Courage may not always roar. Courage is, often times, simply standing back up after you fall down. Love also doesn’t always roar. Love is peaceful, love is accepting, and love is inclusive. But, courage can be overwhelming and groundbreaking, especially in the midst of devastation. And love, in its purest form, can be fierce, it can be stoic, and it can truly redeem the unredeemable. Hate, however, will never roar. Hate will never be open, it will never be soft, and it will never be safe. Hate will never win.
The devastation in Parkland, Florida will never be something that can be accurately conveyed through any number, sequence, or depth of words. None of the devastating events we have seen in these modern times can be accurately portrayed with the click of a keyboard or the swipe of a pencil. Over the last 20 years, tragedy seems to have ceaselessly made its way onto our television screens, computer monitors, and through our car speakers. Columbine. 9/11. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Aurora, CO. Boston. San Bernardino, CA. Charleston, SC. Orlando, FL. Paris. Manchester. Las Vegas. Parkland. And most recently, the school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland and the bombings in Texas, to unfortunately only name a few. It seems that with each one of these horrific events, our capacity to grasp and comprehend what’s happening diminishes, and fear grows deeper within us like an insidious disease, infecting more and more people by the minute.
Persistent fear has a sly and subtle way of distorting and warping a perfectly clear and rational mindset. When something frightens us acutely, we go into fight or flight mode: our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and at the drop of a pin we stay and fight for our lives, or we flee with the same goal in mind; our safety. But when fearful things happen on a more chronic level, that fear becomes rooted in our minds and pervades our hearts to the utmost, changing us; closing us down. Chronic fear slowly, but steadily, can morph into anger and hatred, which is where things get dangerous.
Fight or flight in occasional instantaneous moments will always be necessary for survival, which is why it is pre-programmed within each of us: we have instinctual reactions geared toward protecting ourselves and our surroundings. Fear in and of itself is not something we can rid ourselves of completely. At the most basic level, it is a feeling that, in a minor sense, is a crucial piece of what balances us each and every day. It can help us use appropriate caution and help us guard ourselves in unknown situations. But, we were not designed to live under a cloak of fear, sporting armored hearts, and surrendering all ability to see the beauty of the colors in nature and the warmth in the smiles of the people around us.
Like with most problems in the world, I don’t believe there is one, specific solution that will be the universal cure-all. Gun violence is one of many multi-dimensional problems we face in our world today, and it’s certainly not one that should be taken lightly. On one hand, guns and other weapons don’t act alone in committing crimes, so addressing them alone likely won’t solve the problem of destructive things that people do with them. On another hand, how readily available these things that can be used as weapons are, to almost anyone, certainly plays into the epidemic as well. These are just a few points of view. There are so many pieces to this puzzle, and we uncover more and more with every devastating event that takes place. Separate, they’re just pieces. But if we begin to put the puzzle pieces together, we can create a whole solution.
If you look at the problem we face with weapons of all sorts, there is a chain of events that occur leading up to each calamitous event where they were the catalyst. Taking one link out of that chain won’t make any outcome impossible. Bringing all the pieces together, instead of focusing on one, is how we can shatter the chain of events that leads to the devastating end result that we have seen far too many times over the last 20 years. We need various perspectives to solve problems like this: we need to be united, not divided.
Now, that doesn’t mean everyone should view situations through the same lens – it’s just the opposite actually. Division is a dangerous and slippery slope, and it’s one of the negative side effects of the swirling pool of hate that the world has seemed to fall into recently. But, the thing is, we are not divided because we have different opinions: we are divided because we dismiss and disrespect opinions that differ from our own. We spew hatred toward things we don’t necessarily believe in ourselves. We cling to what we know because of the overwhelming fear that has hatched inside us: we fear things will only get worse if anything else comes to fruition other than what we know. And, you know what? It’s completely understandable. We are all just doing the best we can, desperately trying to protect ourselves and our loved ones based on what we know.
However, opinions of anything and everything would not hold any weight if there was not an opposing side. Just because two opinions are not the same does not necessarily mean one is good and one is bad; they are simply a product of how we each see life through different lenses based on our experiences, beliefs, and feelings. Every opinion holds value and substance, and often times, they can complement one another. Unless you’re solving a simple multiplication equation, there will always be more than one answer to a problem out there.
When we close our minds and narrow our sight to include only one view, we become divided. We turn into two sides, endlessly locked in a stalemate, and the perpetual cycle of crippling fear is reinforced. Fighting fire with fire will only create more fire, casting darkness will only make the world darker, and hate will only perpetuate more hate. Open your mind and heart to the thoughts of others, and the fires will be extinguished, darkness will be overwhelmed with light, and hate will be doused in love.
There will never be any excuse, any justification, or any reason for any these unfathomable events. From them we did not simply lose a number of people; we lost individuals who were limitless. Each individual person who lost their lives will always be so much more than just one person to so many others out there. But, in the wake of every tragedy we have seen, an overwhelming outpour of love and courage has always blossomed. People rush to the sides of strangers to help them heal and rebuild, and survivors stand up and speak out about their experiences when it would be so easy to sit back and hide. Love and courage are all around; roaring in the hearts of everyone. That will of course, never make anything that has happened any better; but if we can come together, united, working toward a solution, we will walk into a future where hate will never win.