I woke up Sunday morning after a night of celebrating an anniversary with my husband to multiple alerts about the shooting in Orlando. I made the conscience decision to avoid the news Sunday; I stuck to Netflix and spending time with my family. I already knew enough about what happened to know how I would feel when I learned of the details, and I knew what was coming. Because we’ve done this before. And, undoubtedly, we’ll do it again.
Trump came out swinging immediately against Obama- saying that Obama alone is to blame for this tragedy due to his refusal to use the term “Radical Islam” while Trump himself ignored the victims all together, as has been his MO so far during this campaign. Hillary quickly makes a statement on the necessity of gun control. Obama addressed a nation, for the 16th time in less than 8 years, after a mass shooting. Christian Fundamentalists come out of the woodwork saying that these victims do not deserve to be mourned because they were gay. Daesh claimed responsibility despite being half a world away. Questions abound about the shooter, and his life was picked apart. Blame and intolerance filled our newsfeeds yet again. The victims and their families are a side story.
After the sadness and devastation, my mind goes to its normal place-how can the United States of America in all of its glory be the only place where this continues to happen? Yes, violence and terrorism happen around the world, but not with the commonality that it happens here. Why? How are we different?
The normal answers fill this space, gun availability, mental health issues, media sensationalism, lack of accountability, and the decline of the traditional family structure. I’ve been through all of these before. But, in my humble opinion, there’s a bigger problem: Hate.
Where does hate this intense come from? Hate so intense that one believes that a human life does not matter. Hate so strong that one is convinced these actions are justified. Hate is not something that is innate with one religion or one race or one sexual orientation. We are not born with hate, but rather it is something that is learned. Hate is something that is taught. We have allowed ourselves to be divided and categorized and pitted against one another. And to what end? Who are any of us to decide what is right and what is wrong? When it comes down to it, we really are all the same.
But the hate is there. If we can learn one thing from the rise of Donald Trump this election season, it is that a good portion of the American population harbors hate. And if hate is good at one thing, it is good at festering. But where does this hate come from? Who teaches one to hate? And how do we even begin to combat that?
I cannot say where Mr. Trump learned his hate, but he provides a powerful example. His insistence that Islam is inherently hateful is just wrong. At its core Islam is a peaceful religion that has unfortunately been used as a justification for awful things. But as Trump continually marginalizes a group of people with his hateful speech and rhetoric, those he speaks of become angry and can then radicalize. And this manifests in a new way, breeding more hate. And the circle continues. The hate expressed so openly by Donald Trump during this election illustrates the hate that apparently many Americans hold in their hearts. Hate that continues to manifest itself in the loss of innocent lives. Hate that makes one person think that they can make and rationalize decisions that affect hundreds of other people.
Yes, access to guns in the US is a problem. Yes, our lack of diagnosis and treatment for mental illness is a problem. Yes, how the media handles shooters and terrorists in a problem. But until people see each other as human beings and not as the ‘other’ that they are allowed to devalue, addressing those issues will not stop this problem. It’s like taking a pill or putting a band aid on something while ignoring the root cause, it will not solve the problem. Masking the symptoms may help temporarily, but the cause will fester until it finds another way to come to the surface.
We must learn to stand together and break down the differences that have been thrust upon us. We must be willing to leave hate behind and find the humanity in one another. We won’t always get along, but we must respect the lives of others. This is not too much to ask. This is not too much to demand.
These are the thoughts keeping me up at night–Are they keeping you up too?