Death At A School Bus Stop
A devastating tragedy occurred in Louisville, Kentucky last Wednesday morning. A group of children were waiting at a school bus stop when all of a sudden, a car drove up to them and one of the men inside opened fire, killing one student and wounding another. The school bus arrived a minute later, but by then it was too late, one child was already dead. The rest of the kids will have to live their entire lives with the memory of seeing that happen. What kind of a world are we living in?
There was an even worse incident in Memphis, Tennessee in an upscale suburban town called Collierville. On Thursday afternoon, a third-party vendor for the Collierville Kroger grocery store went into the store with a gun and opened fire on a group of people. He shot ten employees and five customers, killing a 53-year old mother of three. Before the police could get him, he committed suicide by shooting himself. One of the officers who was involved said this incident was the worst thing he’d encountered in his 34 years of police work - people were hiding in freezers, running to backrooms, and even escaping to the roof. Everyone there was traumatized and frightened. This has been completely devastating to the whole community.
How long can inclusion and diversity survive in a society that is this violent? How long will it be before people turn against these things and vote an authoritarian regime into power? Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elie Wiesel once said the silence of their friends was more damaging and hurtful than the violence of their enemies. This is true, but what it doesn’t say is why people are bystanders. My response is: why shouldn’t people be bystanders if they’re benefitting from it and if it puts a stop to violence? Let’s say some kind of fundamentalist authoritarian government were imposed on America where abortion was outlawed but civil peace was brought to the country. If it imposed some kind of moral center and people once again felt safe to send their children off to school, why would people not accept that? Why wouldn’t they be bystanders if they once again felt safe to have children? The kind of moral courage Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elie Wiesel have are very rare. It should be more common, but it’s not. It’s human to want a good life for yourself and a better life for your children and if somebody else is providing that, you’re probably going to go along with it. So what do we do? How can we stop people from being bystanders? Well, we have to work with it instead of against it. There’s no use in persuading people from being bystanders if they feel they’re going to benefit from it, if they feel they’re helping create a safer world to bring their children into. We also need to be proactive by taking the offensive; we cannot just sit back and wait for terrible things to happen like the incident in Louisville or the massacre in Memphis. We must start a public relations campaign, a nationwide effort, to tell people that love, compassion, kindness, inclusion and diversity are superior to an authoritarian government which will only destroy peoples’ lives. We need to give people the skills of inclusion and teach them how to talk and communicate with one another. We also need to have a political party that will work out from the center and draw people in from the extreme right and left. At the moment, we have far-right people like Trump who will take everything away from us and destroy our democracy completely and on the other side, we have liberal democrats who are good-hearted, caring people who want to do the right thing but don’t always consider the consequences. With those two extremes, there’s not much in between, which will be a death note for democracy if we don’t do something about it. We have to rebuild the political center and teach compromise and negotiation. If we don’t want people to be bystanders, we have to give them a reason not to be. We have to offer them something better, a world in which they can stand up and speak out. We need to do that because inclusion and diversity are not going to survive much longer if our society remains this violent. Who’s going to fight for a democracy in which people get shot at bus stops and grocery stores? Even if you’re not a direct victim, think of the psychological, moral, and spiritual impact of witnessing those things. These crimes don’t just affect the victims, they traumatize whole towns and cause devastation to entire communities. Right now, the message of this nation could not be clearer: You are not safe anywhere. We have to stop these killings and instead broadcast the message of love and compassion.