I will probably get back to post about Slovenia later today, but right now, all I can think about is the horrible juxtaposition of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. So many dead. So many wounded. So many times we in the United States turn on our televisions to have them filled with police officers behind crime tape and press conferences with politicians and police chiefs updating the death toll and the condition of the wounded and what we know about the perpetrator.
Each new iteration feels like a surreal retelling of the same story. Different details. Same shock, grief, and bewilderment.
People ask, “How could it happen here?” It can happen anywhere in the United States. A school. A church. A store. A nightclub. A workplace. A movie theater. Any day. Any time.
It happened a few miles away from my home in April, 2009.
Many of us have made pleas for stricter gun laws, which sometimes works at the state level. Many of us have advocated for better mental health care, which sometimes works at the state level. But state borders are easily crossed, so we need action at the federal level.
Increasingly, though, the perpetrators appear not to be suffering from mental illness. Instead, they are shooting at people as an expression of hatred, because of race or religion or national origin or sexual orientation or some other difference that, in their viewpoint, sets “us” against “them.”
It is hateful rhetoric turned into hate-fueled action.
I don’t know if that brand of rhetoric stops, it will lead to fewer deaths and injuries, but it is well-worth trying, especially if it is replaced by respectful conversation where people of differing viewpoints actually listen to one another.
It may sound like a pipe dream, but it is possible. There are already people in both the public and private sphere who model this behavior.
It’s something we can all do, in addition to the oft-requested thoughts and prayers.
Today, I am renewing my commitment to respectful dialogue. Will you?