And is the answer as simple as ‘Be kind’?
This past Sunday, Katie and I got up like we always do. We loved on our border collies before letting them outside. I poured a cup of coffee and crawled back in bed with Katie. The notifications on my phone confirmed the horrors of Saturday: mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. A week earlier it had been Gilroy in my home state of California.
I feel helpless and sick inside.
Angry young white boys with guns, mowing down people they didn’t know — except for the guy in Dayton; he killed his 22-year-old-sister and her boyfriend, too.
After we caffeinated, Katie and I hopped in the car and headed for Costco. We needed dog food and paper products mostly. We ended up getting a battery-operated trash can for the kitchen with a motion sensor, too.
Costco was packed, but outside of a few harmlessly-oblivious fellow customers parking their carts rather suddenly and blocking traffic, everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
Life goes on.
But does it?
I wonder: Was I the only one with a heightened sense of awareness? The odds of a mass shooting happening in Lewisville are about the same as one happening in El Paso — or Dayton — or Gilroy — or Orlando.
I guess it can and does happen anywhere and, seemingly, with more frequency these days.
So, did we make a conscious decision that we aren’t going to live in fear? Or are we just numb to it all?
What happened to these boys to turn them into mass murderers? Were they bullied as kids? Why did this happen? Everyone is searching for answers — after the fact.
Columbine and Oklahoma City happened before either of the shooters in El Paso or Dayton were born. We clearly haven’t learned much, and we aren’t seeing the signs.
We’ve seen the pictures of the killers: angry young white men. I picture them in their mother’s arms, coming home from the hospital — innocent, fragile, filled with unlimited promise.
What happened? Where did the hate come from?
I think we, as a society, owe more to the victims of this senseless slaughter than another trainload of “thoughts and prayers.” Maybe we owe them a thoughtful conversation about guns.
The United States is far and away the worldwide leader in gun ownership, whether its total guns or number of guns per capita. It’s no contest. The USA has around 120 guns per 100 people. No. 2 is the Falkland Islands with 62.1 per 100. Yemen is third.
Can’t we even have the discussion?
How about we add in mental healthcare? Curious about where we rank? I thought you’d never ask.
According to the World Health Organization, the United States ranks 37th in the world, just ahead of Cuba and lagging behind nations like Costa Rica and Morocco (which, by the way, has few rules about gun ownership and about five guns owned per 100 people).
I’m surprised no one has connected the dots.
In the U.S. we have boatloads of firearms, easy access to ammunition and high-capacity magazines added to kids who are bullied in school and raised on the unrestricted internet, and we have a government that is indifferent to those seeking mental healthcare.
What could possibly go wrong?
Interestingly enough, following a series of attacks in Casablanca in 2003 that took 45 lives, Morocco has undertaken a proactive and holistic approach to examining all aspects of society, aimed at averting future attacks. These efforts have been largely successful — so much so that the campaign won praise from the U.S. State Department in July of 2017.
I won’t for a second pretend that the solution to these mass shootings is an easy one, or a one-size-fits-all fix. It’s going to be painful, and it’s going to require asking some hard questions along with looking at who we are as a society.
One thing that’s long overdue, though, is sorting out where this kind of hatred comes from. It’s toxic and unproductive. There is no place for it.
Know what Morocco does with radicalized Muslims? The government works to de-radicalize them, and Muslim preachers are encouraged to teach a peaceful version of Islam. Then return the former radicals are returned to society.
Whatever we are doing now isn’t working. Thoughts and prayers? We can do better.
I lost a dear friend to metastatic breast cancer a few weeks ago. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about her. She was a sales rep at a radio station I worked for in Houston. She was successful and driven. She was also kind. She later became the general manager of a station in Charleston, S.C., and her staff loved her.
She never let on how sick she was or how much she hurt. When she passed, her instructions were simple: “Be kind.”
Can it really be that simple? Maybe it will be contagious. Kindness.
I don’t know, but it’s a start. █
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.