So…here we are again.
Another round of outrage.
Another vicious cycle.
It happened after San Bernardino. It happened after Paris. It happened after Brussels. And now, it’s happening again after Orlando Florida. People are taking sides, staking their claims and making their arguments. They’re getting angry. They’re getting frustrated. They’re scared and confused. “Why,” they keep asking. “Why? Why? Why…?”
It’ll follow the same path it always has. First there was the shock and horror, the absolute disbelief that something like this could happen. “The deadliest mass shooting in US history” the news called it, as if that distinction somehow matters or changes things. Now, we’re in the grieving phase. We’re reaching out to the survivors, letting them tell their stories of that horrid day this past weekend. We’re preaching messages of solidarity, telling each other that love is more powerful than hate. It’s beautiful really, seeing all these people coming together, hearing them say things like “this won’t stop people from being who they are” and “we can’t let fear run our lives”.
But then there’s what happens next.
And it’s already begun. The dust and smoke hadn’t settled yet, the bodies hadn’t even been counted yet, and it has started like it always does. On the one side, you have Donald Trump tweeting that he knew this would happen and that we need to be “smart” and “vigilant”. He reiterated his plan to block Muslim immigrants from coming into the United States. And on the other side, you have Hillary Clinton making a statement saying that the shooter should never have been allowed to purchase the assault rifle he had used to commit the atrocity he did. Knowingly or not, these two have set the stage. They have drawn the lines of battle. All that’s left is for the hammer to drop.
After our grieving is done, we’ll start getting angry. We’ll start looking for someone to blame. And believe me, we’ll have no shortage of targets.
We’ll blame the shooter’s father, because obviously if he had raised his child better, this never would have happened (even though the shooter was in his 30’s). We’ll blame whatever security the nightclub had, because they should have caught the gun the shooter brought in before he took it out and started shooting. We’ll blame the FBI because they interviewed the guy three separate times and didn’t find anything strange about him. We’ll blame conservatives, because they won’t allow any gun control legislation to happen. We’ll blame liberals, because they won’t let the good and responsible people of the country carry more guns.
And it won’t make any goddamn difference.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I work at a news station here in Duluth. During one of our morning broadcasts, we played a clip of President Obama giving a speech about the Orlando shooting. And I remember thinking to myself that it’s almost like you can see it on his face, that he’s thinking “it doesn’t matter what I say here. Nothing will happen, just like it always does. I could come up here, cry my eyes out and beg for change. But it would do no good. They would just accuse me of hiding an onion under the podium.”
Which would sound utterly ridiculous if it hadn’t already happened.
Now, I’m no huge fan of Obama. He’s done some stuff I like. He’s done some stuff I don’t like. He’s not the greatest president we’ve had, nor the worst. But in the end, the fact that he has gotten up there fifteen times during his presidency, fifteen times, to talk about gun violence in the aftermath of a shooting is insane. And it highlights something that I think needs to happen.
To put it simply: before the issues can be fixed, the discussion around them needs to change. Before we can even begin solving the problem, we have to reevaluate the way we talk about it.
For one thing, we need to stop acting like we have all the answers. If you’re on Facebook in any shape or form, you’ve likely seen the throngs of people who will start sharing photos featuring captions espousing some point of view or another. And they all pretty much imply the same thing:
“This is my view and if you don’t agree with it you are stupid and dumb and you are the problem with this country. How can’t you see that my view is better than your view. I will not accept any discussion on this matter because I am so obviously correct and you are so obviously wrong. I’m just trying to enlighten you on the right way to do things. You don’t need to get so angry about it.”
And this is how it happens again and again. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s just people sharing meme photos and videos, then having little chats among their insular group of friends where they all say “yeah those other people are so dumb and stupid”. And the politicians aren’t making things better. If anything, they encourage that type of behavior with their actions. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both so assured that their way is correct that they won’t compromise, they won’t discuss it. They’ll just sling attacks at each other while the memory of the shooting gradually fades away and nothing changes.
We need to end this nonsense. We need to sit down at a table with the people on the other side of the fence and say “here’s what we believe, here’s what you believe. Let’s work this out and try to find a solution that will work for all of us in the end.” Because there is a discussion to be had about the merits of gun control just as there is a discussion to be had about the merits of gun ownership. There is a discussion to be had about what the second amendment means in modern times. But until we change the way we talk about things, we’ll never get there. We’ll continue driving that wedge between the sides, making the gap wider and wider until it becomes impossible to bridge.
And it isn’t going to start with groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA). Because the NRA doesn’t care about having a discussion. They never have. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, all they did was shovel money down Congress’ throat until all attempts at gun control legislation died out. And all the while, they keep stirring up that rhetoric of “they’re taking your guns, they’re taking your guns!” They paint themselves as an organization for the common people even though their CEO makes nearly a million dollars every year. And he’s not even the highest paid member of the organization.
This change of discussion needs to start with the people on the lower rungs of the ladder, the people who are impacted by this stuff the most. Because the people who are higher up, the people who make the money and the policy decisions, they’ve proven they don’t want a discussion. As long as they can keep enforcing a rigid, two-party dynamic and keep riling people up enough so that they continually vote for one side and one side only, they will do nothing to make changes. In the end these people are so far removed from the plight of the common people they’re often out of touch with reality itself.
In the end, I’m only one person. I don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay. I’m not supposed to. This has to be a group effort if we’re going to get anything done. But if we keep standing there on opposite sides of the fence, slinging mud at each other, then it’s over before it even begins. We’re like a skipping record, a song on repeat. We keep dancing to the same tune over and over again, and nothing will ever change unless we want it to.
I don’t know exactly where to start. I don’t even know if this blog post will have any impact. But what I do know is that I can’t live with myself if I don’t at least try.
Thanks for reading. I put up a new post every Wednesday, so check back then if you want to read more. If you’re on Facebook, you can like the blog’s page here. Otherwise, have a great week.