Colorado, Mass Shootings, and Empathy

I don’t ever intend to piss people off. Really, I promise. In fact, I HATE conflict. But the dialogue surrounding the shootings in the United States the past few days has really gotten to me.

I live in Colorado. In 2019, the Denver Post published an analysis ranking Colorado 5th in mass shootings, a large number of those in the Denver Metro area. I live in the Denver Metro area. The shooting at the Aurora theater happened not long before we moved here. I remember the panic I felt because a friend of mine had just moved to the area. I still think about that every time I take my son to see a movie. That’s the theater closest to us… Although, honestly, there are times I drive farther because of that night.

Monday’s shooting was at a King Sooper’s. For those that haven’t picked up on it from the news yet, that is a grocery store. 10 people died. That’s 10 families in mourning. That’s 10 lives that were taken by someone else. 10 people who just needed groceries. The grocery store, the movie theater, the schools, the churches, the clinics… These are places we should all feel safe going.

There are two things that have really disgusted me in the past few days.

The first is the discussion about mental health care. “Well, if his family knew he wasn’t doing well, they should have taken him to see someone.” No shit, Sherlock. But getting mental health care in Colorado is hard. It’s hard if you’re poor and on Medicaid (trust me… I tried to get counseling to deal with depression about medical issues… It was near impossible and then the person to whom I was assigned couldn’t be bothered to keep our appointments). It’s impossible if you have an amazing job and good insurance. I know this also from personal experience. While lawmakers here like to claim that mental health care is a priority in Colorado, the actual experience is vastly different.

The other part that’s really bothering me is the lack of empathy being shown to those affected by the events. The family and friends of the victims don’t need to go online and see people bitching about their 2nd amendment rights being violated by gun legislation. They need people to care about how these events have PERMANENTLY changed their lives. The people in surrounding areas need the public at large to realize how terrifying this has been. We should NOT have to be afraid to pick up a carton of eggs after work. We should not have to be terrified to get a massage, or see a movie, or send our children to school. My son does not go to a public school. He’s homeschooled. I was homeschooled. But I teach and so it’s the reverse in our home. He’s worried when I go to school, because he knows I’ll protect the kids. Fear of public places shouldn’t be something any of us have to worry about. Not like this. Nor should we have to feel guilty for the relief we feel when we read the list of names, the list of names that we waited for anxiously while dreading it’s arrival, because someone we love is not on that list.

This isn’t a political post. I don’t want to get into the politics of gun control or mental health care. I don’t want to argue about the root causes or the decline of civilization. I’m too tired for that. What this post is, however, is a call to action for everyone reading it. Please, please, think about what you’re saying and show compassion to those who have been affected by the events of the past week. Please remember that everyone, no matter where they live, feels things differently.

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