I hope you’ve had a good, peaceful, productive week. Things are pretty busy after the first month of fall.
I don’t have the heart today to write to you about fashion shows—although Paris fashion week is still in full swing with the spring ready to wear collections—–or my opinions about love and marriage, or funny quotes. It’s a time for quiet musing, about the state of our country and our world.
Last Thursday, as I’m sure you know, there was a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, a small town of 22,000 people, which left 10 people injured and 10 dead (including the shooter). We CANNOT allow this to become a banal event, and ordinary occurrence in our lives. We just can’t. There are statistics flying around since the shooting that vary but essentially this was supposedly the 41st or 45th public shooting THIS YEAR, and the 141st in 3 years, since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, in addition to some random shootings in public places that left a smaller number of people dead. If you do the math on that, that means that there is approximately ONE shooting per week in public places like schools, colleges, or churches, or even in public restaurants. It means that the places that we send our children, or young adults, and assume they will be safe, are NOT safe by any means. You can send your kindergartner off to school now with their superhero lunch box and not be absolutely certain they’ll still be alive by lunchtime. If I had a school age child today, I would be terrified to send them to school. My youngest child graduated from college two years ago, and I would be just as panicked about her. But it’s not just schools, there are random shootings in churches now, so no one is entirely safe there. You might go to buy your groceries, or stop for a meal at a fast food restaurant, and it’s entirely possible that someone will open fire in the restaurant, leaving dead and injured victims everywhere, and grieving families in the news. What is happening to us? What are we not doing or seeing? What is wrong with our mental health care system that we are not identifying these very troubled people who commit these atrocious crimes, providing them the help they need, and stopping them before they kill innocent bystanders and children? Are we so blind to the troubled people among us? Do we not care? Are we afraid to speak up when we know that someone in our communities is putting the rest of us at risk? Is human life so totally without value that we just accept this now as a symptom of modern life? It is truly, truly shocking, beyond words.
It used to be that a crime of this nature was a major, singular, unusual and unheard of event. Now it is common place. One a week. A few months ago, we turned on the news on TV and saw a pretty young 24 year old reporter shot and killed in cold blood, and her cameraman with her, and the interview subject shot and wounded. And this is not entirely unique to the United States, although more of it happens here. Recently, all of Europe was shocked when an armed gunman, with automatic weapons, boarded a fast train from Amsterdam into France, and shot a number of people before 3 American servicemen jumped on the gunman and stopped him, an incredible act of courage. A year or so ago, a deranged gunman in Norway shot a summer colony full of children. And the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris earlier this year left not only political targets dead, but innocent people buying groceries for the weekend. These events stand out more in Europe, because they are much more rare. But once a week in the U.S.? What is happening to us that we have become so desensitized and dehumanized that this is happening week after week, and has been for several years, that this is common place now, and getting worse?
I have never been a political person, and it strikes me that this is not only about terrorism or mental illness in a troubled world. It’s not just about gun laws, which is a sensitive and explosive issue and political hot potato. This is about ALL of us as human beings. We are ALL at risk. I have many children and a few friends, and like everyone else, I go to the grocery store, and the post office, the dry cleaner and restaurants. I park my car in supermarket parking lots. My children lead their daily lives doing equally ordinary things in other cities, and probably yours do too. How do we keep them safe, and each other and ourselves safe? How do we form a chain of people stretched across the country and our world, to remain connected, alert, and caring, to protect each other. It’s in our constitution that we have the right to bear arms. But not to randomly kill other people, and innocents. More importantly in this great country, home of the American dream for generations, we have a right to live in peace and know that our children are safe.
Let’s all give this some serious thought, and we need to collectively and individually come to some conclusions so that we won’t be reading about one of these tragedies every week, or living it ourselves. I don’t know the answers, but together we need to come up with some. There is talk of arming teachers in classrooms, what a sad statement about our world. I hope we find an answer to this tragedy. And in the meantime, my deepest sympathy to the latest victims and their families and loved ones.
With all my love, Danielle