Every time it’s the same story. News of mass murder. At first, when we know next to nothing, we speculate. Must be those evil assholes again. Maybe we catch ourselves. We think, whoa, hold on. Maybe we don’t know that yet. But those guns — my goodness, the guns! When will America learn?
We conveniently ignore facts. Such as the high proportion of guns (legal or not) in many other countries. I don’t like guns very much myself. But I don’t see them as evil because by themselves, they don’t do much. It’s always the human hands that cause trouble. And those hands can always find other tools to do their deeds — remember Nice? There is senseless violence everywhere. But we don’t think about that. We think about our theory.
Some information trickles in, and we jump on it. I knew it! Islamic State claims responsibility. Those bastards. Unless of course they’re lying. Then it must be something else. Race? Anger? Something? Anything?
Sigh. We really need to do better. No, we need to be better.
We seem to have lost touch with our common humanity when we fail to see others as people just like us. When we objectify them so we can crush our political adversaries on Twitter. It’s not helping.
Losing touch with our common humanity is not a new problem; I’ve read too much history to pretend otherwise. But we’re no closer to solving it than the ancestors we mock as unspeakably retrograde ever were. Maybe we’re not as evolved as we like to think.
I’m not absolving myself, in case you were wondering. When I heard the news that a massacre had happened at a country music festival in Las Vegas, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it had been perpetrated by a middle-aged white man, and that his motives were political. When I heard I’d got the first part right, I started feeling disgusted with myself.
I’d done it. I had, without meaning to, failed to think about humans first. Instead I moved right along to making a cold, rational point about society and politics. (I did not say anything about my guess and the reasons behind it to anyone. But I thought it.)
I am writing this as a public slap across my own smug face. I shouldn’t be part of the problem. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to touch our common humanity — at least aspire to it. I want to try to comfort the ones who are hurting, and do my bit to contribute to a more humane world.
I don’t quite know how to do that. The only thing I can think of at the moment is to refrain from engaging in political fights over who said what about whom and who’s secretly wishing for what outcome and isn’t it just typical of them to say what they just said. I will hug my children, try very hard not to complain (about anything, I mean), and do my best to listen to others — really listen, not wait for a chance to incinerate their arguments — when they speak to me.