Guns, Violence, and the Awareness of Never Really Knowing

oregon I’ve been thinking about what I could say, but there is nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, or said more eloquently than I could ever write.

3 years ago this December I started this blog, not because I wanted to be a writer, but because shots were fired–Newtown happened–and there was nothing else I felt like doing other than using words to express what I felt. I couldn’t–and still can’t–explain what type of emotions were going through my head. Writing was my vice, and so that’s what I did.

Several months later, two men deemed it a good idea to bomb people as they were running across the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I remember the news reaching me too vividly. I was in College, with friends at a block party. It was a Monday afternoon and we were caught in the good vibes of the college social life, until we turned on the TV. We saw the headlines, and noticed the finish line, and then I knew that that was in view of my mother’s office. In a matter of seconds, violence took a sobering turn for all of us in that room. Most of us were–or had family–from Boston. For me, it was no longer something I could just point my figure towards and give a single solution like Newtown. It was my hometown, my family–my life. The lines were quickly blurred by emotions. 

The same way of seeing a fight where I grew up. We would laugh about it, our eyes would glow at the spectacle. It was the highlight of the day. But being in a fight? That had a different color. It’s hard to laugh when those blows are coming at your head. When your limbs are the ones at stake, instead of the ones you are betting on, pain takes on a new meaning. Just imagine trying to look at the big picture when you are the picture. It was on April 15 that I learned what that difference really meant. 

Moments have kept coming since then. The circumstances remain the same, but my reactions have slowly changed. At this point, I’m numb to the violence, to the responses, to people thinking that all of this can be readily solved with a singular solution. Maybe we are too used to watching the fight, rather than ever being in one, that we forget there is the chance we don’t know others trauma. 

It’s not just the shootings, or the guns. Maybe it’s a culture of violence. Or how we have always been fed it–the belief that violence is acceptable–and then of how we perpetuate it, and promote it but yet denounce it when it becomes no longer convenient. It’s in our video games, our childhood heroes, and the toys we grew up with. For many, it was how our parents taught us a lesson. Some of us were given a pass to exercise our violent selves growing up, while others are not readily given that luxury.

A culture doesn’t breed violence directly. It relegates it to certain spaces. It says when it is acceptable, and when it is not. Violence is a tragedy in all its forms, especially this one.

Just blaming mental health doesn’t make sense, or gun control. It takes more than just hate or intolerance to make a world of events we are seeing. Maybe I’m jaded, but I’m left curious as to how this can happen so much. Even as we have become so aware to the problem, the problem still persists.   

No other country has this many shootings. And also, no other country incarcerates as many people as we do. No other country has a policing system that hails its tactics from slave patrols. The list goes on of the real list of American exceptional-ism–of what separates us from the rest of humanity. So to say gun control is the sole solution–rather than the launching pad–would be doing all of us a disservice, because we wouldn’t be aspiring to our noble capacities as human beings, because we aren’t searching deep enough. 

I don’t claim to have been in the same fight as the people at Umpqua Community College. To know the pain of the blows they are experiencing isn’t something I can speak on. I’m owning up to not knowing, and maybe that’s the point.


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