By Emanuela P. Leaf
Under the dark shadow of terrorist attacks and mass shootings, we find ourselves paralyzed in front of our TV screens or smartphones searching for any piece of information that will shed some light on why. Just this year alone, we searched for answers to the following:
June 18, 2015. Charleston, S.C. – When nine people were shot dead in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. The victims range in age from 26 to 87 and include the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a prominent state senator. Police arrest Dylann Storm Roof, 21, a white man with a history of anti-black views.
July 16, 2015 Chattanooga, Tenn – When four Marines and a Navy petty officer were killed after a man opened fire at two military locations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the gunman, who also died, as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24.
Oct. 1, 2015. Roseburg, Ore – When at least 10 people were shot dead at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon after gunman Chris Harper Mercer, 26, opened fire. The gunman died in an exchange of fire with the police.
Nov. 27, 2015. Colorado Springs, Colo – When three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded when a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Robert L. Dear Jr., 57, finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.
And most recently, Dec. 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif – When Police in San Bernardino mounted an intense manhunt for a gunman and a gunwoman, who fired dozens of shots inside a conference hall where county employees had gathered at a service center for people with disabilities, leaving at least 14 dead and 17 wounded. The alleged shooters, Syed Farook, 28, and Tasfeen Malik, 27, were killed in a shootout with police. Farook and his wife were described by relatives as devout Muslims and they had recently returned from Saudi Arabia.
The names of the victims and perpetrators change but I would argue that the “why is the same.” Before we go into the systemic cycle of making the case that gun control laws would have prevented the events or start the counterargument that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” consider this: the reason a terrorist or a mass murderer commit such horrific acts does not lie in what weapons were at their disposal, but on the political, racial or religious ideology that drove them over the limit, to the extreme.
Extremism in all its forms is the reason they kill, extremism in its political form is the reason our nation is divided, extremism in its religious form is the reason the world is at war.
“What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” – Robert F. Kennedy
So this holiday season let us reflect on how each of us can be a point of light in the dark shadow of pain and sorrow sowed by the hands of mass murderers and terrorists, by taking a moment to identify our own extremes and realize how they can prevent all of us from reaching our common goal of a less violent world.