It’s time for some serious soul-searching
I spent all day last Saturday at the Synod Assembly for the Southeast Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. As a result I did not check the news feed on my phone until I got home in the evening.
When I did look at it the first thing that popped up was a headline about a mass shooting in Texas. Another shooting, I thought. What is going on? I clicked on the headline and that’s when the story became personal.
It told me that shoppers were evacuated from an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, where a gunman killed eight people before a police officer fatally shot him. It turns out that the dead included three children, and another seven people were injured.
Allen is a fast-growing suburb north of Dallas. It is located in Collin County, sandwiched between two other fast growing suburbs, Plano and McKinney.
I spent the 1980s living and working in Texas. I worked at three newspapers, the Plano Daily Star-Courier, the Allen American, and the McKinney Courier-Gazette. The last time I was in the area was about 2001 when I attended the wedding of my best friend’s son.
I hadn’t really thought a lot about north Dallas until Saturday and then I mentally revisited my decade in the area. I liked the area, in fact I only left because I had an opportunity to work for a newspaper in suburban DC, and what reporter would not want to work that close to the nation’s capital.
What, I thought, has happened to cause something like this to happen in an area I thought I knew. Was it the political climate? Maybe, but Collin County was certainly primarily a very conservative area when I lived there but everyone seemed to get along. People would argue over politics but there was never any violence. Was it guns? Guns play a role, but I saw more than a few good ol’ boys driving around with a rifle in the back window of the pickup truck. Racial? Maybe, but although whites were certainly the majority there were also good numbers of Blacks and Hispanics.
A day later, on Sunday, a driver in Brownsville, Texas, driving an SUV mowed down people near a shelter for the homeless and migrants. Latest report says people were killed and 12 others injured.
The driver was arrested, charged with reckless driving and could face additional charges, authorities said initially. He has since been charged with manslaughter.
Now, this is not a Texas thing. Different groups categorize mass shootings in different ways. But one group, the Gun Violence Archive, defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed. This group reports there have been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2023. This figure includes both those in homes and those in public places.
There is no mention that it includes people who were intentionally run down by motor vehicles.
And yes, some of these incidents were due to domestic violence or killings that did not involve people going to a mall, or workplace, or church, or other public place to randomly kill.
Anyone who pays any attention to the news must realize that those 200 incidents did not all happen in one state, or even region of the country. Violence is becoming commonplace throughout the country and as a nation we have become desensitized to it. We hear of these incidents, we express our condolences or thoughts and prayers and say we must do something about it. For some it is banning assault-like weapons or even all firearms. For others it is arming themselves for protection and voicing support for the Second Amendment.
While those discussions certainly need to take place, maybe it is time to also consider another route. And too often, after a few days, the most recent shootings fade from our memory.
Along with trying to come up with a solution, maybe, just maybe, we should stop and do some serious soul-searching. How have we as individuals and a country reached this place in our history. A place where people seem to feel they have a right to hate. Even hate people they don’t know. A place where those who disagree with you are evil.
Abraham Lincoln said it at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.”
We have become a nation divided. If we are to move forward and meet the challenges that are to come we need to be able to unite as a people. Yes, we will continue to have disagreements. Americans have always had disagreements and sometimes in the past they have led to violence, but not at the level we see now.
We need to take a serious look at where we have been, what we are now, and what kind of a people we want to be in the future.
Photo: Common Ground Karen M. Jorgensen Editor DCI