I will be honest… it has been very difficult to turn on the news or log into social media lately. The recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, Fresno, and now Dallas have covered my news feeds and the airwaves. Even if I want to escape, I cannot if I want to stay plugged in. I’ve been up for several hours, unable to sleep thinking about these calamities.
While I am not affected directly by these tragedies, I cannot help but mourn the needless loss of life. Growing up in a middle-class home in suburban America, I was fortunate to have been isolated from much of the violence that occurs in other nations worldwide (and in other parts of this country). I am too young to have lived through Vietnam, and the conflicts in the Middle East (both Desert Shield/Storm and later the Iraq War) were too far away for me to understand the realities of war. Even now, the current conflict in the Middle East rages on, but we, the American public, do not dwell on that as much as we should. The vast amount of violence committed afar has desensitized us.
(My wife has a very good friend who is an active nurse in the US Army. While she is currently serving stateside, she completed 2 separate tours of duty in Afghanistan working on the front lines as a battlefield medic. While my wife has known her for over 10 years, we haven’t asked her much about her time overseas. I don’t think either my wife or I are prepared for any honest observations from the war zone.)
But now, the violence is here. Like 9/11, America is outraged that Americans are the ones dying. But unlike 9/11, the enemy are not people from another country. We are the enemy, just like we are the victim. And we do not know what to do with this.
Let’s be honest: the history of racial and gender-based violence is as old as this nation itself. Whether the victims are Native American, African slaves, or European immigrants, violence has littered this country for over 600 years. But those killings were not filmed live for others to see. Reading about tragedy in a dusty old textbook in a classroom is worlds apart then watching streaming video on a smartphone while eating dinner out with friends.
Over the last year, I’ve told close friends that I believe that a class war is brewing in America. The anger and frustration in many Americans is very real, especially in light of the economic disparities that seem to be growing day by day. The passion and emotional energy in this year’s presidential election confirms this; many Americans are demanding change. But my initial thoughts were that the class war would be 20 years in the making. Perhaps I’m wrong; we could be in the midst of it already.
Unlike the political pundits on TV, I cannot offer any answers to this dilemma. I don’t know how to curb violence, nor do I know how to solve the police brutality issue. I count police officers and military members as friends. I know their jobs are not easy. I understand why they wear bulletproof clothing to work. I cannot step into their shoes, just like I cannot walk in the paths of the victims. This is not about #BlackLivesMatter, nor it is about #BlueLivesMatter. The hashtags should simply be #LivesMatter and #stoptheviolence
We cannot hide from this truth: we are living in a violent time in our nation. The possibilities of violence can happen anywhere at any time, whether it originate from terrorists from abroad or other Americans; any of us can be the next victims.
Waves of emotions are rocking me now in this early morning. I am confused, I am angry, I am sad. But I refuse to be paralyzed by these emotions. And I won’t be shy in sharing my thoughts and trepidations about these recent events. Fear and isolation will only grow the anxiety; instead, we should be honest with ourselves AND with our community. We should talk about this with our close friends and family members. Yes, these are difficult conversations, but these are difficult times and trying circumstances. We are no longer children, hoping to wake up so the nightmare ends. If we are to attempt to stem the tide of violence, we need to engage this head on.
And when you talk to your friends and family about this, tell them that you love them. Don’t text or message them. Tell them in person, or at least over the phone; hear their voice and see their face. I know I don’t do that enough, either.