An Open Letter About Orlando

With a heavy heart, I struggle to understand how mass shootings like these can continue to keep happening.

As much as we keep blaming terrorism (and, by extension, Islam whether they are involved or not), this is not simply about terrorism as we have come to define it.  It seems now that whenever the media uses the term terrorism, they are talking about some outside group (now it’s ISIS, but the guilty party has changed over the years) attacking a “civilized” nation like America, Belgium, France, etc.

The definition of terrorism is “(1) the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes / (2) the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism.”  The purpose of these acts is to create a state of fear without our country.

In 2001, Al-Qaeda was successful in this aim.  Though I was only 9 years old when the twin towers fell, I remember how scary this was.  I remember how terrified the adults around me were, how suddenly rules everywhere were changing.  Schools now had locked doors and every visitor had to report to the office first to receive a badge and sign in.  Airports cracked down on security like no one before could have believed.  The air was thick with fear as people waited to see what would happen next.  Would another country try to attack us while we were brought low?

Over the years, we have been brought low time and time again by senseless attacks.  Aurora.  Virginia Tech.  I cannot express to you the shock and horror I felt in 2012 when I heard about Sandy Hook.  I remember where I was, the same way many do with 9/11.  I had just come upstairs to hear it on a special breaking news bulletin.  The horror existed for a different reason than 9/11, though.  Not only was I in my second year of college to become a teacher, but these were young children that were being killed.  Stories of the bravery of the teachers and the children were the only piece of hope I felt during the few days after that attack.

I thought for sure after that that things were going to change.

The only thing that changed is that teachers now have to go through periodic training called ALICE training that teaches what to do if a shooter is inside the school.  Doesn’t that seem a bit backward, though?  Shouldn’t we be trying to prevent the guns from getting into the school in the first place?

The scary thing is that most of these deadly attacks have actually very little to do with with “terrorism” was we’ve come to define it.  Of the six deadliest mass shootings in US history (Orlando [2016]; Virginia Tech [2007]; Sandy Hook [2012]; Killeen, TX [1991]; San Ysidro, CA [1984]; Austin, TX [1966]; San Bernardino [2015]), only 2 have to do with Islamic terrorists.  Most of the time, we are dealing with US citizens.  Even this latest tragedy was caused by a US citizen, though he allegedly had Islamic ties.

There are bigger issues here than whether or not he was working with ISIS.  After tragedies like Aurora’s theatre shooting and Sandy Hook, the government has focused its attention on mental illness, which is commendable.  For too long, mental illness has been neglected or hidden because of societal shame.

But it’s not enough, nor is it the full story.  I question why the weapons that are constantly being used in these attacks are being sold.  If you’re going hunting, do you really need a cartridge that can hold a massive amount of ammunition?  Are you really that bad of a shot?

Do not misunderstand me; I am not calling for the banning of guns, per se.  I am asking why large assault/semi-automatic rifles are on the market, available for anyone to purchase.

I am fed up with the pandering coming from Congress.  So is this man, who has made it his mission of the day to point out their hypocrisy:

This is only one of many of these tweets–he’s been at it all day, pointing out the politicians who have tweeted without mentioning guns, LGBT, or other things that would make you wonder why they left it out.

As much as I would love this world to be filled with people who love each other regardless of political views, religion, sexual orientation, race, social class, and more, I know that this is unrealistic.

Still, it has been comforting to see people helping out.  Twitter is alight with tweets of sympathy and websites where you can donate money to help the families of those who were killed.  Over 600 people reported to one site to donate blood today.

It is heartwarming to see everyone begin to band together after a tragedy occurs.  I only wish it didn’t take a tragedy for us all to come together.


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