Thoughts Following Orlando

/ 12 June 2016

When it comes to what happened in Orlando, well, there is nothing simple any of us truly can say, because it is not a simple thing with a trivial fix. Something is severely broken in our society that we find ourselves all-too-often seeing (mass) shootings as a refrain of what the United States is. We’re in the midst of a presidential election where the entire world is focused on us given the sheer amount of power our nation holds, and this is part of what they see of us. That is far from a good thing. Putting aside what we as Americans believe about ourselves, how many people who live in other nations and ways of living may increasingly be hearing of these events and start questioning our abilities as true, peaceful, world leaders? In some ways this falls right in tune with the constant refrain the military’s actions have on other regions of the world as a mascot of our nation.

Many of us woke up to news of Orlando this morning. Since there is barely anything we can do individually to truly sway the forces that lead into events such as these we as a society need to wake up and figure out how to change what needs to change. Lives are worth enough that we cannot just stand idle as they’re torn apart. We must make real attempts to change our society.

Of course, perhaps depressingly, all we can honestly do is make attempts. We can individually change behaviors, but we cannot individually be certain that such behavioral changes will lead to societal shifts. The analogy of society to the very human bodies we each inhabit comes to mind. Countless organs and systems make up the human body, each of which plays a role in sustaining us and keeping everything with at least the appearance of working. In the same way we are these organs for society. We hold the power to make or break society, fall into violence or maintain peace, in the same way that our bodily organs hold the power to make us sick. In this sense, mass shootings are a plague that has been hitting our societal body for way too long. Where is our societal immune system?

Each one of us has had multiple moments burned deep into our long term memory such that we will never forget details of those moments. I’m probably correct in saying that 9/11/2001 is one such date that has such a hold on each of us. For me, Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration is another example, as too would be when I was taking care of my great-grandmother the day she died. We all can list dozens of such moments. Of note, such moments need not be negative at all. When will these mass shootings, each and every one of them (because, as much as we feel sick thinking of it, this will not be the last in all likelihood), become moments burned into our memory? When will we start remembering forever exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard of this mass shooting or that mass shooting (gosh, even that phrasing makes me a bit sick)? I fear that only once these moments are burned into our memory in a way like 9/11/2001 is, even for those of us on the other side of the country who are not directly affected (though, as one societal being none of us truly remain unaffected), will we all gain the necessary drive to actually change our society. But with so many such shootings the past few years, we naturally become too used to this sort of thing (too numb to it in some ways, perhaps?)  to have such vivid recollections. So we’ve reached this conundrum where one of the drives to heal our society of this plague is itself to have less of it, that is not a good thing because what are the chances of that actually working out?

We therefore must work to heal society in other ways. So, the task laid before us is that. In some ways a basic task, but in many ways a complex one. Let us each go to bed tonight dreaming of ways in which we can work as healers of our society. These need not be monumental achievements, and to be successful individually probably shouldn’t be, but standing idle is not an appropriate response.