ended, I drove over there as fast as I could. I knew, at 11:30 at night, there was very little chance it was still going on. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I so desperately wanted to be there, as I sped down I-95. Looking back, I think I just felt so helpless, and wanted to find some way to show everyone affected by this that I supported them.
By the time I got to the White House, no one was there, save for a few tourists taking pictures. As I walked back to my car, I saw a truck parked about 20 yards away from me. It had a large "Merry Christmas" sign over it, which made me smile. As I got closer, I realized it was a Westboro Baptist truck. It was covered in pictures and words - you know the kind, I'm not going to describe them - but I will say that they were significantly more gruesome and violent than I've seen before.
I quite literally felt like I had been punched in the stomach. My emotions did a rapid 180 from desolate to furious. I rarely react to anything with aggression, but I looked at those messages and thought, "If someone gets out of that truck and tries to say something to me, I am going to lose my shit". I was preparing what I would say - something along the lines of them being what is wrong with the world, and what the fuck could possibly possess them to spread this message of hate when a bunch of fucking CHILDREN are lying shot to pieces in a classroom tonight - but there was no one in the truck. So I got in my car, and I listened to the news, and I cried the whole way home.
I realized, after this, that even though I have said evil is balanced by good in this world, I did not believe it. I subconsciously have thought that good is the more powerful force in this world. That love is always stronger than hate, stronger than despair, stronger than destruction.
I don't know that I believe that now.
I still believe that love is immensely powerful. I keep scanning the news, searching for stories of bravery and kindness. And I'm finding them. The compassion of humanity is not letting me down.
But I think, before now, I have underestimated the ugliness of the world. I don't think I fully appreciated how hard it is to focus on the joy. This isn't my tragedy, these aren't my kids, these teachers aren't my sisters or friends. But something in this has hit me very, very hard.
The solution here isn't to abandon optimism. I believe now, more than ever, that the only way to fight despair is with love. And I think we should remember, as best we can, that as much as we may disagree with each other, we are all reacting to the pain of this. The people fighting vehemently for gun control, the people who feel that it is disrespectful to those grieving to talk politics, even Mike Huckabee who thinks prayer in schools is the answer - everyone is struggling to find a solution to this tragedy the best way they know how. We can disagree and argue with each other, certainly - that's how we stand up and fight for what we believe - but I think we should try to find a way to do so with the understanding that most people are hurting over this, and trying to do what they think is best.
We have to keep loving. We have to keep caring. We have to keep helping, crying, working, searching every day for the good. Because there is a lot of bad out there, and it is going to take everything we have to fight it.