Living in America my entire life, I have seen a lot of tragedy.
One of my first memories of something significant is 9/11. Seeing those giant planes plunge into a symbol of America broke me; even if I didn't understand why at the time. I am part of the last generation who will remember 9/11 as the event it was, not a memory from a textbook. And as this year begins to come to a close, I fear for those who are in that place I once was. The number of atrocities I am witnessing seems to be increasing, while those in charge seem to be more concerned about their internet presence and lobbyists than promoting any actual change. At this time last year, I remember being on the phone with a friend in tears as she couldn't contact her family at her home church in Sutherland Springs in South Texas after a man waltzed in and began shooting. Over twenty people - eight of which being children - were ripped from their families and the media created a circus. Dehumanizing the victims and pushing a political agenda for either more guns or fewer guns (depending on which side of the aisle they are biased towards) makes me physically ill. But is that what this country has become?
Is anywhere safe?
When I was little, my mother always told me that the church was a safe place. If I needed any help - physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, whatever - the church was a place to go for help. Though I have since moved away from consistent attendance in a church, my faith has not been altered from my youth. I know that God is there, God is real, and He helps those who ask and gives them maybe not what they want, but what they need. But that is just the way it is, and that has always been a comfort to know that even if I feel as if I am losing control, someone is there to keep me on track. But for those of us who need a physical place to be and to connect with God, what happens to those when that sanctuary is ripped away? Seeing on the news the numbers and the horrors being thrown at those who had merely wanted to worship and give glory to God and to learn from His teaching... and they were punished simply because someone disagreed with their beliefs and with how they identify.
And for some, a church may not be that zone of a sanctuary, and the sanctuary is not a descriptor just for places of worship. It is a word that describes a situation where like-minded people can congregate in fellowship to find healing, trust, and love with each other. We saw this same thing happen a few years ago at a nightclub in Orlando when so many lives were lost because of hatred and bigotry that continues to thrive in this country under the guise of free speech.
Now you can go around and say anything you want about whatever you want as that is your right; and who am I to say that you should be stripped of your right to go out, speak your mind and let the whole world know just how stupid and backward you are. But when that hatred turns to spit fire and that fire turns into violence, and that violence becomes deadly, there is no reason why you should still be allowed to walk around free.
How can we move forward?
This is simpler than we want it to be but more difficult than it needs to be. We have to start working together to show all of those who stand on the other side of equality and human decency and let them know this is unacceptable. We live in a world where violence is negated with violence - and all of that starts at the top. You can't claim to be high and mighty sitting in your plush oval office saying violence isn't okay in a tweet when the next moment you are giving a press conference thanking someone on your side of the line for using/advocating violent acts that strengthen your position. As an American, I am furious watching what our country has become and even more furious that it seems no matter how I vote and no matter how I march and try to advocate for change that no one will listen. And this is why I am so scared of what is to come. The following video is a forum conducted at Villanova University trying to make sense of current societal issues plaguing the world and how collectively we can work to move on.
So what can we do?
We can support one another. We can become allies for one another, no matter how different we may be. You don't have to accept the ideology of everyone you interact with; you have to be a decent human and put yourself in their shoes. If you wouldn't want to be treated that way, don't let someone else is treated that way. Because one day that treatment you merely tried to ignore will fall back upon you one day, and those you watched be trampled on won't care as they watch you go down.