The tossing hum of the laundromat and its faint, mechanic heat lulled me as I waited for my clothes to wash. In and out, people carried their tubs of clothes, their tired faces and the mid-afternoon breeze pulling through the open door made me feel like a contented spot on the floor. An unnoticed piece observing the greater workings of human life.
I like to sit on the outside and observe. I like to empty my brain and feel like a spot on the tile, an ornament. But, as I enjoyed my anonymity, my recession into my thoughts, the droning of the television caught my attention. Headlines of massacre pulled me up and sat me firmly on my feet. “Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History,” the television read.
A man, peeking through a hotel window with a heavily powered gun watched concert goers through his scope and waited until the time was ripe.
I am breathless as I stand, several others near me as riveted to the screen as I. I wonder, I stumble, I wheeze in consternation. Only moments before, I was anonymous, but as I singled my vision on the number of dead, all of the sudden, I felt like I was standing on the edge of the world, watching as the people next to me, one who was holding my hand, another who I had shared coffee with were leaping off into the chasm.
Some like to think that the world is a more dangerous place now than it has ever been. I’m not an expert, but of course, I don’t think that’s true. Humans have been annihilating each other since they could find sharp enough sticks or rocks to accomplish the task. Ambition, greed, jealousy, power…instinct? These deep seated, easily overlooked pieces of the character of mankind rear their ugly heads and take down the innocent in droves.
When I first started studying Psychology, I was introduce to something called The Stanford Prison Experiment. I won’t attempt to go into it here, if my reader is unfamiliar, but I will say that it sent me into such a disgusted depression, that I accomplished nothing but writing an angst-filled song at the end of the night. Are we animals? Are human beings incapable of controlling their violent temperaments? Are we going to keep murdering each other senselessly for the rest of time?
Am I going to have to cling so tightly to my loved ones that they can’t attend concerts, can’t board planes, can’t take the trains, can’t leave the gosh darned living room? For Pete’s sake, will I have to wear a bullet proof vest to leave the house?
Of course, the idealist in me screams at the injustice. We all wonder why in times like these. We wonder why the man shot all those people, and newscasters were ignorant as to his motive at the time of the broadcast. They saw no motive, no connection, nothing but the unstable mind of the murderer, son of a man on the most wanted list. Well, I thought about it. I puzzled and puzzled, as I often do when things go horribly wrong in the harmony of life, and I began to think that I had some semblance of an answer. It’s an answer I’ve had for many things in the past years, but I will nonetheless apply it here, too.
Why do people kill? How can someone turn a gun at a crowd of innocent people, none of which he has ever met before?
The answer? Humans have trouble seeing other people as human, too. I mean, really human, not by definition, not by association, not by comparison. Really, really human. They have trouble looking past a face that looks like their own, a title, a name that they go by, a package carrying a personality with its own perceptions and desires.
We label, we categorize, we disassociate. We lump.
Personally, I have a difficult time leaping out of my own head and seeing people. My husband is probably the first person that I truly saw. And by golly, I sure loved what I saw.
I don’t have a solution to accompany this answer, necessarily. I’m no less troubled, no less heartbroken at the existence of evil, murder, self-consumption. However, I can hope upon hope that humanity will one day learn to stop lumping and start talking, reading, and seeing.