Have we become a society that no longer cares about our children or elderly? Have we retreated back to the days of the Wild West where everyone bears arms and lawlessness wins? There are at least two categories that exist currently in our society that stem from the so-called “Haves” and “Have Nots.” One side encompasses people of color, marginalized communities, and the working class who routinely have no voice. The other side is the wealthy, or more affluent members of our society, that includes elected leaders and community leaders. This group’s wealth and statute makes them immune to the current problems that plague society such as gun violence. The COVID-19 pandemic, while devastating the majority of working class individuals in some way or another, managed to create more wealth opportunities for those who were already worthy, and somewhat immune to the devastation caused by the pandemic due to the resources they readily had available. The Haves represent the wealthy individuals who can afford better healthcare, do not have public-facing jobs and can work remotely, CEOs, trust fund kids, entertainers, athletes, and dare I say social media stars! The Have Nots or working class get to endure the opposite; no opportunities or limited chances at remote work, long lasting inflation complications, increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the hazards of having to use public transportation. These additional factors coupled with the steady, and alarming increase in gun violence, has led to an all new epidemic that our leaders have offered no real solution to. This unprecedented amount of violence has touched every facet of our lives tragically from churches, synagogues, malls, and most recently impacting society’s most vulnerable again at our schools, and at a supermarket.
Ultimately what the past two years and beyond has shown us is that violence has a profound impact on everyone. We have a hideous disease that does not care about politics, race, or your economic status. We have a violence epidemic that is currently engulfing the country. As a result, you can be killed, and hunted like an animal based on how you look, who you sleep with, and what you believe. You can be killed by a teen, or adult assailant. Your assailant may ultimately have their evil deeds explained away by their defense attorney. These evil deeds can be defended with possible defense justifications that can include society or peer pressures, over saturation of violence in the media, radicalization by social media, untreated or undiagnosed mental illness, or the most recent justification floating around by a family member of the Buffalo gunmen, COVID related mental illness. The fact is, we are not judge and jury over other human beings. We cannot pretend to understand why such heinous acts are being committed. In rare occasions an explanation may be offered, however, is there really any explanation that can justify this horrific act of murdering other human beings? We know that in most instances there may be witnesses to these heinous events beforehand, whether those victims are family, or friends, or social media audiences. In the case of gunmen in Texas, his relative alluded to the fact that he had a tendency to be very aggressive. Perhaps that aggression, which may have been pacified in previous generations in that family, should have been checked and treated for this person. It is not normal to glorify violence and it is not normal to be overly aggressive. We have failed yet again another young individual and the repercussions were a heinous, unspeakable, and inexcusable act of violence among the most vulnerable. Why? All in the name of greed to allow violent, unstable individuals their rights to bear arms over the rights of our children to be safe.
In the case of the Buffalo mass shooting, allegedly a teen who is still alive, may have been radicalized by extreme racism. It takes more than social media posts. It takes an unshakable belief that someone who is different from you does not deserve to live. If someone is suffering from mental illness the first sign that they need help or commitment is that they are a danger to themselves or someone else. I fail to believe that in either situation, friends, family, society, neighbors, or doctors did not notice signs. This is where we are failing as a society. Mental illness, drug addiction, and poverty are just some attributes that have always been topics that those in leadership choose to ignore. They pacify society by claiming to throw funding into studies or organizations that promise to help, but where is the accountability? We have a justice system that fails to rehabilitate. We fail to acknowledge that there is no cure for true sociopaths and everything cannot be explained away as a mental health issue.
We have failed to identify adequate mental health channels of help for families or caregivers who do notice warning signs and do want to actively help their loved one before something tragic happens. We label everything as a mental illness issue without laying out a plausible plan that includes accountability. Who is really at fault here, and how many of these senseless and preventable mass shootings and crimes have to take place before change happens? It is every human being’s right to live in a safe environment. Every child deserves to feel safe in their schools. A person should be able to go to a church, synagogue, shop, movie theater, concert, supermarket, or any place without the fear of their safety. Families of those with mental illness deserve to have resources to help family members , and systems in place to assist if they cannot handle a situation. As members of society, it is our right to see real accountability and not false intentions of claiming to do more.
Our Call to Action
Putting a bandaid on this issue by demanding better gun laws is a start but it is not by any means the final resolution. It is sad to say the least that we are having another conversation and more protest about more vulnerable young children and caregivers being massacred in what should be a safe place. It is sad that we are mourning some of our oldest members of society who died simply doing a routine errand of picking up groceries all based on how they looked. It may be time to stop looking for one answer and address this with every tool possible. Our systems are broken, and making stricter laws will not fix that. It is crucial that we start addressing all of the other underlying problems with as much fervor as possible. That includes prisons and the failure to rehabilitate adult and juvenile offenders, lack of quality education, outdated school curriculums that teach only testing skills, lack of suitable employment programs, etc. It is time we face facts that some will not be able to be rehabilitated. Hatred is taught and a learned behavior. We all bare the responsibility to report things we see, and to hold social media and leaders accountable.
We are in a national crisis, one that no one did anything about over 20 years ago with Columbine and each event after. After Las Vegas, we shed a tear and moved on. After Pulse nightclub we moved on. Over a decade ago our youngest children were slaughtered and no hand was raised in leadership to effectively change the trajectory of where we now stand. Today we mourn yet again. What do we say to these parents and families both devastated and hurt? Their anger is pacified by promises to do better. Will we do better? Instead we will help everyone else but not actively sit and request our community representative to do more to require responsibility. What problem would it be to conduct background checks or tighten up gun licensing requirements? We require licenses and testing in order to drive and yet there is no similar procedure to carry a lethal weapon? We can not live healthy lives if we live in fear, or are held hostage by the selfish need to have access to assault weapons. A New York mother whose daughter was shot while sitting in a parked car and her nephew killed said, “I pay taxes and have a right to be safe. My child who works hard should be able to sit in a car and have a meal with her family without being shot in her neighborhood.” That mother is still waiting for justice today. The parents of the Sandy Hook children who were slaughtered over a decade ago are still waiting for justice. The families and victims of the 200 plus mass shootings to date are waiting for justice. We have not scratched the surface of what the impact of this will have on those closely affected by these massacres, let alone the rest of society. We are in a mental health crisis because of the lasting trauma many communities are facing. How long will we continue to ignore it?