Meghan Daum wonders about the sort of community we are when we thank God for delivering us from tragedy rather than asking in God's name how such tragedy could happen in the first place. I'm reminded of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who pointed out that God created man in his image and that man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.
If humans create their gods, then it isn't surprising that in America, any escape from a tragic situation is regarded as genuinely miraculous, especially when these tragedies are much too common. So in our society, we pray in gratitude: "I'm out of work, but thank God my spouse still has two part-time jobs."
I prefer the kind of society in which tragedy is rare, so that when it does occur, we can be angry and invoke a wrathful God's name for answers from our civic officials and political leaders. However, creating this kind of society requires human action, and I'm afraid we're all too busy praying.
Daum touches on a larger disturbing tendency. Just as we have a fascination with stories of redemption, so too we worship an ever-growing category of "survivors" — cancer survivors, child abuse survivors and so on.
Enough with the survivors already. Victims of disease, accidents or some other calamity who manage to cheat death are often told that they're very lucky. But the victim's response often is this: "Funny, I don't feel lucky. If I'm so lucky, why did this happen to me in the first place?"
Victims frequently end up scarred for life, and everything is not OK. Instead of simply celebrating survivors and wrapping their misfortune in a questionable happy ending, we should also recognize the unpleasant truth that today's survivor is yesterday's victim, and that terrible things happen to good people.
As Daum notes, when we transform a horror story into a tale of inspiration, mostly what we're doing is kidding ourselves.