I found this in my drafts folder. I wrote it over two years ago but never finished it. Sad – it is still accurate, today. I decided to finish it and publish.
The story begins the same way. Violence, confusion, anxiety and anger.
Then speculation follows. Words like “terrorism,” “ISIS,” “gun-violence,” “radicalized,” and “hate,” “lone-wolf (which is the wrong name for “domestic terrorism”) all follow.
Most of the time someone takes “responsibility” for the crime as though it were a badge of honor. But a few times nobody takes responsibility and we are left wondering what motivated a person to do something horrific.
There was a time when these kind of tragedies spurred us onto become something great. Humanity shined brightly and divisions ceased, even if for a week. Yet, in an age of social media anonymity and gated communities that kind of response is less and less of what I expect. Certainly it is still present, but something else comes along with it – sometimes even first.
Victim blaming, finger-pointing, political jostling drive conversations. The dead are forgotten and sometimes even the aggressor slips into the shadows. What we are left with is each other. In a world where violence is so senseless, we try to make sense of it by attacking each other.
“It was your religion / political party / personal view that contributed to this.”
Suddenly, it isn’t about a common enemy. We become the enemy. What used to draw us closer to our neighbors now makes us suspicious of them.
Orlando, Paris, Newton, Vegas – it doesn’t matter where it happens. It doesn’t even matter how it necessarily happens. What should matter is that no loss of human life should ever be used as a soapbox or political springboard. When our communities suffer we should be asking how we can band together rather than first looking to lay blame.
Yes, moments will arise when we need to ask ourselves what we can do to prevent tragedy. We need to have important discussions about policies and politics – but something else needs to be present first – empathy. Before we blame our neighbors, we need to step back and ask ourselves about the darkness in our own heart. I don’t want to believe I am capable of horrible things – but every human has the capacity for great evil, but also great good.
It comes down to our choices.
It also comes down to the people in our lives.
Do we have the ability to choose good when there is opportunity for evil – even small evil or injustice. No person suddenly decides to fly off the handle and murder people. Even if the descent into that destructive mindset is hidden, it still happens.
But few of us will get there. Few of us will jump off a ledge that barricades ourselves into a hotel room and starts senselessly destroying life.
We could barricade ourselves into our bedroom, though, and rip people apart online. Or maybe just feed off negativity and despair. There is a reason so many people become radicalized online – it is easy to name an enemy and escalate. You rarely get the full picture of a person from behind a screen, but you do get caricatures of them. You can mold them and make them into whoever you want them to be.
You can make them subhuman.
And once someone is subhuman – no longer worthy of dignity – then we can rip them apart. Then all bets are off. Then we are a hero. We may not ever be the maniac, but we can foster the petri dish of hate where they can grow. We can form the environment where it happens. We can forgo the dialogue and wage war with digital weapons.
There is no quick fix. There is no overnight remedy to the serious issues of race, injustice, hatred, war-posturing, and threats that exist in our world. We are years from peace. But the march toward peace needs to start somewhere.
Now is the time.