Sending love to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
26.305° N, 80.270° W
I originally wrote this post while studying abroad in Europe — almost exactly two years ago. The shooting I spoke of was different, but the idea is the same: we have to stop acting like this is normal.
February 26th, 2016
Tonight, I am not feeling all that proud to be an American. I woke up in my hostel this morning in Kraków, Poland, mentally preparing myself to witness some uncomfortable and eye-opening sights at Auschwitz concentration camp. While sitting at breakfast, I heard the news that back home in the US, another violent shooting had taken place in Hesston, Kansas, a small town with countless connections to my family.
Throughout the entire day at Auschwitz, I learned about the countless atrocities inflicted by the Nazis upon various groups of Europeans during WWII. The tour ended at a memorial which paid tribute to the victims in all 23 languages they may have spoken, serving as a “warning to humanity” about what had gone on during that period (and what could just as easily happen again).
The Holocaust was a massive attack against a very specific group of people, and I am in no way comparing it to any other event from recent history. Rather, seeing the camp today has made me reflect on how we respond to violence in times of tragedy.
Within two years of the end of the war and the liberation of prisoners from concentration camps in the 1940s, Auschwitz became a museum with the goal to educate people on the horrific events that transpired there. Since opening, millions of people have passed through the gates and have learned from the guides about what happened there and how we can keep it from happening again.
Fast forward to more recently, when European cities like Brussels and Paris have been forced into their own times of tragedy following violent attacks on their citizens. They have felt worldwide support in response to their times of hardship, and have banded together to publicize their condemnation of the violence.
In the United States, I believe we are suffering from our own tragedy — the tragedy of numbness to violence, of arrogance regarding our responses, and of selfishness when we are personally unaffected. In 2015, there were 330 mass shootings in the US (a mass shooting is defined by the FBI as “four or more people shot or killed in a single event”). Almost every day, it seems, we wake up to news of another violent crime, and most of us — myself included — might think to ourselves, “Another one, that’s so sad,” and go about our day. When we are not personally affected by an event, it doesn’t feel real, and when they happen so often, it begins to feel normal.
It’s not normal. When I heard about the Hesston shootings today, I was personally affected for the first time, and it finally shook me awake to realize just how messed up our “culture of numbness” really is. In this case, I knew the town well. 3/4 of my parents attended college there along with other family members and friends, my stepmom is a VP at Hesston College, and some of my extended family still lives there. Not to mention that my grandmother was in the town at the time of the shooting, because her flight back to Indiana had been canceled due to weather. It should not have taken this kind of personal connection for me to understand how sick and twisted our attitude is toward violent crime in the United States, but it did — and I think this would be the case for many others in the US as well.
I am not one to push my opinion on others or try to “convert” someone to believe what I do. People can think and speak out and vote however they please. I think my opinion on guns and violent crime can probably be inferred from this post, but more than that I want to just say this: an increased frequency of violent events does not decrease the sadness we should feel about it, nor the action we should take to prevent it happening again.
On February 14th, 2018 — Valentine’s Day — a disgruntled former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 people.
This is the deadliest school shooting in the US since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
It is also the 18th school shooting of 2018 for the United States, and the 30th mass shooting overall.
We’re only 45 days into this year.
This isn’t normal, it doesn’t happen everywhere, and it doesn’t have to get worse before it can get better.
Enough is enough.