When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough

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As our city begins to recover and the country reels from yet another senseless tragedy, El Paso seems to be on the brink of becoming a powder keg. Funeral planning has begun and so much has happened since that sunny Saturday morning of August 3, 2019 when we lost 22 of our neighbors to violence. Following the candlelight vigils and temporary memorials, it’s still so fresh and so hard to wrap your brain around. And social media isn’t helping. There’s not just a rash of misinformation, but rumors and innuendo, as well. This makes the healing process very difficult. But maybe it’s too early to heal. Even if it were possible at this time, how can we when there are multiple individuals out there that seem to delight in stirring the pot.

On my newsfeed, I see so many posts that compare the arrest of this gunman to that of other arrests that didn’t go quite so peacefully. Really, that’s putting it mildly. There are a multitude of arrests that have ended in unnecessary bloodshed. And I understand where these people are coming from. Their fight is a just one, but this isn’t the way to do it. It diminishes the significance of the tragedy, because it takes the focus away from those that are mourning, those that have been grossly mistreated, to that of fear mongering. And it is precisely this fear mongering that is the problem in our country.

There’s too much of the US versus THEM rhetoric. And it must stop. The President calls for laws that will keep the “others” out of our country. Let’s face it, if a Latino person breaks the law, he calls to “build the wall.” If African-Americans call for justice, he calls their organizations terrorist groups. And if someone from the Middle East murders, he calls for a ban on ALL Muslims. But if the perpetrator of a crime is Caucasian, the government wants to evaluate alternative causes. Even now, as he plans to visit our devastated city, he blames video games and mental health problems. Never does he look at his own words and how they affect those poor, lost, paranoid souls that voted for him in the first place.

But it doesn’t stop with just the President. Evangelicals stand on their soap boxes crying that it is a lack of god in our schools, in our government, in our homes, that causes these types of tragedies. Their words are only stoking the fires of fear. They are helping to spread the hate by reinforcing the US versus THEM hyperbole. And always they offer up their thoughts and prayers.

I am sick of thoughts and prayers. They are obviously not enough. Anger seems to be the only emotion we feel. Especially in the current political climate. We have a president that brings out and encourages the worst traits in people. A good leader should lead by example. Trump is not a good leader. Knowing this, the sad fact is that he, alone, cannot be held responsible for the actions of others. No matter how heinous his words, or their crimes, these acts were those of individual choice. And the fight between the different sides of the political aisle are only fanning the flames of the fire. So, what do we do? We can elect new leadership, but these things keep happening no matter who is in power. What we need to do is seriously think about changes to legislation.

Unfortunately, you can’t talk about gun law reform because the minute you say those words, someone you know will get upset. Arguments ensue. But what else can we do, arm the nation? More guns? Vigilante justice doesn’t work. There is no point in having laws or law enforcement if we’re just going to live by the “mob rules” mentality. The second amendment states “a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

A well-regulated militia isn’t comprised of just anyone who can carry a gun. The word “militia” is defined as “a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.” You can pick it apart and say that it still states, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” but you’d be ignoring the rest of it. On the other hand, one could just as easily argue that militia likely refers to local law enforcement. Regardless, people tend to forget that the constitution is known as a “living” document because it can be amended.

But it wasn’t a well-regulated militia in the store. There were soldiers in the store. I mean no disrespect. It was a scary, unexpected situation. But it’s unreasonable to think that having most of the populace carrying guns will make us safer, when trained military couldn’t do it.

When untrained people who have never faced a dire situation like this open fire in a busy store, the only real thing that will happen is that more lives will be lost. When everyone carries a weapon, people will be unable to discern the true gunman from those others that are just trying to stop the actual bad guy. In a panic, individuals without combat training will fire wildly, hitting innocent bystanders. This is not going to make things better. You can practice at the shooting range all day, but this is still no substitute for combat or tactical training.

If the gunman in El Paso had to change out his magazine clip, then there was time for someone with tactical or combat training to subdue him. Lives have been saved by those brave enough to tackle the bad guy. But this did not happen, and 22 lives were lost.

Following this weekend’s tragedy, amid the great gun debate, there are the unbelievably cruel words of others. Ranging from conspiracies of this individual being a patsy and not the real shooter, to employees from local Walmarts reporting individuals coming up to them saying things that no human should ever say to another.

“I think the only way for Walmart employees to do things properly is by putting a cap through their head. Wait. Wasn’t there just a mass shooting at a Walmart two days ago? And they still didn’t learn their lesson.”

“No wonder Walmart got shot up! Keep your stupid beer! We don’t want it anyway!” Said after the cashier refused to sell alcohol to a group of young men that had a minor friend with them.

“Oh, honey! I heard your Walmart was the next target on the list. Too bad, because you’re so nice. I hope you don’t have to work that day.”

Maybe I’m out of line here, okay. But I don’t think that at this point we should take any threats lightly. If some sick person wants 15 minutes of fame by creating a little more chaos, it’s better to take that threat seriously so more people won’t die. Because the fact is, threats are still being made.

Rumors that more Walmarts, Targets, and Coscos will be attacked are making the rounds. A local funeral home that is taking care of the burial arrangements for the victims was on lockdown Monday due to threats. Plus, there was the suspicious package that shut down roads while the bomb squad investigated. All this and the president is due to visit our city on Wednesday. We have politicians that are publicly saying he’s not welcome. And while I don’t want him here, either, we’re going to see, firsthand, the two sides of this coin at odds. Protests and human walls to block his motorcade being planned. Likewise, I am sure MAGA rally planning is also in the works. This doesn’t end well.

At the end of the day, we need more people like Glendon Oakley. He was in the mall next door to the Walmart when the shots started. He saw children who were alone and crying and carried them to safety. We need people like the cashiers and other employees that ushered customers to the back of the store where they could exit safely. And the female customer of a Walmart yesterday that asked an employee if she could give her a hug. She expressed her condolences for the loss of life at the employee’s sister store. We need change. Change that embodies compassion over anger, acceptance over accusations, and diversity over division. Like parched people in a desert that find no relief, our country is thirsty for it. But the question remains: how do we come together as a nation to institute this change?