One thing we know for sure: This should not have happened
by Andrea W. Doray
Sunday, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, a lone gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 500 more. The details – all the sad, heart wrenching, uplifting, horrifying, miraculous, grisly, and even inspiring details – are yet to be known, but one thing we know for certain: This should not have happened.
Something else we know for sure is that this tragedy will reignite the controversy over gun control in the United States. Despite the success of gun control in some countries, and the complete ban of firearms in others, there is a mulish resistance by some sectors of American government – and in our society – who refuse to acknowledge that there is even a problem, much less a solution.
I spent some time in 2010 volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps in Turkmenistan, a regime second in repression only to North Korea. I personally was followed by the KNB, the Turkmen version of the KGB, and one of the young women I trained with was rousted out of bed in her host family’s home in the middle of the night, for no reason that we ever ascertained. No one else in the village would take her in because they feared the displeasure of these secret police. Fortunately, she connected with another Peace Corps volunteer in the area who was able to help her.
I mention this because the good and kind people of Turkmenistan were completely at the mercy of the whims of their dictatorial government. And although I had previously believed that this could never happen in the U.S., after the 2016 presidential election, I now conclude that anything is possible. The darkest parts of world history are finding a way to replay in America, from Hitleresque demonization of an entire faith to the benighted beliefs of KKK white supremacism.
I believe in the Founding Fathers’ vision of the rights of American citizens to bear arms, if for no other reason than to ultimately prevent the types of oppression I witnessed in Turkmenistan. But, like all rights, this one must be balanced with the good of the citizenry at large. For example, hate speech is not protected as free speech. Freedom of religion does not extend to so-called cults that break the law. And the right to bear arms needs the balance of sensible minds on all sides coming together to craft policies that honor the intent of the 2nd Amendment as well as protect the people of America from the horrors of a Las Vegas-style massacre.
There are no easy answers for such a complex problem. All that I ask is a recognition by those in government that there is a problem, and a willingness to do the hard work of finding a solution.
In this space, I echo the sentiments of Chris Murphy reacting to the Las Vegas shootings, now a Connecticut senator, who represented the House district that includes Newtown, Connecticut, when 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School: “… the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.”
I urge us all to engage in civil dialogue about this most critical issue. And that’s how I see it from my little corner of the world.
Statement from Writing for Peace:
On behalf of the board of directors, advisors, and supporters of Writing for Peace, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to those who lost loved ones in the senseless violence last night in Las Vegas. May you find peace and some measure of comfort in the days ahead.
To those who were wounded in this chaos, we send love and best wishes for your quick recoveries, physically, mentally, spiritually.
To the police, fire departments, and first responders, the medical and emergency providers, the venue personnel, and the Las Vegas community, we thank you.
To the regular ordinary people who reached out to their fellow human beings — staying with the wounded on the concert lawn, helping others over the venue fences, holding the dying in their arms — you are our heroes.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, it is normal for us all to turn to one another for comfort, to try to speak the unspeakable, to try to understand what we often cannot even comprehend.
Writing for Peace, clearly, stands against violence of this — or any — type. We do not waiver in our passion for peaceful resolution of conflict, and for de-escalating the ways and means of perpetrating such violence.
We continue to speak up, to stand up, to reach out with our ideals of a peaceful world built on empathy and compassion, tomorrow and in the future.
Today, we mourn.
President, Writing for Peace