Tragedy has often tended to bring out the best of our human nature. When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001, it brought on waves of unity. Nation-wide, individuals displayed flags, and united as communities to pray together. September 11 was commemorated thereafter as Patriot Day.
In recent years, however, we have fallen into the unfortunate routine of rushing to divide ourselves over controversies surrounding terroristic events both foreign and domestic. We pick sides, with the objective of debasing our political and ideological “enemies” before pausing to consider, first, our common humanity.
Even on the BYU-Idaho campus, and among the staff here at the Scroll, there exist a variety of sentiments with regards to such hot topics as politics and gun-control. None of us are immune to knee-jerk reactions. We all have feelings of frustration and the desire to voice our opinion.
We assert that differences are healthy. Debate is vital to progress. Conflict and respect can co-exist. Yet we acknowledge that there are moments in which we would do well to set our differences aside.
On Sunday, Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire, indiscriminately, on a crowd of concert goers. For some of us, the crowd consisted of several acquaintances, friends and family. Among the dead and wounded were men and women, blacks and whites, Republicans and Democrats.
Though the gunman made no distinction between any of these groups, they mark the lines upon which we divide ourselves within communities, and as a nation.
Social media, and other online formats, make it particularly easy for us to lash out against those who do not share our same values or opinions. Virtual platforms create artificial distance between us and the subjects of our rants.
The means employed by mass-murderers become the ammunition in our arsenal of political talking points.
Some groups even seek to de-humanize their ideological opponents. Their lives are esteemed as less valuable, because their logic does not correspond with a certain school of thought. For example, the hashtag “#HuntRepublicans” surfaced in June of this year after a gunman opened fire on members of the Republican congressional baseball team.
We forget, that when we are lashing-out against the “fools” on the other side of the isle, that we are doing so against our neighbors and our friends.
Our deepest sympathies, and sincere prayers go out to the victims of this latest act of domestic terrorism and their families. We also praise the efforts made by individuals and organizations to provide aid to those affected by this and other recent tragedies and disasters. We applaud all those who have highlighted stories of human virtue, and heroism that have emerged out of these adverse circumstances.
Cassidy Huff, a young woman from Las Vegas, recounted her experience in an interview with Fox News. She was physically weak from cancer treatment and unable to run from danger the night of the Vegas shooting.
“It was like a bad dream where you can’t — you want to run so fast but you can’t… My legs wouldn’t let me,” Huff said.
After collapsing, she was carried to safety by an off-duty police officer also in attendance at the concert.
Sonny Melton, a 29-year-old registered nurse from Tennessee, died protecting his wife from the raining gunfire. His story has been shared by various news outlets.
Several men gave the shirts off their backs to serve as makeshift bandages and tourniquets, according ABC News.
NBC News reported that lines of volunteers stretched for blocks outside of Las Vegas blood donation centers in the days following the shooting.
59 people were killed in the Las Vegas shooting. More than 500 were injured. 86 were killed last year in Nice, France, mowed down by a cargo truck. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh used bombs he made using hundreds of pounds of fertilizer to kill 168 people, in Oklahoma City. With each terroristic event, we hastily seek for facts and circumstances that will bolster our side of the argument. We analyze the methods employed by those who commit hateful acts of mass murder. The cycle continues, and we continue to miss the mark.
By placing our focus on the few deranged individuals who carry out these attacks, by pointing fingers and by speculating how further regulation or legislation could have prevented the destruction, we only drive the dividing wedge deeper.
Victims become figures, their humanity lost in the narrative.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Let us, then, take time to remember those we have lost. Let us learn from their acts of love. Let us learn from their heroism. Let us set aside our differences, and mourn together.