Here we are on Election Day 2016. It finally arrived, and I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled the commercials and the bickering are ending. However, the issues that brought us to this point will continue. From my perspective, the issue of who we are as a country is still at stake. While there are many examples we could explore, I am always amazed by some people I know believing gun violence is only an inner city problem. As such, my acquaintances peddle a belief Democrats are more violent than Republicans. They perpetuate an idea that crime is a Democratic issue, not a Republican problem.
I cannot speak for Democrats or Republicans or independents. I support the rights of individuals to carry guns. I do not support the loopholes that allow felons to get guns at gun shows nor do I support a need for individuals to have access to assault weapons—it is an unnecessary trophy in my opinion. Further, I also do not see how having a magazine that holds 50 rounds is necessary. If the deer is fast enough to get away after a couple of shots, then let it go—survival of the fittest.
As for where crime is committed, I would agree with these colleagues that most crime happens in densely populated areas. Does that mean those committing crimes are mostly Democrats? Maybe, but when you look at the conditions, the choices, the stigma and the options available to the people committing crimes, we do not see an equal playing field. These are persons who have limited choices, crappy, underfunded schools, surrounded by poverty and repressed souls. These are persons who do not have the luxury of escaping the environments because of years, centuries of discrimination that have impacted not only their physical environment, but also their psyche. It is systemic. It is the elephant that has been so victimized that a tiny string keeps it captive.
And yes, residents in the densely populated areas may be hurting each other. If we say it is by choice, then we also must consider that the choices they have are limited. If we say that all lives matter, then we must consider that those who do not feel this is true are looking at it from a different frame of reference. If all lives mattered to everyone, then why is there war; why is there prison; why do lifesaving medicines cost so much, and why do we let white rapists free after three months but black rapists must serve 13-year prison sentences? If all lives mattered, why are we using military technologies on the people of Standing Rock who are protecting sacred land? Not all lives matter and that is the problem. So, of course people in the inner cities harm each other because society as a whole has thrown them away, has told them they are trash, and shown them that they are disposable.
To my white friends who grew up outside of the inner cities, we are lucky because our culture has taught us something different. We are told we can be anything we want; we are shown that we can be successful, and we have a system to empower us. When we think about what Emma Lazarus wrote to help raise money for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal—“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” We forget that this was our promise to not only immigrants but also all citizens, a hope for a better tomorrow.
How can there ever be hope for any marginalized groups when we do not give them respect, when we disregard and banish them? When we treat people like animals, they will never disappoint us.
For me, the issues of guns, violence, crime and murders is not about the acts themselves; it is the lack of respect that drove people to that option, the lack of concern society has shown to make people feel this is the only way to be heard, and the lack of caring we only expect this from them. I am not saying all white people feel this way, but when we look at what is happening, we forget to ask about the underlying reasons. What ails our country? A lot of people are in pain because, as a society, we are sending a message that people are disposable. We are saying that consumption and money are the only ways to have better choices. It is a sad story we are reading to a lot of people.
Though this election is just about over, the pain still exists. The suppression still exists. If we have any compassion, we must stand with those who have been made powerless. If we are human beings, we must empower others. If you don’t know where to begin, give out some bear hugs. It is always a great place to start. Then listen to the stories, hear the message, and take action to make change happen.