Opinion: shootings in America

Ilana Mermelstein, Staff Writer

The pattern we’ve seen with shootings in America is as follows: we witness, we mourn, we forget.  It cycles and cycles until someone starts to care, and before the concern materializes, the cycle begins again.  This epidemic of gun violence will not cease to spread until we acknowledge this underlying issue of a lack of empathy, a lack of humanity.  Our current attitude towards gun violence is damaging us, and it’s damaging our children.


I remember hearing about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School when I was in fifth grade.  I was devastated. I watched the news with my mom as students ran out of the building, as President Barack Obama spoke to families, as vigils were held and people mourned the lives lost.  I was terror-stricken, knowing these children were no different than I, knowing it could just as easily have happened in my school.


Years passed, and these incidents occurred more frequently.  I’d watch the news and see that another shooting had occurred, each time feeling a little less of that initial terror.  I was hardening to the idea of terrorism, disassociating from the reality of today’s America. It seemed that the rest of the world felt the same, as shootings transpired that never made it to the news.  We as a human population began to shift our focus to other issues, and the headlines shifted to match. Lives were lost in acts of terrorism that many of us never knew about, simply because we were too focused on the newest Snapchat update to care.


Then Parkland happened, and all that terror came rushing back. Terrorism quickly became a partisan issue as campaigns for gun reform sprang into existence, followed by counter-protesters.  The mourning period lasted but hours as arguments erupted between Democrats and Republicans, while videos of students running out of the school played in the background. This time, though, the adults were not the only ones who revived their concern.  Students joined the conversation with walk-outs, protests, and rallies. However, the relevance faded as we became numb to the violence in this country once again, just as the same had occurred years ago.


While organizations such as the March for Our Lives continue to fight against gun violence, the issue that once boiled with passion has stabilized at only a light simmer for the past few months.  On October 27, though, the relevance returned as more innocent people lost their lives to acts of terrorism. And I felt it this time.


The incidents we’ve brushed over in the past have not necessarily targeted specific groups, rather they were intended to simply hurt as many people as possible.  However, the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was different. It was intentional, it was passionate, and it was personal.


For the first time in a long time, the Jewish community, MY community, felt very real fear.  We hesitated to step foot in our synagogues, knowing that those who had done so last were murdered.  We watched as people posted about the shooting but failed to mention the driving force: anti-semitism.  We witnessed the erasure of the ideology that has tormented us for years as people called it “another shooting.”


To me, it was not “another shooting.”  It was a personal attack on me, on my family, on my people.  In my anger, though, I realized that I was no different than those who labeled it so apathetically because I had done the same in years past.  I called Las Vegas “another shooting,” Orlando “another shooting,” and Manchester “another shooting,” along with too many other occasions accompanied by the losses of too many lives..  I turned these incidents into statistics, just as so many did to the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Thus, I can’t be mad at those who don’t see it as I do. All I can do is reflect and change.


Gun violence is an issue.  This, I already knew. What I’ve learned, though, is that our numbness to these incidents instigates the problem.  We must view acts of terrorism as personal attacks, not as headlines. We must take “another shooting” out of our vocabulary.  We must say the names of the victims. We must allow them to live on through memories, not through the statistics they represent.  After years of hardening to terrorism, I’ve learned that it’s important, necessary for us to be raw and emotional after such tragedies because the emotion is what turns headlines into tragedies.


The pattern we’ve seen with shootings in America is as follows: we witness, we mourn, we forget.  It cycles and cycles until someone starts to care, and before the concern materializes, the cycle begins again.  We must not witness so apathetically, mourn so shallowly, forget so quickly. We must return to our sense of humanity and show concern for victims, for the fatal issue at hand, and we must allow our concern to manifest into something more.  Whether it be protest, fundraiser, opinion article, or otherwise, we must remind ourselves to not forget. Not now, and never again.