On Saturday, March 19th, there was a shooting at a pizza parlor in Norfolk, Virginia. Two guys got into a fight over a spilled drink and they started shooting at each other, killing two people and wounding three others. One of the people who died was a 25-year old woman who graduated college with a Journalism degree and had just started working as a newspaper reporter. That day, she became the story on the news when she got killed at the crossfire of two guys who had gotten mad over a spilled drink. That was not the only shooting that weekend. Over in Dumas, Arkansas, a similar situation occurred at a popular car show for families. Again, two guys got into a fight and started shooting at each other, killing one and wounding twenty others. Those were just two of the nine mass shootings that took place that weekend.
I don’t think people fully understand the danger involved with living in a society in which the value of human life has such little meaning, where people start shooting because a drink got spilled on them. The danger isn’t just that we might get killed, but that people might turn against democracy and decide that enough is enough, voting an authoritarian regime into power. What’s the point of having inclusion when the value of life has been degraded? Where a promising young newspaper reporter gets killed in a fight over a spilled drink? The grief, sorrow, and suffering that comes with such incidences is unimaginable. It doesn’t just affect the people involved, it affects the whole society. I’m sure the Norfolk community has been traumatized and frightened about this and I’m scared people might turn against inclusion and democracy and start voting for authoritarian leaders. The midterm elections are coming up and the liberal control over the Senate and the House is razor thin. There’s a very real possibility that extreme conservatives and authoritarian groups will regain control. There’s even a possibility that they might pick up enough governances to call a constitutional convention. If they gain control of four more states, they can legally call for a constitutional convention, in which they could completely rewrite the constitution. If that were to happen, the American Disabilities Act would go down the drain. That is my greatest concern of all, that we could lose our rights. I pray this does not happen, but I think the danger is there. I don’t think most people realize the enormity of the threat that this degradation of human rights poses. Nobody can live in a society in which the value of human life has been degraded to such a low level.
People who carry out shootings have no conflict resolutions skills. If they did, they wouldn’t shoot each other. I think our government needs to make public service announcements outlining what conflict resolutions skills are and how to use them, because we cannot keep living with this lack of respect for human life. Human life is worth more than a spilled drink. Gun control is obviously one thing that needs to be done, but it’s going to require a lot more than gun control laws to solve the problem. That is a factor and that does need to be addressed, but we also have to have respect for human life. We need to reawaken our love and compassion for one another and not get into fights over little things. Disability groups in particular have good reason to support an effort to stop violence because we are the most vulnerable population of all. If the American Disabilities Act were to be repealed by authoritarians or if the constitution were to be rewritten, we would be gone. I am deeply afraid that the American people will turn to an authoritarian solution if we don’t start doing something about these shootings.
One big problem with our current political leaders is that they tend to think with their hearts instead of with their heads. They tend to ignore potential dangers like the bail reform laws in New York City that freed the guy who killed that Asian woman in her apartment bathtub. That gets us all into trouble because it turns public opinions against the reforms that are so badly needed. We need these reforms, but they must be better thought out. My ultimate message today is that we must make an effort to restore the value of human life. Every time we turn to hate, it ends in disaster and calamity. When a new shooting happens, it destroys faith in human life, in democracy, and in people’s hope for the future. I believe deeply in inclusion; I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for it, but what’s my future going to look like if the American Disabilities Act is cancelled? If we want to make inclusion work, we have to stop this type of violence because it undermines everything we’ve been trying to accomplish. We deserve to live in a society where human life is held in high regard, not at the mercy of fools who explode in rage and start shooting when they get angry at each other. A morally healthy society doesn’t have this kind of violence. There will always be crime, but it doesn’t have extreme violence. We’re living in a society where people can get killed at any moment over the most stupid things. That needs to change.