Have you ever seen and read such vitriol as in the past couple of weeks? Holy cow! I couldn’t suppress a chuckle at the truth of a cartoon I saw, showing a recent, current “feed” of what was trending on Facebook:
“Flag, flag, flag, cute dog video, flag, gay marriage, flag, flag, gay marriage, cute dog video … ”
So much anger, a sea of seething disgust, friends “unfriendin’” other friends because of their stand on one topic or another.
It’s as if we just found out we simply can’t stand each other.
And while we call up radio talk shows and denounce the “idiots” who don’t occupy our point of view, or burn a church, or label one another as “rednecks” or “whiney liberals,” we hear on the news that ISIS has hijacked Ramadan, a time of prayer, fasting and nonviolence for Muslims, and is calling for a month of slaughter throughout the world as well as America, particularly on July Fourth – but we’re so angry at each other, are we even paying attention?
To be honest, and I don’t mean to sound flip, but what can the “lone wolves” ISIS hopes to inspire with their slick propaganda do to us that we haven’t already done to each other, with unsettling increases in number, for decades? If the threats are indeed mass shootings of the American public, well, you know, what’s new? We pretty much get one of those every couple of months. We weep, hold candles, bury our dead and proclaim, “This has got to stop!”
And then a 21-year-old walked into Mother Emanuel church, himself having been once described as “a regular churchgoer,” but for whatever reason and all the while drinking in non-ISIS, but equally violent, online propaganda, fulfilled his self-proclaimed mission. He would have shot more, it was reported, but he couldn’t afford a truly efficient, automatic weapon.
“Gosh, Pam, I kind of read your column for a laugh or two; thanks for bumming me out today.”
I know, and I’m sorry, but I read these headlines and watch the national news showing the map of the United States and where attacks might be most likely, and listen to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson state, “We are encouraging all law enforcement to be vigilant and prepared. We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people.”
And I think, “Meh.”
Because it just seems we can be as vigilant as we want, and that’s not going to help us if we happen to be in the wrong movie theater, digging into a bag of popcorn with our kids, when a mentally unstable young man, who had reportedly been telling his campus psychologist that he had had thoughts of committing homicide for over a month, walks in and begins spraying a few magazines of ammunition. Or ordering a cheeseburger at a Hooter’s-type bar in Texas when a band of rival bikers arrive and begin blowing each other away, with you caught in the middle. Or if we were a carefree student, walking to class on the Virginia Tech campus …
I could go on and on and on.
It really is time to have each other’s back. And listen, I’ve been just as angry as perhaps you, or others, and arguing on social media as well. But it really is time to have each other’s back.
My mind goes back to an article I saw this past week detailing the mass shootings of the European tourists on the beach in Tunisia by an ISIS-inspired youth. This part of the story didn’t make the front page, but at least for me, it was an incredibly moving piece of information: hotel workers, seeing the carnage unfold before their eyes, joined hands to create a human chain to protect the tourists still within the hotel, and plainly stated to the aggressor, “You will have to kill us first. And we’re Muslims.”
What courage. What strength. What unity.
Man, I hope we can find some of that for ourselves.
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.