“We have a long way to go.”
I wrote those words the same hour the Las Vegas shooting rampage was unfolding. Only I didn’t know it was happening at the time.
Contemplating various social ills that evening, I typed for only a few minutes before I gave up and went to bed.
Sometimes resignation – or just plain fatigue – gets the best of us. We stop pushing. We stop advocating. We burrow under the covers. What could I say that hadn’t already been said by thinkers much wiser than me?
I couldn’t come up with a fresh take on the problems that keep pestering us, the barrage of issues that grab at our ankles like red ants. So my thoughts followed me to my pillow.
Seven hours later, I woke to tragic news.
Our issues have been local: A new wave of Fresno Unified School Board conflict. Teachers unhappy and unsettled. Clovis Unified students tweeting unspeakable displays of racism and hatred. Fresno City Council members flummoxed by the challenges of our homeless population.
Our issues have been national: President Trump talking in circles, supporters and detractors looking past each other, unwavering in their own truths. Congress standing in ovation and smiling across the aisle only as a Republican second-baseman returned from rehab, standing to address his colleagues while metal plates held his pelvis together.
People of various backgrounds struggling to see past their religious or ethnic differences, if they’re trying at all.
We continue debating the level of sexism that permeates our personal and professional lives. Are women being valued in the workplace? Can men stay home to tend their kids?
If we can’t fully reconcile our cisgender roles, what hope is there for members of the LGBTQ community who often stand in the margins?
Sixty years after the flesh-peddling Playboy magazine was founded, we continue to argue its redeeming qualities because the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and David Foster Wallace were published within its pages.
Through a prism of judgment, we toil against ourselves, feeling too fat or too old or too poor. We stand in the Kodachrome world of Oz, fretting that we don’t have enough brain or heart or courage to get through another day. Yet we create a reasonable facsimile of who we’d like to be and post the illusion on social media.
It really is a tornado out there. Or a never-ending sequence of hurricanes.
And then 59 people are shot dead.
You will find no panacea in my words – only a reminder that we mustn’t give up.
In this great mess of our world, you will still find a nurse-husband who draped his body over his doctor-wife in order to save her life. Let not his death be in vain.
The monster who raged his rifle into the crowd on Sunday night was mentally ill. You can call him evil. You can call him a gun-hoarding suicidal sociopath. He was all of those things. But primarily, he was mentally ill.
Predicting the behavioral inconsistencies of mental illness isn’t our strong suit. Further, we tend to believe in the best intentions of our fellow man until he proves us wrong. While goodness fuels this collective virtue, we must not play the fool.
Neither should we close our hearts. We must remember that we all share similar DNA, only in varied sequence. The difference between good and bad behavior is most often a personal choice. Hateful thinking has the power to erase our connections just as easily as an automatic rifle from a hotel window.
I wrote these sentences the night before I learned of the mass shooting:
“In church this morning, I had a thought that could have germinated just as easily in a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, a Buddhist temple, or a Sikh gurdwara: ‘We have a long way to go.’
This conclusion was prompted by all the polarizing forces present in our local community and in our society as a whole. How can we bridge the gaps between us?”
Let us remember those who came together in Las Vegas, yet lost their lives on a concert field. Let us remember the shell-shocked heroes who lifted the injured into a better night.
We can find the power to rise above the maladies that plague us.
Bloody massacre, be remembered and be damned.
Danielle R. Shapazian is a nurse and writer who lives in Fresno. She can be reached at Danielle.Shapazian@sbcglobal.net.