*note: these are simply my views on a recent event. They are in no way meant to condemn anyone and are more musing of the types of things I can teach my children in hopes that I will turn out into this world good men. I truly don’t wish this to become a forum for political discussion and hope not to offend anyone with my reflection. Thanks.
It has made national news, I’m sure many of you have already seen it. I heard the sirens all that night; I only live a few miles away and know students who live in Isla Vista. Even as my heart goes out to that community, I wonder what needs to change?
Don’t think for an instant that I am blaming the victims or their families. Even as I think about the fact that they were just going about, starting their Friday night, looking forward to the end of the academic year and the prospect of a long weekend, my heart hurts for them. For six of those young people, this never came true. And many others who had no plans on spending their holiday in local hospitals. Even those who weren’t injured but were witnesses, their weekend was also irrevocably changed.
And I, like so many other communities members, ask why? Why does this happen?
I have seen several places online which suggest it has to do with media portrayal of women. Perhaps. Perhaps we are so inundated with the expectations that women should behave one way or look one way, that we believe it to be so? Maybe we are use to seeing it as comical when a guy hits poorly on a woman in a bar that it’s to be expected in real life.
Perhaps. But as I look at my two sons, I wonder what I have to do to teach them that no matter what they see portrayed in media they should know how to treat not just women, but all people. It’s scary to hear so many people think that this is just such a pandemic, and as a mother of two boys, I want to stand up and say not all men are like the ones who rail against, abuse, and demean women. How often do you see the chivalrous acts shown in media? Almost never, unless it comes on the heels of covering a tragedy. Admittedly, I never did finish a blog I was working on about not judging from appearances. Granted, I don’t know this young man (or anything about his life), but as I was coming back from shopping, I saw a man (probably late twenties, early thirties), tatted up, nose ring, shaved head racing to the door of the bank, where an elder lady was also heading. As much as I wouldn’t like to admit this, I thought for certain that he was racing so he could get ahead in the already busy bank. To my surprise and slight embarrassment for what I thought, he was rushing over to open and hold the door open for the woman. She smiled at him and seemed surprised as well and thanked him for being so thoughtful. That was one simple act. Seeing that act of kindness made my day. But did anyone else acknowledge it? No. Did I come home and tell the story so that people could see that there is some good left in this world? No. In fact, I forgot about it until the moment I was watching the news and heard all of the comments about how “men” act. And why was that one act so surprising in our society today?
I think it comes down to that we, as people, no longer see it as mandatory to respect life. Any kind of life. I know that I tend to be strict with my children on how they treat anything with life. For instance, I once saw my son shooting Nerf balls at a stunned lizard on the tree. While his curiosity might have been at the head of this act, I still took my son aside and asked him why he was doing that. Did he know that it could kill the lizard, since the balls were much bigger than this little lizard? It might have seemed silly to some, but what I wished more than anything was to impart to my son that this is life. Something that is living and breathing and if it can so be helped, who are we to determine that it’s okay to devalue that life? We don’t see ourselves as a society, at least in my opinion, who need other people. We figure we can get what we need from technology: we don’t necessarily have to value the person behind the counter at the local grocery store because there are so many other choices. I say “we” because I know that all too often, I treat people with a sort of indifference. A sort of “well, there are tons of people in the earth and you are just one of them.” I think this kind of apathy, combined with the fact that all too often people assume things are owed to them when they have not earned them is part of what is creating our thread bare society.
I will not speak his name (he doesn’t deserve the fame), this individual who railed against women and blamed others for the life that he thought he deserved instead. But it brings me to my other point, a point which I am constantly aware of and try to make sure I don’t do with my own boys. He thought the world owed him something. It owed him a good life, all of the girls he wanted, and popularity. There are times, when my son asks me for something and I chose not to give it to him and he cries, that I wonder how much he thinks that I owe him. I realize that because it’s so easy to buy things, one click on Amazon, that we aren’t teaching, as much as we should, the fact that life doesn’t owe our children anything. Even love, which needs to be earned and respected, is not owed to them. We need to teach them the value of hard work for the things we want, we need to teach them to respect the life that surrounds them, and cherish the relationships they have formed. We should not be pointing fingers just at surrounding media, but inward at what values we are giving to them. What values are we showing them? Are we showing them that we are respectful of life too?
Even as this community heals, I hope that there are parents, friends, teachers out there who hear my words and maybe, just maybe, see some truth in them. Until we ourselves learn to respect and truly value life and impart that upon our children, I fear that more tragedies like this will come. And to those victims, who shall not remain nameless here, George Chen, 19, Katie Cooper, 22, Veronika Weiss, 19, Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20 and Weihan Wang, 20, my sincerest heartfelt prayers go out to your families. Although I may not have known you, I’m certain that you were loved and valued by those in your lives; I’m just sorry that not everyone in this world seems to understand those concepts and that you were victims of this senseless tragedy. I hope that the world will soon only remember your names and reflect upon the lives you lived. May your souls be at peace.