Mass Shootings: It's Time to Act

You received the alerts on your phone. You watched the Snapchat stories. You stopped for a moment to catch a glimpse of the TV—another mass shooting.

Many of us can relate to the confusing, emotionally turbulent process through which we try to understand and cope with these tragedies. Our reactions to these events— whether they be horror or disgust, complacency or numbness, anger or motivation— can tell us a lot about how we view the state of the world and to what degree we see ourselves as capable of changing it.

My deepest concern, though, is for the level of apathy and passivity I’ve witnessed in myself and in others following these atrocities. We bow our heads in respectful condolences, we discuss the events with detached bewilderment; we meet most news alerts with a mere dismal shake of the head, forlorn silence and secret gratitude with the change of topic. My friends and I discussed the event in our group chat; but I am sure my friends felt as I did—no amount of  “wtf” or “omg” texts could even begin to express the shame and horror the event evoked. In fact, our genuine attempts to commiserate and comprehend fell so flat against the depth of this injustice: the text conversation seemed to have ultimately fueled a real yet incredibly passive, desensitized sense of disgust. This what coping looks like. These behaviors are defense mechanisms; they are what “that won’t happen to me or anyone I know” looks like. It is when the problem is too hard and too hopeless to look at when we choose to be safe and sorry rather than sad and sincere. This detached dejection that often seems to pervade in the wake of these national tragedies is frustrating and tiresome— but sometimes, I find that the cycle is broken by a tragedy that, for whatever reason, strikes me more viscerally. When this disruption occurs, I am angry— I want something to change, and I want it to happen now.

There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.

 

Part of our unresponsiveness is simply the result of our inability to absorb such vast amounts of negative news without putting ourselves at risk of spiraling depression and crippling fear. When we are also trying to focus on our own obstacles, more often than not, we can neither manage and decipher every single tragedy, nor care about the strife of others and the systematic injustices within our society. But that natural and understandable aversion to accepting excess pain is not the fundamental problem. The problem is that these shootings keep happening; the problem is that we, as a society, have enabled them to happen; the problem is that it has happened so much that we do not care as much or as often as we want to. We have lost our ability to be productive because we have lost our ability to stay afloat among the floods of information, violence and grief.

Something must be done to end this era of apathy. In fact, several things. Grassroots activism— protest, rallies, sit-ins, voting— these are the effective measures that we as citizens should and must participate in if we want change. We must have people in all levels of government who lead informedly, persistently and effectively. Guns are an issue in our country, and I plan on informing myself on the ways we can reduce and prevent their harm— and I expect my fellow citizens and lawmakers to do the same.

As I looked up from my laptop while writing this, I noticed the flag outside my window which protrudes atop our beloved Bascom Hill— it was flying at half-mast. In the shadow of that flag, I cried for all that I wish my country were and all that I have shamefully accepted it is not; I cried for the people who died in a flurry of undeserved, unexplained terror; I cried for the people who are shot at concerts, shot at school, shot by police, shot by spouses, shot by strangers— and I am angry that there has yet to be adequate justice for them still. I cry because I want America to be great— but I feel depleted living under an administration that fuels hatred with bigotry, ignorance and a callous lack of empathy. I cry because the love I once felt for my country has been replaced by a cynical gloom at best and a poisonous complacency at worst.

But I also cry because it feels good to care again. It feels right to be heartbroken. Now is the time to be productively furious. Now is the time to be a part of real change.