It is hard to sleep. Tonight, I struggle to reach the land of the sandman because I kept wondering if another scenario like the one at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina was taking place elsewhere in the land of the free.
That may be a little dramatic, although it does feel as if these horrific events are becoming more and more prevalent. And yet, as I sit and ponder the frequency of such shootings, I cannot help but reflect on whether the people who no longer walk the streets become just another statistic.
The crimes of Dylann Roof become further numbers in a larger national problem that includes events like those in Aurora, Colorado or Newtown, Connecticut. Movie theaters, Elementary Schools, and now Church buildings are marked as places of violence. Where can we find safety?
Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson, join the list of others like Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray.
What haunts me is the knowledge that these individuals have names. The media so blessed the public with major coverage of these events that we know the names of the places, victims, and perpetrators associated with each.
What haunts me is that I have no idea where the list ends. With over 33,000 gun related deaths in the United States in 2013, where is the media coverage and the outrage of the unnamed and the forgotten?
Yes, I recognize there is not enough time in the day to give ample attention to all these individuals no longer with us. And yes, I recognize that the events I am alluding to are all very different. Context is key, and none of these events and individuals are the same. We cannot fall victim to categorizing these events of violence within the scope of a single issue.
There are, however, intersections that connect each and every one of these events — Gun violence, Police Brutality, Mental Health, Racism, Classism and the list could continue.
In the aftermath, I often both witness and experience a level fearfulness. I am fearful myself despite the fact that my skin color and gender qualifies me a greater level of safety in this society we have created for ourselves. As try to wrap my mind around my personal privilege and this cycle of violence, it would seem that tonight I am having some trouble sleeping.
As I read through social media, I struggle to share my own opinions. Am I posting something for people to read and “like”? Am I venting? Am I trying to let people know where I stand on a particular issue?
I read, “How long, O Lord” and “Why God” virtually every other post, and I echo similar sentiments.
But I have other questions too.
“When are we going to pour more money and more effort into supporting better mental health in congregations?”
“When are we going to actively fight the racist tendencies of minds and advance beyond stereotyping those who look and act differently than us?”
“When are we going to stop gripping our money so tightly that we can lessen the astronomical wealth disparity in this country?”
“When are we going to get a hold of gun control in this country?”
I hear numerous responses to the last question. Some people suggest we need tighter restrictions. Some people think fewer. Some people think that more guns will solve gun-violence, an idea that defies logic, borders on lunacy, and is antithetical to the gospel.
All I can think of is that we have been duped by the second amendment. We have been led to believe that weapons of violence are our God-given rights as Americans. It seems the abundance of firearms has been confused with Jesus’ promise of the abundance of life. Which would we give up easier: our guns or our Bibles?
And yet, again, my thinking returns to a single issue. This is not all about guns. It’s about guns, and mental health, and racism, and much more. Where do we turn, what steps do we take, and how do we wrap our minds around such seemingly senseless violence?
Perhaps one question we may begin thinking about is how this system of violence holds us captive to our fears and anxieties. What do our fears have to say to us — not only our personal fears but also our societal fears?
What are we doing to cultivate peace and love in the face of a fear and anxiety spurred on because of chemical imbalances in our brain, or a fear and anxiety spurred on because of others who look differently then us, or a fear and anxiety of gun violence, or a fear and anxiety of losing that which we have, or even a fear and anxiety that keep us awake in the middle of the night.