You won’t read this.
You may have read my words before, but they were too exhaustive to hold your attention. The first line doesn’t grab you or it’s a topic you don’t care about. And so you stop reading.
You may have disagreed with me enough times, or even just one time. Still, novel ideas are presumed to diverge from your views and are disregarded as irrelevant or wrong. And so you stop reading.
You may feel frustrated that anyone can believe in anything so dissimilar to your own convictions. This makes you uncomfortable. Or it fuels you to respond with incendiary rhetoric, which inevitably ignites the flame of anger. And so you stop reading.
You may be tired of the platform of social media and the barrage of diverse opinions it contains. You’ve had a long day at work and just need some time to scroll mindlessly. You look for the funny memes and videos. And so you stop reading.
You can’t be bothered to feel the discomfort posed by disagreement and you certainly can’t see any common ground or room for compromise. And so you stop reading.
Five days ago, I stopped reading too. I stopped reading for all of the reasons above.
The Orlando shooting is the first time that my gut reaction to a mass shooting was not fear, sorrow, or anger. It was somber resignation followed by crippling chagrin.
You see, I had to stop reading because I’ve read all of it before. Take away the guns. Protect our right to bear arms. Hate crime. Terrorism. Mental illness. Homophobia. Radicalism. Love. I’m right. You’re wrong. Mourn, blame, argue, defend, politicize. Like posts that we agree with; delete people that differ. It’s our nature to simplify things after a tragedy and we usually do that by categorizing, labeling, and blaming. But by doing so, we strengthen the very divisiveness that underlies all the discord we wish to eradicate. When we stop reading, or choose to read only the views we already agree with, we are doing ourselves and our values a disservice.
So I started reading again. Some members of the LGBT community wrote about their disappointment in the silence from their hetero friends after this tragedy – the same allies that showed support for Paris by changing their profile pictures. My first thought was – we do not have to speak to grieve. We do not have to speak to react. We do not have to speak to support. Everything does not have to become the dichotomy of you do this, you’re with us; you don’t, you’re not. Most importantly, no one has to react the way we want or expect them to – “our” way is not inherently the “right” way.
I believe that something needs to change. I could write about how I don’t understand why it is necessary for civilians to have easy access to assault rifles. I could write about how radicalism is incited by our dissidence. I could write about how our mental health system is not just weak; it is debilitated. I could write about the tragedy of living in a time when we leap forward towards acceptance and love, and then take ten steps back.
Or I could write about how we can practice the tolerance we preach through reading, not reacting. Read the things that make you uncomfortable with an openness to understand. Read to be tolerant of the very diversity you claim to embrace.
Take two fingers and place them gently on the inside of your wrist and feel the rhythmic flow of the blood that courses through your veins. These words exclude no one. Realize we all have a Pulse.
I could write the above as an exercise in humanity.
But if I do, you won’t read it.