WARNING: POTENTIALLY UPSETTING DISCUSSION
Violated. Yesterday I felt broken. Today, I realize that a big part of that is I feel violated. I have had so many emotions and thoughts churning inside me regarding the most recent mass shootings, but this one had to come out.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America does a lot of work to recognize and help survivors of gun violence. They define a survivor as someone who has witnessed gun violence, been a victim of it, or has a close loved one who has been a victim. Gun violence affects those directly injured or killed, but its reach extends farther than that.
I feel violated, and I have only had brushes with gun violence. Using the above definition, I am not a survivor, but I came way too darn close. As I have recounted here before, I did not see the gunman in my building, but I hunkered down out of sight in my office waiting for him to come through the door and kill me. If I feel violated, I can only imagine what actual gun violence survivors might feel right now. I hope that by trying to put my feelings into words, it can also be of some small help to them in coping with this recent reopening of old wounds.
Even my limited experience has me feeling violated. First, there were the multiple major shooting incidents in the week prior, including at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I wrote again about gun violence in response. Then, this Saturday, the news rolled in about the shooting in El Paso, which now has a toll of 22 dead and dozens injured. First responders arrived within 6 minutes of the first 911 call. The white male shooter acted out of hatred of Latinx people. Overwhelmed, I could not find words. Torchlight Media had only a few days before published my article. I just wrote about this. And in days, my work became relevant again.
Then I woke up Sunday morning to news of a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. This time the motivation was less clear, but it doesn’t matter to the dead and the gun violence survivors of that incident. The trauma remains. The white male shooter killed 9 people and injured 14, with another 23 injured in their attempts to escape the scene. The police responded and killed the shooter in less than 30 seconds. In that time, the shooter had already fired 41 rounds. The news, coming hard on top of the news from El Paso, broke me.
I just didn’t understand until today was how much violation I felt in all that. We just went through this days earlier. Now we are doing it again. I just wrote about this, for the I-have-long-since-lost count time, and I have to do it again. It reminds me of every time I have faced sexual harassment or belittlement of me and my thoughts because I am a woman. It’s all so obvious, and it’s all so obviously wrong. We keep complaining about it, and it feels like nothing has changed. And innocents are still suffering and dying.
This weekend, the president’s cronies have the gall to say he isn’t a white nationalist. It comes from his own mouth. He talks about how only certain people should be here, and its only white people. His “go back to where you came from” comments to four U.S. congresswomen voiced white nationalist ideology. When asked if he was concerned that “people saw the tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point,” Trump said it didn’t concern him because “many people agree with me.” He basically owned up to being a white nationalist and not having a scrap of remorse about it.
He has stoked up Americans to fear immigrants and Latinx people. He did not discourage a rally crowd when it suggested the best way to deal with Latinx immigrants was to shoot them. He deliberately incites intolerance and hatred in this country.
Also this weekend, the president said his administration has “done actually a lot” to address gun violence. What he has done is roll back Obama’s executive action designed to get us better background checks and limit the mentally ill’s access to guns, steps the majority of Americans agree upon. What Trump has done is ban bump stocks, an incredibly tiny step toward doing anything actually effective. That’s it. The rest has been done by Congress, largely Democrats in Congress, and most of that has been stalled thanks to Mitch McConnell in the Senate.
Today, Trump Tweeted that we needed better background checks, checks he previously poopooed because they came from Obama. He then Tweeted that background check laws should be tacked on to immigration reform legislation. Trump has made clear that the only kind of immigration reform legislation he will sign is one that keeps as many brown people out of this country as possible and gets his wall built.
That fucking bastard. I don’t have enough expletives for that shithead. The nation is mourning the dead and the wounded and the hatred that caused this in the first place. Two more people died today as a result of the El Paso shooting. And Trump says that we should have the kinds of things we could have had a while ago (and did) only if we tie it to fucking over Latinx people.
Then, Trump had the gall during his address to the nation to start with condemning white nationalism and gun violence and then pivoting to the same bullshit talking points used over and over again to excuse nothing getting done. It’s violent video games. It’s mental health problems. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for improving how we handle mental health in this country. But for fuck’s sake, other developed nations have that same video games or worse and the same mental health issues, and they don’t have anywhere near the same body count. It’s the fucking guns and how we deal with them in this country.
Then to top it all off, he couldn’t even manage his sympathy act convincingly enough to remember that the Ohio shooting took place in Dayton, not Toledo. Adding insult to injury, Joe Biden today mistook El Paso for Houston and Ohio for Michigan. The lack of care for the trauma of El Paso, Dayton and, in fact, the whole nation is like maiming an already mauled person.
The whole combination of things, from shooting on top of shooting, to running into the same old run around yet again, to the callous insensitivity of people leading this nation, have left me feeling more than sad, or angry, or raw. I feel something akin to being raped. I feel like whatever wounds my past and these events have caused have been deliberately reopened and made worse. I feel violated. And if I feel that way today, how much worse must the vast number of Americans who are true gun violence survivors feel today.
To all gun violence survivors out there, I’m sorry for what you are going through. Your pain is real, and it matters to me and many others. Please know that I am taking my pain and my hurt and channeling it into continuing the fight to reduce gun violence in this country. And I think a lot of other people are too.