“What I mean is… maybe it’s only us…” – Lord of the Flies
Normally I’m a really talkative guy. Today, I’m quiet. I’m out of things to say.
50 people dead for … no reason. Of course, the blame started immediately, along with the equally useful promises of prayers and “standing with Orlando” (really, what the hell does that even mean?). The politicizing was instantaneous and vicious from both sides.
Rationally speaking, it’s only a small percentage of all Muslims worldwide are extremist. Yet they get the most attention, they are the ones entering an international dialogue. Rationally speaking, if people were healthy and well-adjusted, gun control wouldn’t matter. The crux of the issue is that if we, as people, knew ourselves we could come to grips with the fact that it’s not Islam or about guns – it’s now and has always been all about us.
We as a people don’t know ourselves. We see terrible things happen and we say we’ll pray and we’ll stand with them. Then we get outraged when shootings happen again, and we pray more. Then we argue about whether it’s religion or guns or the right or the left or the liberals or the conservatives or anyone but us. It just can’t be us.
Because it is us. I sit here and type about the deaths of 50 people who I probably never knew, and there’s blood on my hands. You reading this, there is blood on your hands. We point the finger and place blame and argue because somewhere deep down in our societal consciousness, we know that we are to blame. No one else bears the responsibility for these atrocities but the American people. Not the liberals, or the conservatives or the democrats or the republicans or the Social Justice Warriors or the NRA Lobbyists – it’s just us. We pray and make empathetic noises and then turn on the TV and watch something else, assured in the fact that it was someone else’s fault, and our hands are clean.
It is our complacency that has created these atrocities. We sit, happily immersed in our protective cocoon of advertising, never needing to think about our (in)actions or how we ended up where we are, reassured in the message that the advertisers tell us we deserve, we are entitled. We avoid discourse because it makes us uncomfortable. There’s no real discussion, and disagreements quickly devolve into absurd caricatures of arguments. We are so afraid to know ourselves because we are afraid that we might actually find that we are, all of us, responsible for these tragedies.
I’m reminded of a book I read first in high school, and many times since then. I think of it far too often for my own comfort.
Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”
― William Golding, Lord of the Flies
The beast is us, and we are it. Until we learn to accept that we are the beast, we can go no further. We are the ‘why things are what they are.’
We are responsible. All of us together.
While I know that we the people are the problem, I have no idea what to do about it. That’s what scares me most of all.
I don’t care about any of the initial motivations — was he Muslim, could gun control have prevented this–none of that matters. What matters to me is that it could have been me. It could still be me. I might know someone who died last night. I might know someone who died for the sole reason that someone disagreed with them in a place they thought was safe. What crushes me is that I’m not special in this. I’m not alone in feeling like this. I’m just the latest. We are doing nothing about it. We’ll make more comforting noises to ourselves, pat ourselves on the back about how good people we are and talk to ourselves saying if people had just listened to us, none of this would have happened. Then, our forms paid to our egos, we’ll turn on the TV and move on our with our lives. Until next time.