What does the Oregon School Shooting Mean for Us?

Yesterday was a tough day for America, and particularly Oregon. A shooter opened fire on Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon. 10 people are dead, including the shooter. It is a tragedy whenever there is a wrongful death, but especially a mass shooting to add to the list. The fact that there is a list is already disconcerting enough.

Help and prayers are pouring into this small community south of Portland, and the rest of America mourns along with them. The victims will be remembered in a montage on the morning news, with their smiles faces plastered across the T.V. as family and friends talk about their hopes and dreams and the impact they had on the world. This will last for a few days, maybe a week, as more information is released from law enforcement and we collectively shake our heads as we learn more about this senseless tragedy.

As friends and family start the path toward healing, the dialogue for the rest of the country changes. I hate to mix politics with a crime of this magnitude, but unfortunately that’s the script Americans follow. Soon panelists will begin arguing about gun control on every news channel, and guest psychologists will make an appearance to give their two cents about the “why;” why the gunman did what he did, why this campus, what happened in his life that led him to this?

This opens up a bigger, broader conversation that undoubtedly comes in the weeks following a mass shooting- how can we prevent this from happening again? Some say gun control is to blame. We need to have stricter regulations for weapons. Some even suggest making guns illegal. Why do regular citizens need guns anyway?

I honestly don’t think gun control is the problem. After all, drugs are illegal. Does that stop people from doing them? Robbery is illegal, and so is murder. Yet we have robberies and murders. If someone is bad, they aren’t going to begin following the letter of the law. So gun control won’t help. It might put up a slight road block, but it wouldn’t make it impossible.

We haven’t heard much about this shooter yet. Actually, we haven’t heard anything. The most we know is maybe his name, and that he is 26 years old. I think this is a purposeful omission so the focus isn’t taken off of the victims. We will begin talking about him, though, and when we do, it will sound familiar.

“He was always withdrawn.”

“He had a few incidents before this.”

“He said some questionable things on social media.”

There always seem to be a sign. I can’t think of a mass shooting that didn’t involve a shooter who turned out to be showing troublesome signs very early on. Yet no one ever speaks up. They just assume nothing will come of it. At least until it does.

I think mental illness should be the focus. Our country’s view of mental illness is highly skewed. Those with mental illness aren’t treated the same as someone with a physical illness. Why is that? In many cases, their untreated mental illness can end up hurting innocent people.

Now I’m not saying mental illness is a scape goat to commit heinous crimes, because it certainly isn’t; but maybe the stigma surrounding it should change.

This won’t fix all of our problems, but if our attitude about mental illness changes, there’s a possibility we can prevent this in the future.

Kim is back, back again

Well, we can’t seem to escape Kim Davis. At this point, she’s practically a household name. Either she’s spoken about with disdain or celebrated for her stance against “the man.” If you’re wracking your brain trying to remember who she is, I’ll give you a quick recap.

Kim Davis is a Kentucky county clerk who is responsible for issuing marriage licenses to happy couples getting ready to say “I do.” Kim Davis is a Christian, and she believes same-sex marriage is wrong and a sin against God. Up until a few months ago, this fact didn’t interfere with her day to day duties as a county clerk; that is, until same-sex marriage was legalized across the United States and she was brought face-to-face with a same-sex couple looking to get their marriage license. She refused to issue them a license because of her beliefs, which spiraled into the side-show act that we now have in our midst. Many conservatives rallied behind her, including GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and she was even jailed for refusing to do her job. She was released from jail after a few days and went right back to her post, where she passed off the marriage license duty to her office minions and holed up in her office, away from cameras and press.

She was fading from the spotlight, but now she’s back and she’s been touched by the Pope. No, really, she actually hugged him. During Pope Francis’ visit in the United States last week, he had a secret meeting with Davis and her husband. We only heard about this today, from Davis and her legal counsel. For a while, the Vatican didn’t make a comment in any direction, and then, all of a sudden, they confirmed that the meeting did take place. I know, pictures or it didn’t happen. According to the Vatican, a photographer was on hand along with the Pope’s security and official photos will be released by the Vatican at some point. The Vatican hasn’t said much else.

According to Davis, during their meeting, the Pope embraced her and asked her to pray for him, and commended her for standing her ground. Their meeting lasted about 15 minutes and he even gave Davis rosary beads for her Catholic parents.

So what’s the deal? This pope has been hailed as the “cool pope.” He seemed progressive and understanding and loving of all people. On the same hand, he is still a Roman Catholic individual, and those ideals are firm, especially for the Pope. But why go out of his way to meet with Davis, especially in secret? This makes it more disconcerting. I think the pope’s time could have better been served meeting with those less fortunate (which he did make some time for), or even kids in hospitals fighting for their lives. Why Kim Davis? Maybe we’ll never know.

The Pope Lands in America

Yesterday marked the Pope’s first visit to the United States. Pope Francis has already spoken in Washington D.C., and tomorrow he will address Congress before visiting New York City and Philadelphia.

The last time a Pope visited was in 2008, but things are a bit different this time. While the Pope’s visit has always been a revered occasion, Pope Francis brings a breath of fresh air with him, and Catholics and non-Catholics alike are marking the monumental occasion.

Pope Francis has been received as the peoples’ Pope. He lives with very little mean for a Pope, can be seen shopping for eyeglasses like the average human, and even rides around in a smart car. He carries his own luggage. He isn’t afraid to mingle with the people and doesn’t hold himself in a higher regard than the rest of the Catholic world. As a Cardinal before he was elected as the Pope, he would ride public transportation to and from work, and wasn’t afraid to serve the most dangerous and impoverished communities.

Pope Francis even stopped his motorcade in order to get out of his car and bless a disabled child. While the blessing isn’t a new move for a pope, putting the people before himself with disregard for his own well-being is a new step for a pope.

It’s not just his personality that has everyone won over, but his morals. He’s seen as a progressive Pope, speaking for the masses and swaying from well-known Catholic values. While Pope Francis doesn’t necessarily condone actions that are against the teachings of the Bible, he is adamant to point out that there can always be progress and a new way to do things. When asked about same-sex marriage, he pointed out that God loves everyone.

Now in Washington D.C, Pope Francis addressed 15,000 people in front of the White House, and even addressed political issues.

“During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.”

He also spoke about “one of America’s most precious possessions,” religious freedom.

He spoke on climate change, urging Americans as well as the rest of the world to take a stand to correct the problem before it is too late.

Pope Francis will speak more during his visit to the US, but most notably will be his speech to Congress tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Never Forget

Never forget September 11, 2001. A day that is hard for anyone in the country, and even some others, to erase from their memory. It is a day that feels different from the rest of the week even these 14 years later. The air seems to feel heavier and still. You’re greeted by strangers whose faces are the look of dismay. Everyone has the same look in their eyes. Thoughtfulness, confusion, sadness. It seems like everyone is walking around in a fog. Those who lost a loved on that day reflect on their lives and post memories on social media. Scrolling through my newsfeed is like a time machine filled with “never forgets” and fuzzy pictures.

Everyone remembers where they were on that day 14 years ago. It’s hard to forget, no matter how young you were. Even the vaguest memory is filled with confusion and chaos.

I was in 6th grade Science class. The teacher instructed us not to turn on the TV. But she wasn’t going to be giving us a lesson that day. “Just talk amongst yourselves.” She flew in and out of the classroom. I could see through the window in the door that my other teachers were huddled out there together. Whispering, exchanging worried glances. Some of their eyes filled with tears. But back in the classroom, all the students were normal. I knew something was wrong, but I certainly didn’t have any idea what I was going to learn.

The phone rang and it sounded like it was off the hook. My teacher ran into the classroom and grabbed the phone, slamming it down in a fervor a moment later. It was for me, and my mom was here to pick me up from school early. I gathered my things and proceeded to my locker. I remember thinking how weird it was that I was being picked up early and worried one of my grandparents was in the hospital.

When I got to the front lobby, I was stunned. It was packed full of parents who all seemed to be over talking one another. It was loud. But it felt weird. I pushed through the crowd looking for my mom. A girl I knew walked toward her mom asking, “Where is dad?” When I finally reached my mom she grabbed me and rushed us to the car.

I don’t really remember the car ride to our house. It was only 10 minutes but it felt like a lifetime. She told me what had happened. I worried about family in New York. Thankfully, my family was spared on that day.

Many weren’t so lucky. 3,000 lives were lost that day, and countless others in the aftermath. On this day we are full of pride. We are proud to be Americans. We are happy to dedicate the day to those who are gone, and we stand as one country. Why does it take a tragedy to bring our country together? Come tomorrow, things will be back to normal. The memorials will be over. I wish that just one time, Americans could still feel proud and united even after the day has passed. If we can come together in the face of adversity, why can’t we come together otherwise?

What is the line between religion and law?

There are a couple of platforms that the Republican Party takes that doesn’t bode well with voters. Same-sex marriage, birth control, abortions, religion, and the like. Right now I want to focus on same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide. Many Republican politicians were supportive of the court’s ruling and offered vague words of support. But some others were vocal about their dismay. They are religious and firm in their beliefs, and they believe that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, and that homosexuality is a sin.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. We were built on the freedom of our country, and are fortunate enough to be afforded our opinions and beliefs and are able to share them with fellow citizens. So where is the line drawn between religious beliefs and the law?

Enter Kim Davis. Kim Davis is a Kentucky county clerk who is firm in her religious beliefs. Same-sex marriage is wrong. She began refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. After back and forth with the federal court and the threat that she could be thrown in jail, she was. Davis remains in jail and has become something of a martyr for other conservatives who agree with her position. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been especially vocal about his beliefs and stands behind Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Regardless of your beliefs, Kim Davis broke the law. What she did is equivalent to not letting someone sit at the counter of a bar because they are black. The law isn’t up for interpretation, no matter what an individual might think about said law.

This is where Republicans lose voters, mostly young voters. Are progressive Republicans a thing? I think they are. I personally am a registered Republican. I believe in their fiscal positions, even though I don’t believe with the social ones. I can get past the fact that I don’t agree with every position they have. Some young voters can’t.

Same-sex marriage shouldn’t be a hot topic platform now. It’s legal, the court has made that ruling already. There’s no need to continue the discussion. Some candidates have recognized that and if asked about same-sex marriage, offer up vague, polite words that say they believe in the law and that’s the way it is. Sometimes they add that people are equal no matter what.

What will happen to Kim Davis? Will they let her out of jail even if she continues to refuse to issue same-sex licenses? After all, it is the law.

Does Black Lives Matter mean those are the only lives that matter?

Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Freddie Gray. You’re familiar with these names, right? They’re the names of young black men who were killed by white men, sometimes cops. Their deaths started a new movement in America. Black Lives Matter. You’ve seen the hashtags, the videos, and the never ending commentary. You’ve watched President Obama get on national television and declare that these boys could easily be his son, and call for a change.

Bryon Dickson. Charles Gliniewicz. Sonny Kim. Do you recognize these names? You probably don’t these are the names of just a few officers who were killed in the line of duty. Not just killed, but gunned down. If you’re wondering if you missed Obama’s press conference about these brave men, don’t worry, you didn’t. There never was one.

I’m not sure if this is just about race, or maybe it’s about police officers. There certainly is a lot of hate being spewed around the country towards police officers. The same people who wake up every single day ready to protect and serve the same people who bash them. Stories and videos of heroism by these fine men and women aren’t shared, hardly at all. A few bad eggs or bad situations have been put in the spotlight, and as a result a stigma has been cast upon every fellow American in blue.

Lt. Charles Gliniewicz was a military veteran who continued to serve our country as a police officer in Illinois. He was married with four children. Yesterday he was killed while in pursuit of 3 suspects, all of whom are still fleeing police. A manhunt is underway to find Lt. Gliniewicz’s killers.

Obama is in Alaska taping a special for the survival show “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” He has not made a comment. He has not called a press conference.

So why are only some lives important? The focus the past year or so has been on black lives because of a few incidents that have been slapped in front of our eyes and made the only focus in the news. I’m not saying their lives don’t matter, all lives matter. A death is tragic no matter the circumstances. But what about the other deaths? Are they less important because they don’t fuel a movement?

It’s becoming increasingly disturbing to me why police lives aren’t deemed important enough to be mourned or to start a movement, but rather they are looked at as the enemy.

I have to fuel my argument with some statistics. Black Americans commit over half of the homicides in the country. Black Americans commit eight times more crimes against white Americans than vice-versa. About 1,000 more white Americans were killed by police than black Americans.

The sole point of the Black Lives Matter movement is that black Americans are the victims. They are discriminated against, therefore they are killed. These statistics show otherwise.

I think Ben Carson is onto something when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, that we need to focus on crime in general, especially in bad neighborhoods, and not single out any one race.