This will be a bit more off topic than my usual off-topic posts, but I feel the need to write something here about the terrorist attack in El Paso today. While these mass shootings have become despondently common place, this one really hit home with me. Both because it all but literally happened at home, and the hate-driven basis of the act breaks my heart. It isn’t just a mentally ill kid trying to in some twisted way get even with a world he feels wronged him, this was someone who wanted to kill as many Hispanics as he could to foster a separation of the races and cleansing of his “homeland.” This is my home. This is personal.
I lived in El Paso for almost five years, and today I live only 30 miles up the road in Las Cruces. This morning, at about the same time the attack happened, I was in Central El Paso getting my hairs cut only a few miles up I-10 from Cielo Vista mall and that Walmart.
I get my hairs cut at an old school barber shop, a family run, by appointment only kind of place that I gladly drive 30 miles South to once a month or so on a Saturday morning. It often provides a reason to stop after and get breakfast, or at least coffee and pastry from one of the joints I no longer get to frequent as a non-El Paso resident. Stopping by Walmart to pickup a 5-qt jug of Mobil One 5W-30 for the truck’s next oil change was on my to do list, although I would not have gone to that particular Walmart with it being a several miles in the opposite direction. The only difference between me, anyone I love, or anyone I’ve ever met and the man who ended up with his brain on the Walmart floor this morning is only the fickleness of probability.
And sure, I sometimes concealed carry to go along with my former Marine Corps and former law enforcement background, but if you don’t feel safe without a firearm you should probably never feel safe just because you have one. The mythical good guy with a small pistol tucked in a concealed holster with very limited ammo, no body armor, no backup and lots of bystanders running around engaging a dude with a not small-bore rifle at likely distances of something like across the store at the checkout area or down the length of an aisle during something like today is a shitty tactical scenario to consider.
It angers and saddens me that act was directed against and motivated by hatred of people no different than any one of us but for circumstances of birth or luck. I speak with pride of living in a place where most people aren’t like me. Being a white male is a comparatively uncommon thing in the borderland. Living here is a wonderful tapestry of cultures, countries and states. Las Cruces, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are culturally, historically and economically really just different arms of the same entity. The shared culture we have here is a strength that makes us richer in every way.
For those keeping score, this is the second time in less than a week this has happened for essentially the same hate-based reasons. This is the problem with “very fine people on both sides,” and “I’m a nationalist, okay?”. This is the problem with “send her back.” Spoken from positions of power brings credibility to the sick followers of the siren song of hate. Credibility makes it easier for the lost, the aggrieved, the downtrodden or the hopeless to succumb. Some non-zero number of people will act on it. Sure, we have lots other problems that contribute to this happening, but this should be the easy variable to control.
Not to say the other side’s doesn’t stink, but the party that could have shut this rhetoric down and ended it at any time hasn’t. They, their supporters and the folks that will still vote for them have been complicit at every step of the way. Complicity has a cost. Right now, that cost is the woman in the parking lot with half her head missing, the man laying face down on the ground at the Walmart entrance with his brain splattered on the tile floor, and 18 others who will never, ever, make it home. There’s pictures and videos of the aftermath to go around if want to venture into those parts of the interwebs. You can read the manifesto, too. The cost is also the 26 people in hospital beds tonight who’s lives will never be the same. The cost is also the hundreds of people there doing back to school shopping on the tax-holiday weekend who will deal with the experience of today for the rest of their lives.
Not only is this personal, it feels like I have an obligation as a straight, white, middle class male to speak out when someone decides to murder in the name of people like me. After all, when a Muslim commits a terrorist attack we expect Islamic Americans to come out and denounce it.
Oppo has changed me for the better, as I’ve adopted “be excellent to each other” as a personal motto. I ran into it’s corollary of “what do we owe each other?” pretty early along the way. I don’t always have a good answer for the second part, but I know the answer isn’t nothing. Please be excellent to each other, and stand up for those who need it.