It is hard for bad news to surprise me nowadays. Headline after headline summarizing tragedies and horrific events are nothing new. When I read about these bad things happening, I usually feel very removed from the situation. I understand their negative effects, and my heart aches for all of the hate in the world. However, something about it does not seem real without seeing it happen firsthand. My life continues, and nothing changes. Gun control laws are not tightened, the country’s faulty socioeconomic system prevails and the depressing articles keep pouring in. I have almost reached the point of utter hopelessness.
When I read about the 50 people killed and the dozens wounded in the terrorist attack at a mosque in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, I realized that I need to change the way I think about and react to massacres like this one. Hopelessness is not going to prevent hate-filled attacks in the future. I need to take this attack and others just as personally as if it happened right in my hometown in order to stand strong in solidarity with the afflicted people.
I am not Muslim, but I am human. An attack against innocent people anywhere should anger everyone to the point of some form of action, whether it be giving opinions directly to our government representatives or simply sharing an informative post on social media.
I reflected on the times I’ve been truly scared by gun violence in an attempt to understand how I am directly affected by these hate crimes. Thankfully, I have never been put in the direct line of danger, and I do not have any close ties to shooting victims. Still, I have felt the paranoia and fear that my life could potentially be at the will of another at any time.
After hearing about the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I now sometimes feel unsafe in movie theaters. The lights go down to start the film, and I cannot help but look around the theater with feelings of suspicion and insecurity. It takes a few minutes of the movie plot developing to distract me from conjuring up scary hypotheticals.
I was sitting in the waiting room of a medical clinic a few months after the Mercy Hospital shooting in Chicago this past November when a man pulled up in his car right outside, swerving in the parking lot. The woman at the front desk asked me if he was there to pick me up, and when I said no, she walked out of the room to ask everyone else in the clinic if they knew who he was. She came back looking uneasy, and I began plotting my escape should he barge in with a weapon. When the car eventually drove away, I let out a breath of air I didn’t even know I was holding in.
Living in fear is not going to solve any problems. Being constantly shaken is giving the power to the perpetrators and is like letting them win in a way. However, feeling worried in positions like this can serve as a wake-up call. I am connected to the New Zealand mosque attacks, and if you have ever felt at risk in the slightest way, you should realize that you are connected too.
If you have found yourself numb to the news lately, try to change your mindset. It is not enough to only send thoughts and prayers, but it still is important to have the thoughts and prayers in the first place.
We cannot be desensitized to this violence because it will continue to happen and only become more commonplace. We must pay active attention to the news to stay updated on gun legislation, cultural conflict and progress, or lack thereof. Let yourself feel empathetic and angry at the evil in the world, and use that energy to empower yourself and others to do something about it.
Molly Chepenik is a UF journalism sophomore. Her column appears on Wednesdays.