Monday, June 13, 2016

My Initial Reaction to the Orlando Shooting

I usually try to wait and calm down before I write about major news stories. I try to gather the facts and carefully construct my argument, but now is not the time to be careful. 

Yesterday, I awoke to the new American norm: 20 people had been killed in a mass shooting. I thought it was sad but I didn't cry because 20 people dying in a mass shooting is no longer a shocking event. Later in the morning, I watched a press conference and it was announced that at least 50 people had died and 53 people were injured. I cried as I listened to the rest of the press conference. I was angry and confused. What type of person kills 50 people? Why was 20 just another news story, but 50 was a punch in the gut?

I found myself praying to a God that I only sometimes believe in and I also found myself waiting to see how far the different sides would go to blame each other. This act of terror was not the fault of the democrats or the fault of the republicans or the fault of religion, or worse, the fault of every Muslim person in the world. This act of terror was the fault of a single gunman who was filled with hate. A gunman, who despite being an American citizen, was willing to terrorize his own people on behalf of ISIS. Make no mistakes, we are his people and whether we like it or not, he was our brother. The worst mass shooting in modern America was not carried out by some foreign born terrorist, but rather, by one of us, and yet, we spent most of Sunday pointing fingers and arguing over semantics. We can blame radical Islam and call him a Muslim terrorist, an anchor baby, the son of Afghan parents, a Jihadist, an ISIS inspired terrorist and whatever other name we can think of to make him different from us, but the fact remains that until 2:00am on Sunday morning, this hate filled man was one of us. Do not mistake this for me blaming society because we are not to blame. He is to blame. We can't teach our children personal responsibility then blame everyone but them when they do something wrong. 

What I'm trying to say is that we were too busy focusing on things that didn't matter. 50 people were killed. That's what mattered. 50 people will never go home again, 53 will always have the scars, hundreds will suffer with knowing that they survived and the rest of us are left to try to imagine the unimaginable. That's what matters. Yesterday, I didn't care that he was registered as a democrat or that everyone wasn't saying "radical Islam" or that we needed to ban semi-automatic assault weapons or that Trump said something stupid or that Hillary's comments were more "presidential." I didn't care about any of that garbage. I cared about the families and the victims. How can anyone view 50 dead people as an opportunity to take jabs at the other side in order to earn more votes? How have we, as a society, reached this point?

Yes, in the big picture, the reactions of our presidential nominees matter, but I wish that we could have been united yesterday and that politics could have taken a 24 hour break. For just one day, I wished that the talking points focused more on those who were hurting and less on the commentary of people hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of miles away. I wished that we could all stand up and denounce the gunman and ISIS while keeping our fingers in our pockets unless we were extending our arms to offer hugs or a helping hand. I wished that we could all cry as a nation for our loss. I wished that we could all care about the victims and their families. I wished that we didn't minimize their suffering by immediately making it about our personal politics. 

Some of us spent Sunday in mourning. Some of us rushed to donate blood and money and to send flowers and organize vigils and other tributes. But far too many of us spent the day fighting among ourselves and taking figurative shots at the "other side" as if 50 people had not just been killed. To be honest, I'm not surprised because that's what many of us do as Americans. Many of us make every tragedy about us and our movement and our agenda. Many of us don't care that people are hurting or that families spent the entire day in that awful gray area of fearing the worst but praying for the best. Our news coverage of this tragedy is a sad testament to the state of our country.

In the age of sensationalism and sound bites, I fear that we are slowly, but surely, losing our humanity.