A few years and a few months ago, I found the body of my abusive ex-boyfriend outside my apartment. He had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after attempting to break into my home and also shoot me. That day changed my life and my heart.
That day made me (more) passionate about gun violence.
To say my story is isolated or individual is false; thousands of men, women, and children die in domestic disputes in which guns are present every year. Thousands more die by suicide using a gun. Thousands more die on top of those numbers accidentally, or in workplace incidents, or in acts of terror—the list goes on and on.
All that to say this:
Every time there is a mass shooting, or shooting in general, that captures the attention of the nation, I watch to see how people I know react. Are they shocked? Are they fearful? Are they defensive? Are they grieving? Do they seek solace in religion? Are they compelled to action?
Usually, the way a person reacts to one shooting is the way they react to all shootings. If prayer soothes them, they ask others to pray. If action speaks to them, they ask others to act. If they believe in gun control, they call on others to believe with them. If they defend their right to bear arms, they ask others to stand with them. Crisis makes people fall back to their most solid of beliefs.
Occasionally, though, someone’s tone shifts.
Maybe the location of the tragedy is one of personal importance. Maybe the event the tragedy occurred at is one they hold dear. Maybe they identify with a victim, see themselves in someone who was killed. Maybe they know someone close to them that was there, or maybe they lost someone. Maybe a million things. But the one thing, the only thing, that I’ve seen change someone is this:
The tragedy becomes personal.
That sudden awareness of being unsafe, that sudden clarity that “this could be me/my partner/my kids/my friends”, God forbid the loss of a life linked to your own—that’s the only thing that I’ve seen change someone.
And every time I see that switch, see someone’s tone change, see naked grief and fear and anger—that tears me up. I’ve been in that mind, in that body, in that place when those emotions flood over. I cry with these changing people I know. I cry for them. I feel my own scars, and grieve that they’ll carry the same ones.
And in a darker, more selfish place, I feel deeper, more complicated anger and sadness. Why did this have to come so close to you to make you see? Why didn’t you look before? Why couldn’t you care before today? Why couldn’t the other tragedies be enough for you to change?
Why wasn’t my suffering enough for you to change?
So that, friends, is where I am today. I worry about the pattern I see, the lack of caring until it becomes too close to ignore. I tell myself that surely people don’t need to experience this first hand to change – and then time and time again, they do.
I have no answers. I have nothing other than the hope that you, all of you, don’t ever feel this too. I hope you pray and call your representatives and gather your loved ones close. I hope you wake up tomorrow and your life is intact.
And I hope you change anyway.
– Amanda Whites –
(Thoughts? Comments? The comment section is at the bottom of the page. Add yours!)