I’ve been having a hard time writing my usual bits, as of late.
In this past year, I have witnessed and experienced more violence than I ever have in my life. It’s not just what I see on the television screen that disturbs me, it’s the fact that there are shootings and violence happening right in our own back yards.
Being based most of the year on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, I was deeply unsettled when there was a shooting at the Western Psychiatric Institute. Not only was it literally across the street from where I and many other students live, but it was also in a place where friends and family work in.
And with the onslaught of bomb threats that disrupted our lives for several months--everyone was on edge. We were all waiting for something terrible to happen. A real bomb going off--a shooting taking place--these were common place worries.
Thankfully, nothing transpired. Things went back to normal, and life was relatively calm.
But lately, I’ve been feeling on edge again. And I think that feeling is shared by a lot of folks.
I recently went to see the new Batman movie with some friends, but as I settled into my seat, I couldn’t help but think about the people who had done the exact same thing as I was doing; just relaxing and getting excited for a new movie--when someone came in and shot them.
Despite telling myself that I was safe, that there was nothing to worry about, I nonetheless felt uncomfortable. I had a hard time not worrying, and I found my eyes flickering to people who were milling about the theatre for drinks and pop corn. I had become paranoid; a quality that I detest in other people, and that much more in myself.
The movie itself was of extremely high quality. It was well written, massive in scale and had some really interesting and dynamic characters with depth and originality. However, the movies main focus was on pain, violence, and chaos. It was hard to watch the shootings, the explosions, the random killings that were playing out on screen. Whereas part of me thought it was a good movie with a good story, another part of me was totally emotionally exhausted by the time it was over. It just seemed to hark on so many of the sad things that are playing out in real life every day.
But then I thought, isn’t it sad that I can’t see a movie like this as a form of escapism anymore? Before, this vision of the future, this vision of terrorism and violence seemed so far away that it could be entertainment--but now, with everything going on, it just seems to show us how bad things can get--how possible these types of dystopian futures can be.
The fact that a lot of the battle scenes were in locations from around the city that I could recognize, many of them coming from the Oakland neighborhood that I call home made everything that much more real.
I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but suffice to say that the ending in my mind made the entire film--even for all of it’s darkness and sadness, worth it. I was relieved and even a little giddy when the film ended, so when I headed home, I was feeling pretty good.
But then I turned on the television, and I saw a report about the shooting in the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, in which a skinhead killed six people. I hadn’t heard about it until that moment, and I was so disgusted, that I turned the television off and went straight to bed. I didn’t even want to think about it.
First you can’t be safe when you go to the movies, and now you aren’t when you go to house of worship. Because it seems that no matter what you do, there is always going to be somebody who hates something that you are doing, no matter what it is, and will take action to make you stop it. Or to just end your life all together.
Where is all of this hate coming from? I understand that human beings, who have a tremendous capacity to love, also have the same capacity to hate. But in the United States, in our day to day lives, we have so much to be grateful for.
Yes, many things are in tumult, and we are in a difficult place right now in history, I don’t argue against that. It feels like right now we’re in between a past and a future America and everyone is afraid of taking the next step forward, so there is this insane rush towards the past to the point of ridiculousness (can anyone say Chik-fil-a Appreciation Day?) but we have so much more than so many others. We can improve our country as long as we do not remain apathetic and discouraged--we can create something better.
But instead, it seems that some people are bent on destruction--why?
How on earth does killing people, no matter who they are or what they are doing, solve anything? If anything it just perpetuates and encourages others to be just destructive. How does that add meaning to your life? How does that fix any of the problems that we have?
When watching the news, I’ve heard the same phrase repeated over and over again. “Now is not the time to talk about gun control.” Really? After two massive shootings this isn’t the right time to discuss possible solutions to violence? Really?
When is the right time? When a congresswoman gets shot? Oh wait, that already happened, and no one did a thing about it.
Even the president isn’t stepping up to the plate. He says the country needs to do some “deep soul-searching” in order to come up with a solution to end the violence.
Why is it that when former President George W. Bush instated the Patriot Act that allowed people “suspected” of terrorism to be held without trial, or that allowed the government to wiretap without warrants, no one put up a fight; but when their guns are threatened, they kick and scream like children deprived of their favorite toy?
Fear of terrorism lead us to give away our civil liberties with ease. Yet we put up a fight when it comes to taking automatic weapons off of the market. Could someone please explain this to me?
If we aren’t proactive and have a serious discussion about where we stand as a country on these types of issues, than we will be forced to just react to these kinds of senseless and, in some cases, preventable tragedies over and over again.
President Obama can ask us to soul search, but without his leadership in calling for a discussion, without some sort of attempt to get legislation on the table for some honest debate and deliberation, we’re just sitting ducks until this happens again.
It feels as if we get so lost in politics, in elections, in popularity and fundraising, that we’ve forgotten the reason that we have a government in the first place--to serve and protect the people.
I’m twenty. I’ve only been a legal adult for two years now. I don’t have much credibility when I talk, and people tend to discount what I say. I’m too young, too hopeful, not experienced enough, and naive.
But the fact of the matter is, they just found someone trying to sneak guns and ammunition into a Cleveland theatre.
I don’t care what goes on, but I refuse to become jaded, and I refuse to not have a benevolent and peaceful vision for my life and my country.
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Check out other articles from the always insightful and provocative, Mia Bencivenga: