How many must die before we finally get it?
How long before we realize our role in this toxic environment?
How many? How long?
It’s hard for me to wrap my brain and my heart around what just happened in Vegas. A man decides to take target practice on thousands of innocent targets. Those persons did nothing to him. But he was irrational — maybe “mad as hell” and “not going to take this anymore.” And so for whatever reason, he felt justified treating others in a heartless, horrific way. He justified treating others awfully.
It won’t be long before the calls for gun control and increased security measures fill up the airwaves. Sure, let’s have those conversations.
But let us not have them before we deal with the “how many” and “how long.” Let us not have any more proposals until we deal with a bigger bottom line. And, recognizing that what we’re about to wrestle with is both bold and uncomfortable, let us realize how we have contributed to this conflict. Let us recognize how we have contributed to treating others awfully.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the deterioration of our public and personal rhetoric. We have justified calling others the worst. Allow me a mere few examples, heard in recent weeks (please excuse my vulgarity; these are direct quotes, with asterisks strategically positioned by the Intramuralist):
“Such an a**hole! … all thieves! … FU**TARD LIAR! … Racist pigs — each and every one of them! …”
Each of the above was said by a person considered to be a college-educated, pretty intelligent person. And yet, each justifies such callous derogation. And yet again, the insult list goes on.
Do we need more gun control? Maybe.
Do we need increased security measures? Maybe.
But more than any new practice or policy, we need the people of this country to quit believing they can scream insults at one another and believe nothing bad is going to happen — that no one will act irrationally and take it too far.
If we keep believing we can scream and shout and use such awful terms to describe our fellow men and women — who are created and loved by the great big God of the universe just like us — then we have had an active role in taking it too far. We have contributed to the toxic, non-God-honoring environment that too frequently exists. We have contributed to the deterioration of authentic community; we should be making it better — not worse. Let me be clear: only loving the likeminded, “like-looking” or “like-something” is making it worse.
In Vegas, current estimates are that at least 59 people died and 500+ more were injured. Details about the shooter and the crime scene are still forthcoming.
No doubt, because our horror is massive and our shock still reigns, many will call for an immediate solution so that we never feel such horror again — perhaps some new policy enactment. Still more will find whatever this shooter was associated with and declare that “those people” (whoever those people are) need to be eliminated.
The Intramuralist suggests we start with something a little more personal and uncomfortable. Let us be the change we want to see. Let us stop justifying the awful rhetoric. Let us stop screaming and unfriending and focusing on what we don’t have in common.
Yesterday, as I walked into the fitness room for my daily, morning routine, as usual, the cleaning crew also arrived bright and early. I motioned to the middle-aged man I see most Mondays. He is typically quiet and shy, never wanting to disturb me or interrupt my routine. I meekly asked, “Did you see the news this morning?”
The respectful gentleman, responded mostly in hand motions, acknowledging that his English fluency was minimal, but he had heard about the tragedy in Las Vegas. I then asked if he wanted to come watch the news with me in the workout room, inviting him in.
We turned on the news… and stood there… still… together. After a few minutes, he pointed to his forearm, showing me the goosebumps from his sadness and shock. I pointed to mine, too.
“Sad,” he said.
“Yes,” I agreed.
We looked at each other — and then hugged each other.
“What’s your name?” I then asked.
“Pablo,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, Pablo.”
America, we are one. Any immediate solution needs to deal with that bigger bottom line… meaning we realize more what we do have in common than what we don’t… and stop justifying treating any others awfully.
Respectfully… painfully, too…