How many names on this partial list do you remember?
Annapolis – 2018
Atlanta – 2021
Aurora – 2012
Boulder – 2021
Charleston – 2015
Columbine – 1999
Dayton – 2019
Downtown Dallas – 2017
El Paso – 2019
Ft. Lauderdale Airport – 2017
Gilroy – 2019
Parkland – 2018
Pulse Nightclub – 2016
Las Vegas -2017
Midland & Odessa -2019
San Bernardino – 2015
Sandy Hook – 2012
Santa Fe – 2018
Sutherland Springs – 2018
Thousand Oaks – 2018
Tree of Life – 2018
Virginia Beach – 2019
Virginia Tech – 2007
Ours was called Pine Village, a restaurant that no longer exists.
Referring to mass shootings by the names of the crime scene buffers us from the cruel reality that we don’t like to face. Someone, generally a white male, planned and carried out a mass murder which means killing five or more people.
You might think that it’s too painful to think about in those terms. You might think that it’s too hard. It IS too hard because murder is dehumanizing. Literally.
Real murder is unthinkable and so we choose not to think about it. Fake murder. Murder for entertainment in media? That we love. Just think about how many movies and series contain murder and sexual assault. I mean, what is that? Try avoiding violence-based plots and see what you’re left with. You might be surprised at how much brain space we give to guns, gender.
That disconnect of loving fake murder and avoiding talking about real murder is not going to help us solve the problem of predominantly white males getting their hands on military style guns and shooting bullets into children and adults at schools, concert venues and places of worship.
We might make a public spectacle of the funerals and candle light vigils, but then what? Do we remember the names of the victims or help their families? No, because there are far too many. We talk about gun violence prevention for a couple of weeks, add the newest location to the list and move on with our lives.
A mass murder is the brutal, bloody removal of a group human lives by another human. A human decided that he had the right to steal someone’s heartbeat and breath by shooting that person with a gun, often multiple times. A human decided that others should witness murders and even feel terror as they ran for their lives. A human decided to traumatize others. He decided that some people were not worthy of living.
My father, along with three other adults and a 16-year old child, was murdered when a man robbed the Pine Village Restaurant where my father was waiting for a meal. The murderer should be the center of the story because it reveals the root of the problem. We would think a lot more about the role that gender and race play in these mass murders. We would be much closer to understanding who is pushing back against gun violence prevention and why. We might begin to confront what the high gun violence rate in this country says about us.
Today we’re talking about “Boulder.” I wonder when will we see a decline in the “Stop Asian Hate” posts that were all over social media after Robert Aaron Long murdered 8 women, six of whom were Asian women, in Atlanta on March 16, 2021. Referring to mass shootings in benign ways like “Atlanta” and “Boulder” allows us to forget. We get to forget the people who were murdered. We get to forget their family members. We get to forget the grief. We get to forget the generational pain. And, we get to forget the murderer.
Even my closest friends and family forget that my father was murdered in a mass shooting. And, that’s ok. They get to forget, but I remember. Each time there is another mass shooting in this country, I implement certain boundaries for myself. I limit my news intake. I notice when my nervous system seems agitated. I slow down the rhythm of my day. I let myself rest. I exercise to release the trauma response from my body. I check on my loved ones. And, I stay off social media sites where people fight over their right to buy military grade weapons.
Today, I wanted to write to remind you that people weren’t murdered. Murder didn’t just happen to them. It wasn’t an accident. Someone purchased a gun from a seller. He made a plan. He loaded a gun. He traveled to a location. He pulled the trigger repeatedly. He murdered people. He had a reason. Let’s start there.