By Julia Schemmer, 18
Whenever I hear about a mass shooting, there’s an element to the news that doesn’t feel real, as if that extent of human cruelty couldn’t possibly exist in a country adored for its adherence to the liberation and equalization of the individual. While I mourn the people affected in the events of mass shootings, it’s hard to believe that these events happen within my own home country, rather than in scenes from twisted dystopian novels.
However, on December 2, 2015, it hit close to home. Literally.
In San Bernardino, California, only 10 miles away from my university, a man and a woman opened fire during a training session for county employees. The two, who were alleged to be married, killed 14 individuals and left 21 wounded.
I find myself fortunate to not have any family or friends directly affected by the shooting, but seeing my beloved friends receive the news that their loved ones were murdered is a circumstance that nobody should be forced to endure. For the first time in my college experience, I felt genuinely scared to be on campus, even with reassuring remarks from my school administration.
I shouldn’t have to be afraid to step foot onto my own school campus and wonder if we’ll be the next one in line for attacks. My Muslim friends should not be ostracized, even to the point where they had to close the Middle Eastern Student Center for fear of student-led retaliation for something that they did not do. I go to San Bernardino on a fairly regular basis. Had I been at the wrong place at the wrong time, my fate could have infinitely changed. Spending countless hours in my student government office desperately awaiting the news on whether or not my loved ones were safe brought a sense of insight I would have never received from a news headline. Even as I attempt to type my thoughts in my dorm room, I still find myself unable to believe such catastrophic events would occur near my own home. The amount of hatred possessed in this attack is indigestible, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend what happened.
The media can try to euphemize the situation, but what happened on Wednesday was, indeed, a terrorist attack. Yet, it’s important to understand that terrorism is not confined to a religion, wardrobe, appearance, ethnicity or heritage. I mourn the people affected by the attacks, but even in the grieving process, it is absolutely essential to not project unchecked hatred onto entire categories of people for the actions of few. It is not anyone’s fault except the shooters themselves, and it’s vital to be there for the Muslim community.
A terrorist attack does not feel like the blaring headline blaming entire ethnic groups without due research. A terrorist attack does not feel like potential presidents capitalizing on the misguided fear of their followers to create mass movements against people. It is the stinging pain from realizing the power that our hatred can bring. It is the tears shed by the families who wished that they kissed their loved ones one last time before they left for work. It is the sorrows felt internationally for the lives of people taken by sadistic individuals wanting to make a political statement.
What’s more, the mass shooting in San Bernardino was not a once in a blue moon event. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been 355 attacks reported. That’s more shootings than there have been days in the year so far. We shouldn’t have to shrug our shoulders and accept this as the new normal. We should not have to tailor our lives to the fear and intimidation that outlandish individuals have given us, nor should we constantly live under the bondage that such darkness has brought our society. Now is not the time to be indifferent, to wipe the casualties under the map as a bitter acceptance into our inevitable fate. We must stand united more than ever, because the only thing stronger than a gun or a bomb is the power of the people and their ability to love.
These events break my heart, especially knowing that they happened in a town where I once freely roamed the streets with no inhibitions. However, I believe that we are made for a time such as this. Our generation is known for challenging the status quo and upholding a sense of relentless pride in the pursuit of our identity, and we change the news. It’s going to take more than a #PrayforSanBernardino hashtag or a “like” on a Facebook photo. If we want change, we’re going to need to work together to change the culture.
Defeat Islamophobic attitudes in your community by calling out people on their remarks. Be ridiculously informed about the issues. Work to leave people and places in better places than when you last found them in.