Can someone tell me why the San Bernadino shooting was more frightening than similar massacres in Auroa, Charlestown, Newtown? Why the hysteria over this particular shooting? What makes a hate crime by 2 radicalized Islamist fundamentalists worst than hate crimes committed by white racists, homophobes, or anti-government vigilantes? Aren't they just as random and unpredictable, their victims just as dead? Why the hysteria over San Bernadino when there were 110 other mass shootings in 2015? What makes a Muslim legally buying weapons and using them to kill innocents different from a white guy legally buying guns and killing innocent people?
Please help me understand why we react differently to the horrible acts of ISIS than to the 30,000 plus Americans killed every year by gun violence. Yes, the radicalized hatred of ISIS is terrifying, but does that excuse us from ignoring those who die daily from gun violence perpetrated by non-Muslims here in the US? Does it give us the right to ignore the fact that more Americans have died by gun violence within our country since 1963 than American troops killed in all 20th century wars?
How dare we make guns, gun rights, and profits more important than human life. How dare we allow the NRA to blackmail Congress into passing legislation making it illegal to collect data on gun deaths because they are terrified of what we might learn! How dare we point fingers at Muslims for being violent when we, the reported leaders of the world, kill more of our own people, incarcerate more of our citizens, and spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined?
And don't tell me I don't love America because I dare to challenge our gun addiction. In 1958 I spent a summer in post war Berlin chipping mortar off of bricks from bombed buildings so they could be re-used. Those were Cold War days when Russia defended it's many borders with troops and guns. I saw what walls can do! How people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall separating East from West. My visit in Soviet controlled East Berlin was a terrifying experience. I literally wept in appreciation when, passing through the final barrier, I saw our American flag. It's because I love American I can't condone our policies on immigration, guns, excuse racism, religious intolerance, fear mongering and zenophobia. We are better than that. We must be better than that!
Hate, racism, religious intolerance are choices we make that actually hinder our own freedoms. If we love our nation, we must look beyond our fears and longings for easy answers to real solutions: immigration reform, reforming our justice system, exercising our right to vote, focusing on the common good. We must demand more of ourselves, our public officials, our lawmakers. We can choose to find better solutions to the problems of gun violence and terrorism than blaming others or denying common sense solutions on the pretense that these somehow infringe on our constitutional rights. We can guarantee the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all: white, black, brown, yellow or red, rich or poor, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. It won't be easy. We may have to change, but we can make people more important than guns and the world safer for everyone.
Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.