I’m sure by now, many may have heard of the fatal shooting at a shopping mall in Portland, OR. It made the AP and Huffington Post within an hour of it’s occurrence. A single, short, dark-haired, masked gunman in camouflage and possibly body armor, using a civilian, semi-automatic version of a military weapon opened fire in the food court area. Several were wounded, one is in critical condition and two others were killed. Children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap, their families, and many, many others were terrified and traumatized. It was later discovered the gunman had apparently killed himself as well.
I only heard about it because a couple of my local Facebook friends shared a news link and status updates reassuring family and friends they were okay or expressing gratitude they had not chosen to do their shopping there during that time.
One young friend made the following observation:
The location of the shooting to the rest of the country is Portland. For those of us who live here, the actual location, Clackamas Town Center (CTC) is in the county south of Portland and the stereotype is that the location of the shopping center tends to attract the more affluent and socially connected people in our area. Lloyd Center is the shopping center that is closest to downtown Portland and located in a more urban area which tends to be more of a central hangout for disenfranchised and disillusioned youth.
The apparent assumption is that responses were different due to stereotypes and the disparity of caring about the safety and well-being of one demographic above another. While this could be a factor, I believe a bigger factor is that the two locations lie within two different law enforcement and governmental jurisdictions. As well as the differences in the nature of the shootings. The truth is we don’t know the differences in how law enforcement personnel are trained or what matrices have been developed for responding to various scenarios.
What I do know is that it is way too easy to see a few facts, combine them with personal assumptions and beliefs, then come to a faulty conclusion that takes this kind of tragedy and reduces it to a cynical and apathetic response of, “If they don’t care what happens to me and my kind, why should I care what happens to them?”
Last night, after the shooting, was a parent Policy Council meeting and the woman I get a ride from is Latina and very active in immigration issues and working to improve inclusion and involvement for members of the Latino community. She was doing the verbal hand-wringing about why this had to happen here and wanting to know more about what really happened – a virtual looky loo of sorts. Her primary concern, after wanting to make sure people she knew who may have been there were okay, was to hope and pray that the gunman wasn’t Latino because of how it would affect the views and opinions of Latinos and detract from the social justice efforts in that portion of our community.
Again we see this us vs. them mentality. Generalized compassion for those who were directly affected was easily overridden by personal interest in an us vs. them social justice cause.
Then I read this:
It is an unpopular and seemingly irrational viewpoint to take, to be seen as coming to the defense of the villain. The fact of the matter is that at some point and at some time the person under the mask, the man behind the gun, would have been more than those facts about him. Somewhere along the way there would have been people who cared about him and whom he cared about. He was human and we do not know the things that led him to pull the trigger.
He had no right to pull it and to harm those he killed, injured, and terrorized. Those actions were intolerable and, had he lived, deserving of punishment. At some point he lost or surrendered his humanity to do what he did.
I am in no way defending or justifying his actions, I just hope that we don’t choose to let go of empathy, compassion, and the ability to care about more than what affects us directly because when we do that, we are letting go of our humanity as well.