America is in trouble. Not a day goes by without a shooting, or so it seems. Just as others are worrying, I don’t know how to make sense of sweeping hatred and hideous acts of terrorism. I see memes supporting gay rights, expressing that love conquers all, encouraging us all to band together. People pray for the families who have lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, spouses in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and so many other places where these tragedies have happened. Do these prayers work? Is it enough to light a candle or have a vigil? It seems like the people who share memes with their own social networks are really preaching to the choir. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve shared various messages of unity and love, as well as changing my Facebook profile picture to pledge allegiance to various groups. But, I’ve been thinking about this more critically, as well. Does posting on social media really do much to educate or stop someone from committing an act of violence and hate?
Posting these messages makes us feel like we’re doing a little something in a defenseless sea of worry. But is this really working? I feel horribly about this most recent act of terror and how it was targeted to the LGBTQ population at a night club, but I really feel like it could have been (and has been) any group. If we look at the shooting in December 2015 at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, the terrorists murdered people of all ethnicities. They just happened to be at work. Same with the Orlando shooting: the victims, both the deceased and the wounded, were simply trying to have a fun night at a dance club for Pride Month.
Clearly, victims can be, have been, and might be any group: the LGBTQ community, Jewish people, children at an elementary school, employees at a county office, people with learning or physical differences, Democrats, Republicans. Despite these vast differences among distinct groups, one thing is true: nobody is safe from terrorists.
In the blink of an eye, or rather, at the pull of a gun trigger or the detonation of a pipe bomb, a person can lose his or her life. So many lives are gone or changed because of mass shootings and terrorist attacks.* I am concerned about the copy-cat nature and (necessary) media coverage of these attacks, and how they affect other would-be terrorists. I think the martyrdom is a possible draw for some people with anti-social personality disorder, as well as hatred running through their veins.
How can I help? How can you help? I have the distinct honor and priviledge of working with people one-on-one and having intimate, private conversations about their worries, fears, anger, and beliefs. In my work, I am trying to spread empathy, as much as help my life coaching clients achieve their goals. This goes far beyond posting an image on social media.
I challenge you consider how you’re contributing to the problem and to the solution in our society. Do you think you know someone who feels marginalized? Is that person being seen by a therapist or a coach? Is an extremist group getting to these people before you can listen to them? The draw of some extremist groups is a sense of family or belief/work for a greater good. Most of my readers are liberal-minded and can’t fathom why someone might sympathize with a group who promotes terrorism and xenophobia. But, if we put ourselves in those shoes (if we have empathy), maybe we can befriend someone who feels down and out and needs to talk before a violent act is committed. Again, having a real conversation helps immensely, much more than faceless and nameless memes on the Internet.
Overall, I maintain that America is in trouble. The conversation and a change is not being had for how to stop these mass shootings. Everyone from each political group needs to step up and work together on this major issue. No more lives can be lost in this way.
*This article tracks mass shootings since 2013.
The image is from Shutterstock.