June 23, 2015
Dear Fellow Citizens-
Could we just stop for a second and take a breath? We’re throwing around words and phrases like “gun control” and “racism” as if THAT is the cause of this tragedy. We do not threaten to take away cars after a deadly police chase or multiple car pile-up. For once, as a nation, could we not turn a tragedy into a political platform and start looking at the systemic problem in our culture? Whether it was a gun, a bomb, fire, a knife, or poison, Dylann Roof would have committed an atrocity. For him it was racism, but it could just as easily been religion, gender, orientation, or anything else he perceived as “different.”
As Americans, we want to put bandages on wounds that require amputation. We find the quickest, most profitable means to make a problem go away. God forbid we should look faulty in the eyes of the world. No real interest exists in finding solutions to our problems. If there were, we’d be doing things differently. Politicians need the unrest, they need a fight, otherwise how could they fire up the citizens of this great nation and earn votes? Without angst, there is no need to pontificate about peace. Instead of tossing a label on these atrocities, we need to start asking why. Why is this occurring, and since it seems a prevalent American problem, what about our culture is creating these monsters?
It is a systemic issue and every part of our culture has its own specific brand of hypocrisy that feeds into this problem. Our education system is the epitome of mixed messages. Teachers are told they must differentiate to meet the needs of their students, yet they are handed a prescribed curriculum they must use to teach everyone. We try to shove square pegs into triangular slots, cutting off half of a child’s potential. How are struggling students like Dylann Roof, who reportedly repeated the ninth grade and then dropped out, expected to persevere and thrive in a system that doesn’t meet their needs? When they can’t achieve success, what alternatives do they have? Lack of education typically equates to lack of adequate income. Dylann worked intermittently as a landscaper and reports claim he often slept in his car. It’s a short walk from lack of education to lack of employment, to looking for someone to blame for our misfortune.
The media plays a role by sensationalizing things that should be squashed, presenting skewed versions of the truth, and airing the views preferred by their sponsors, who by the way, have bought the politicians. It is not in the interest of the corporations supporting the networks to talk about the inequalities that exist in this country. Bernie Sanders says it best in his interview with Bill Moyers. which you can view here. The media diverts our attention to topics of the day, hoping we won’t ask questions about the real issues. If we dealt with some of these issues, perhaps we would identify the societal issues some of these mass killers are struggling with and find solutions.
The advent of the internet has been both a blessing and a curse. The ease of finding and sharing information, as well as the immediacy of receiving coveted items, comes with its own set of problems. People who don’t fit in with their peers can find online groups willing to welcome them and exploit their isolated existence. According to reports, Dylann Roof apparently researched white supremacy and black on white crime. He developed a skewed view of blacks and an irrational hatred festered. He joined groups that perpetuated this hate until he felt the need to act on it.
In the face of these atrocities, we, as a nation, need to stop throwing around convenient labels. We need to demand more from our government. Our leaders need to stop using these tragedies to advance their political agendas and start breaking down the systems that further the disparities in our culture. We need to start asking why these mass killings are happening and why it is becoming a cultural norm. Mostly, we need to look at our institutions, the way we govern, and the systems in place that perpetuate inequalities and oppress groups of people.
Could we just stop for a second and accept we have a systemic problem in this country that breeds disparity? You can’t fix a problem until you accept you have one, and America, we have a problem. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” Come on America, we can do this. What other choice do we have?
A fellow American-
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