War at Home: A Reflection on U.S. Mass Shootings

When I taught English in Croatia, I used to do cultural presentations on the U.S. (and other English-themed topics) for some of my classes.

During one particular presentation that provided a broad stroke of U.S. culture, I was honest with the class and showed them not just the good parts about the U.S, but also the darker side. On this slide, the topic of school/mass shootings was a featured bullet point.

It was sad for me to write that on a slide, but it was the truth–mass shootings have become all too normal in the U.S.

So far this year, 30 mass shootings have occurred. In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings.

All of my students were shocked that mass shootings were so commonplace in the U.S. I remember one student asking, “But why? Why would someone do that? Why would they let them?”

I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know. And I still don’t know the answers to these questions, especially the last one.

While most of my students did not live through the Balkan independence wars of the early 90s, they had parents who did and grandparents who did as well. Yet, it is these same people–who experienced a country ravened by war not so long ago–that find it incomprehensible that the U.S. has such routine mass slaughter.

Enough is enough now.

Enough was enough yesterday. It was enough a month ago, last year, the year before that, and many years even before that.

Rhetoric is empty. Action is the only remedy. Yet the U.S. government seems to have a hard time figuring this out.

We’ve been waiting, calling for, and demanding change, yet instead we get empty words. And then we must watch as more people are gunned down, as more families lose loved ones, as whole communities mourn.

Our country–while wonderful in many ways–is also horribly broken. The more we ignore this fact, the more we suffer.

But there is hope–there is always hope, and we mustn’t forget that in our anger. We can use our anger to spur action as there is hope and power in those who remember, who do not forget, who call their elected officials, who keep the pressure on, who keep fighting despite governmental inertia.

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us not forget this and let us not “doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

About the featured photo:

I took this photo a number of years ago as my father drove us through some of the country back-roads of Croatia.

On this car ride, I came face-to-face with areas that had suffered during the war in the early 90s.

My heart was heavy as we drove past building after building with bullet holes, bullet wounds.

It’s hard to know what to say when tragedy, like war and mass shootings, hit.

I often go to reading, to writing, to poetry as a way to try to make sense of the senseless. But sometimes words cannot hold all the sorrow…

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold . . .” -W. B. Yeats

Featured photo location: Somewhere in Croatia’s countryside, driving back from the coast on the old road

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