The World is a Murderous Place: Thoughts On Senseless Killings

** written April 10th, 2017

The frequent number of killings that we hear about these days don’t get old to me. Chicago. London. San Bernardino…Syria…New York..Sweden.. Innocent lives were taken from us in these places all in just the last few weeks.

I will go on, but only because I’ve been holding on to thoughts like these for years. They’ve overstayed their welcome.

8 Years Old

An 8-year-old died in San Bernardino today. His name is Jonathan Martinez. On my introspective days, I smile when I recall my own memories of being 8 years old. I reminisce of times spent leaping from big rocks and biking around my suburban sanctuary. In my situation, I get to come back to the present moment knowing that I have done so much since those days and have plenty of hope for what still lies ahead. I’m not even 30 yet. However, when I hear an 8-year-old was caught in crossfire from a domestic issue that unfolded in a primary school classroom, I’m overcome with sorrow and survivor’s guilt. A boy as sweet as blueberry pie was gunned down by an insecure husband, while I’ve been able to experience decades of life’s fruit. I dwell on this death more than one should. It’s a fault of mine where I toil over what I can’t change. I conclude today’s sorrow with a final thought; I’d consider myself lucky if I could transfer my years over to Jonathan.

Moments of Pain

I still think about the little rugrats from Sandy Hook that were taken away from us on that cold December morning in Newtown, Connecticut. Barack Obama calls that day the worst of his presidency. I imagine the toil of Syrian children who, in my lifetime, have to learn of war by being embalmed inside its destruction. I have mental encounters daily with the youth in Chicago that die by gun violence. I pray for innocent sons and daughters raised in abusive families all over the world whose spirits are weakened by the very people that gave them life, who are forced to seek nurturing through their own solitude. I get trapped in a circle, too. I go back to thoughts of Sandy Hook. I think about one day going to Connecticut to personally ask the parents of those children how I can honor their kids. I often wonder what would happen if I ask a few of these angels’ parents if I can name my own kids after theirs someday, to keep their joyous spirits alive. Is that offensive? I have no idea. I then remember from those parents’ strength that you just have to take things day by day. I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

I wonder how others feel in these situations. Social media offers glimpses on how these tragedies affect others. One woman commented on Jonathan Martinez’s death, “If nothing happened after Sandy Hook, it never will.” It’s a sobering thought, which I hate to admit has truth to it. It’s too obvious to deny that it’s true when school shootings continue to happen. Unfortunately, politics and experience are too personal for us to agree on what is the root of the problem. It’s not easy for Americans to put self-interest aside and test unknown waters for a possible greater good.

Even though there’s truth to that social media comment about Sandy Hook, hope has absolute power over our shame. Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy is a testament to that. Since Sandy Hook, he has become one of the most powerful voices on gun violence prevention. His gun control filibuster in 2016 is one of the longest in history.

Stories of hope like Senator Murphy’s wring throughout history; stories like Anne Frank, Joan of Arc, etc. It’s what keeps us fighting.

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” — Anne Frank

Cynicism

Many others responded to that Sandy Hook comment with backlash. People replied insinuating that the woman was telling readers they should give up, so they offered solutions in defiance. I suppose comments like “if nothing happens, nothing will” can make the reader feel bad; the comment is black-and-white without a sign of hope. People in general don’t respond well to opinions stated like facts, which this one does, and it’s very hard to distinguish between the two from a stranger’s comment on the internet.

I compare this topic, the topic of tragedy, solutions, and the root in which they are beckoned, to what mental health is now and what cancer used to be. Back in the mid 1900’s, cancer was a taboo topic. Today, mental illness faces that stigma. Mental illness is wrapped in discomfort and it’s unusual if people freely discuss it. The reason why cancer and mental illness have stigmas in everyday interaction is because the other person likely can’t relate to such a serious topic, therefore the conversation gets cold. You can’t detect mental illness like a cough and give someone with depression an Advil and be done with it. Likewise, you can’t see into the mind of a senseless killer and change their mind with a special antidote. You can’t predict when they will break. You don’t want to ruffle their urge to inflict pain. You don’t have a cure. You might not have a personal experience of loss from senseless killings. Therefore, it goes undiscussed, wading in the water, until a a moment triggers them like a rock thrown inside and the ripples take form.

Real life is only for the strong and experienced when it demands vulnerability. It’s difficult to become raw in the face of innocent children lost, but how else can we save lives if we don’t face the pain? How else do we make better choices for everyone’s well-being if we don’t admit we’re wrong, if we don’t put the greater good above ourselves? And despite our love of instant gratification, when has that ever been the cause of long-term improvement in your life? We can’t keep pushing to the side the fact that life is hard and unfair, because if we keep worshipping happiness, the unhappy feel isolated and seek control, in their own definition.

Visiting the Bataclan, 2016

What I’m Trying to Figure Out

It dawned on me that among a thousand other things, the fact that life isn’t fair really upsets people. It upsets people to the point that, because their life isn’t fair, they don’t want your life to be fair either. I feel that way too, sometimes (It’s hard even for me to admit that. It’s like showing you the parts of me that are poison..human..”.

But we all face it, so why can’t we confront it? Believing an “eye for an eye” is a way to temporarily remove the feelings of being “forgotten.” It’s a way to assert control on moments where humans don’t have much control. At most, these thoughts get us through the day-to-day stresses we face. Yet, it solves nothing.

In some ways, we are powerless to survival instincts; our brain reacts to stress by going in fight-or-flight mode, and even our bones and muscles function by evolutionary law (or God if that’s your taste).

Life is unfair. I am deeply troubled each day by the number of murders and shootings that occur on our planet. I’m struck by how intelligence can send someone to Mars, but we can’t move past partisan debate over gun laws and healthcare. Our survival instincts still lead us to believe that if someone made you suffer or disagrees with what you say, they should be eliminated. Sometimes that means by murder.

— -

People are complicated, and some choose to hurt others. I’ve wanted other people hurt for hurting me. I’m ashamed to say it out loud, but I’m more ashamed that I haven’t spoken freely about it before in hopes of connecting with someone that feels the same way.

There’s no conclusion here. There is no system, process, or instruction manual to go by. If there was, we’d have an amendment that provides an overall consensus on gun laws, mental healthcare, and the unfairness of life.

We are not equal. Can we at least admit that? We fight for the identities we subscribe to. We have to stick up for ourselves every time we feel “forgotten.” We are in constant competition for a Life Manual that our imagination concocted. After all that time mental pushing for well-being, is there time left?

All I know is that the way we treat each other is not working. We have even become numb to tragedy due to its frequency. We believe the worst in people. We let our beliefs spill over into the minds of our next generation. We let our beliefs spill over into the minds of our next generation.

We throw our hands in the air, and we say it’s too hard to help. It is hard to help, but it’s not toohard. The only people responsible for the culture that’s been created is us.