An Open Letter to the Internet
On the topic of the latest, tragic shooting. I’m hearing a lot of speculation about why and how such a thing could happen, as always. None of us can imagine what would make a person do something so horrific, and so we speculate. And with that speculation, sadly, comes scapegoating.
People speculate about what type of person might be able to do such a thing: Not someone like us, but maybe people with mental illness, autistic people, goths, atheists, people who play violent video games, people who listen to heavy metal, children of single parents…
The terrifying truth is: we have no idea what pushes a person to the edge of humanity and beyond. If we did, we’d go around finding all those people and locking them up for good.
We know some factors that can contribute — we know that people who are raised in violence, abused, traumatized by war, and otherwise treated badly throughout their lives are more likely to snap and revisit that violence on the world… but if we went around preemptively locking up everyone who’d had it rough, we’d run out of jails in the first 5 minutes and most of them full of the innocent besides.
We know that drugs are more likely to make people do things that are desperate and rash. We know that desperation and despair can rob formerly decent people of their humanity. But these things primarily lead to crimes that we can understand, even as we abhor them– robberies, muggings, individual acts of violence. What could push a person to the point of causing destruction on such a massive scale is simply beyond explanation, and all the more frightening for being so impossible to understand.
All I can say is: let us not allow our fear to turn us against each other. If there is one thing we can do to reduce the risk of violence in this world it is, I believe, to treat each other with decency and respect. To reach out every day and remind one another of our own and each other’s humanity. To treat each other with compassion and concern, to encourage our empathy to strengthen and flourish. To mourn when tragedy occurs, but not to let it kindle hate in our own hearts.