Tragic acts of unthinkable violence are covering the news in the United States. The questions linger:
How could someone commit such a terrible act of violence and terrorism?
How could someone shoot and kill in their own neighborhood? How could they gangbang and commit evil acts against such young children?
What made them break?
When tragedy strikes, we are stopped in our tracks. What major event went wrong in a person’s life for this to be their path?
We are usually left without an answer, because there is no one major event. There are a host of minor, invisible structural sins that caused these men and women to break. Even harder to face is that these sins are created by us—the “innocents.” How could we possibly have blood on our hands? The Christians? The do-gooders? The law-abiding citizens?
Let me ask you a few questions:
Do you like quality education for your children?
You use your privilege to buy sought-after property in a great school zone, or you use your financial capital to send your child to a private school. By doing this, the great resources, teachers, and opportunities converge in middle to upper class areas, leaving voids in low-income public schooling. Furthermore, rather than advocate for a quality school in your own area, it becomes much easier to ignore the failing schools. No one is left to advocate for them, as the poor often times are caught in other more immediate fights—such as keeping their heat on or maintaining their minimum wage shift jobs with unpredictable schedules—and the achievement gap widens.
Do you like your cheap clothes and fast food?
You are helping keep workers at a wage they cannot live on. They work several part time jobs because their employers keep costs low and refuse them full time jobs with benefits. They give them a minimum wage without raises, because it is more important that their savings be passed onto you, the demanding consumer. Or, they use loopholes to break the laws completely, especially for vulnerable immigrants.
Are you unwilling to step foot in the “less nice parts of town?”
You are creating isolated ghettos where small businesses cannot function, revenue and tax streams cannot exist, and housing remains segregated and cut off from quality transportation and job access.
Are you unwilling to hire someone with a minor criminal record?
You are helping to keep a generation of young men and women from an honest living, forcing them return to their prior ways of drug dealing and theft in order to provide for their families.
Do you value security over admissions in terms of immigrants and refugees?
You are adding to the fear and discrimination of our country’s minorities, especially minorities from Central America, Mexico, and the Middle East. The protests against Mosques in your own backyards and the demand for English over Spanish in your schools is contributing to the hardship of these peoples.
Is any one of these things intentional? Probably not. But regardless, your actions have a tremendous impact on people you will most likely never meet.
All of these small cuts create the desperation that led these gunmen down the paths that make the evening news. These men and women did not lash out in anger because you murdered someone they know. But they are lashing out because punch by punch, your choices of convenience have caged them, diminished them, and made their ability to overcome their obstacles futile.
So when you see another mas shooting, or a black teenage body in a coffin, start asking yourself what social sins you have committed that contributed to the violence. What have you done out of fear?
More than any politician, police task force, FBI or terror watch force, your lifestyle choices and your mercy (or lack thereof) to the poor create an environment where anger upon anger builds, until it explodes. Or shoots.