Editor Column: Violence warrants discussion, not silence
Part of me must be dead.
It must, because as the death toll in Orlando continued to climb in the early hours of Sunday I was gripped neither by grief nor shock. There was nothing as I scrolled through the push alerts that inundated my phone while I slept. My tone was equally hollow as I told Sam what happened when she got out of bed. It was all so matter of fact.
Part of me must be dead.
This was not my reaction when first hearing about the dead children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. There was a gasp, a rush to try and learn more and, at some point that day, tears.
This was not my reaction when word spread about bombs going off at the Boston Marathon, although the need to determine if any members of the university community were present at the event delayed everything but the adrenaline rush.
It was not my reaction when a gunman stormed an Aurora movie theater. That time I stopped working — the job during this particular tragedy was at a pizzeria and not a newsroom — and watched the TV.
But on Sunday I did not even mention Orlando when a good friend from Cincinnati called me shortly after getting out of bed. Months separated that conversation from the last time we spoke, so instead of discussing the unfathomable and senseless horror hundreds of miles away, we talked about work, our families, when he was going to pop the question to his long-time girlfriend.
People were still sorting through the dead bodies piled in a gay Orlando nightclub as we talked.
The conversation ended, and I turned on NPR and listened as I made breakfast. By that point the massacre had earned the title of worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Eventually, the computer was fired up in order to find a detailed account of the events up until that point. I don’t recall feeling much as I read, but I learned I’m not dead — not entirely at least — because I did feel something Sunday. It was sickness stemming from apathy.
I am not nearly foolish enough to think I hold the, or really any answers as to what we should do to clot the gaping wound that grows larger from continued mass violence in this country. I do know that something needs to be done, and it would seem challenging to find a good number of people in this country who are content with the status quo.
Undeniably, opinions on what we should do vary greatly, but have the discussion.
Yes, it is important to remember the 49 innocent people slaughtered by an individual I struggle to call anything but a monster. Those injured and the families of all involved should not be left out of our prayers, thoughts or whatever you personally choose to do.
But that is not an excuse to freeze, and I dispute the notion that it is irreverent to immediately dive into such discussion following a tragedy, because with the passing of each we lose another chunk of our humanity.
Pointing to violence that fails to engulf the global news cycle, such as that on the streets of Chicago, is not validation that we — human beings — are somehow less than what we are. It is only further proof that this sickness is rampant and urgent care is needed.
And so at the end of the day I’m left wondering if we as a country will sit idle and watch another limb wither away or if we will get up to truly start the healing process.
Ryan Hoffman is the editor of The Citizen Telegram. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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