Monday, June 13, 2016

What Are We Waiting For? (For Orlando, and for all of us)

I have been at loss for words.

My Facebook feed is full of "gun control," but also (because I have grown up with, and still talk with, people who are pro-gun-rights) "shooter shoots, not guns."  There are people condemning Muslim terrorists, and Muslim friends calling for more overt support of the LGBT community. (BTW, Donald: he was born in New York.)

CNN tells us the police have found no accomplices, though the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS during a 911 call.  

The victims whose names have been released so far are largely from the Latinx community. Given where they were killed, a place that is a sanctuary, I wonder how many of them had families who knew, how many of them have families who will mourn, how many of them died with the only family they knew.  At least two of them were college students.  They could easily have been my students.

Everything we know about people who become radicalized suggests that they are isolated, disconnected, lost; that they turn to radical ideology (even if they're not religious) for meaning, for structure, for order in a world over which they feel no control, for belonging when they don't belong anywhere else.  Maybe they have parents who have fanned the flames of their hate.  But in the end, they're not so different from abandoned mentally ill people who, say, enter a theater and open fire.  Or who go to an elementary school and take the lives of twenty first graders. What happened in Orlando was a hate crime against LGBT people of color, against diversity of expression of love itself, done in the name of domestic terror. Hate, fueled by hate.

Let me be clear: I don't understand why anyone needs an assault-style or semi-automatic weapon for their personal use.  I don't understand why people don't have to pass the same kinds of tests to own and operate a gun that they do to own and drive a car. I don't understand why someone who has been the subject of a domestic violence report gets to purchase a weapon without some pretty detailed background investigation.

I also don't understand how, if this person was mentally ill, no one realized this before.  Did anyone at his college notice?  Did anyone at his security firm notice (did he have to pass any psychological tests)?  His ex-wife noticed. Did anyone do anything after she filed her domestic violence report?

And most of all, I don't understand how there can be so much hate, and how we can't seem to do a damn thing about it.

Particularly because the gunman wasn't an immigrant, but a native-born American who was just like any one of us, I've been thinking about this event in connection with the debate about free speech on our campuses, the ways in which some students say they don't feel safe when they hear racist or sexist or anti-religious or homophobic discourse.  As administrators, we try to walk the line between free speech and civility.  We try to make sure that everyone's voice is heard.  Some people even dismiss students' demands for "safety," saying that they shouldn't be so coddled, saying that they're in no real danger.  But when tragic events like this one unfold, and we have no mechanisms to prevent them, how can we be so sure?

I'm tired of signing my name to petitions.  I'm tired of having to explain to my son, who reads the news on his tablet before we can intervene, why this keeps happening. I'm tired of hugging my children and my friends and saying we should hold each other close. I'm tired of feeling powerless.

We are all victims.  We are Charlie, we are Aurora, we are Brussels, we are Charleston, we are Lebanon, we are Columbine, we are San Bernardino, we are Fort Hood, we are Sandy Hook. Now we are Orlando.  When will the loss be too great to bear?

What are we waiting for? When we will say we have had enough?  When will we put people in power who can do something in the name of love?

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  1. I am with you. Like so many things, there was a breakdown in the system. How did the FBI investigate him twice, and yet he was still able to do this??? The system is broken in so many ways.
    And I absolutely agree with you. No private citizen needs those kinds of weapons of war.
    It's hard to imagine a solution when there are so many holes, so many breaks in the system.

  2. I too agree.

    How does your congressperson vote? (I almost used the phrase congress critter) Make sure they are not the one who is anti-gun control. If he/she did, get them out.

    No private citizen needs these weapons.

  3. There's been too much of this. Too many people who have died and too any who are living in fear. I'm angry too. I'm tried too.

    And yet, I don't think an answer will come until our society stops offering simple solutions and starts acknowledging that the road ahead is going to be hard. That we need to start rebuilding community and making all of this our business.

    Because you're right. It's not about the labels we assign for ourselves or others. It's all about battling a sickness and that means humanizing all involved. It means making the uncomfortable choice to say something.

  4. This is the question that I keep returning to: "What are we waiting for? When we will say we have had enough?"

    I remember marching in the Million Mom March ( back in 2000 for this same issue. It is unfathomable that 17 years later, we're still asking what are we waiting for.

  5. I never quite feel I can comment when something like this happens. But it happens so frequently. My Fb feed too - filled as it is with Americans - is filled with gun control, a subject so explosive, dealt with so combatively in the US, that it is completely incomprehensible to those of us who live elsewhere, we who can only watch in horror from afar.

  6. Yes, when do we acknowledge that while no solution is perfect, our current system is broken and not even TRYING to change anything makes us ALL complicit. I'm sickened by how the "rights" of some outweigh the lives & safety of others.

  7. So well said. When is the tipping point where people realize that the right to bear arms was never intended to arm civilians with high capacity war weapons and stop valuing guns over lives? It seems that tipping point should have arrived a long, long time ago.


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