Tragedy Cannot Be the Only Incentive

4 min read

When I was young, I often witnessed bullying from people I considered to be friends. I had been bullied myself, but these bullies were always nice to me, so I did not speak up. It was not until they started hurting me that I in turn began sticking up for other people.

As a young adult in a very unsteady world, I have noticed much worse things than bullying happening both nearby and far away. Some issues are more obvious in our first-world country, like mistreatment of minorities and the celebrity worship of those who have caused suffering, and others are outside of our view, such as hunger and the destruction of societies; some are very close to my heart, and many more I could not begin to comprehend. As much as I would like to know the complications in every part of the world, it would not be possible, as humans are deeply flawed and there are bound to be a thousand problems for every five people. However, just because I do not have a part in them does not mean I can not provide help. In today’s world, though, it is still hard to stand up without a personal reason.

In 2012, Jordan Davis, a high school student, stopped by a gas station and was shot dead for “playing music too loudly.” The Washington Post explains that at the time, Lucy McBath, Davis’ mother, was working as a Delta flight attendant, but quickly after her son’s death she “shifted her focus to advocating for gun control, serving as a national spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.” She dove into action with documentaries and rallies, testified before Congress, and just this last year decided to run as a Democrat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. The work and effort she is putting into smarter gun control is extraordinary and certainly paves the road to change, but the uneasy question exists: would she have done this if it was not her son that was affected? McBath told CNN that “Jordan guides me every single day. Every single day.”

There is nothing wrong with being motivated by a personal issue to take action. In fact, that is the reason that many people run for office these days; but without the tragedy spurring her determination for justice, there would not be any Lucy McBath running for a political office. The same goes for Moms Demand Action, a group of women that combat gun violence, as without the threat against their kids, there would not be a reason to have the group named and created as it has been.

Moms Demand Action has been getting involved in politics since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Moms with kids in school have even run for (and won) several political positions like state legislators or on a local council. With this group, you can certainly see the motivation to be more selfless and altruistic, but as many moms are frightened of their children being threatened with guns, the reason also becomes personal.

I identify heavily with the LGBTQ+ community in terms of both sexuality and gender, and so I naturally am protective over those like me, as I understand how they have been discriminated against. I am also white and my background is entirely European, but this does not mean I should not stand up for people with different skin tones or nationalities than me. I do not understand what it is like to be hated for your appearance or where you are from, but even though I cannot understand it does not mean I should not ignore the violence and injustices others face every day. For a person who cannot identify with any minority, such as being black or gay, standing up for someone does not require minority identification. I understand what it is like to be hated for who you are, but I have not personally experienced some specific forms of intolerance; for someone that is not part of a specific group, it can be  hard to put yourself in another’s shoes, but if the privileged stood up on their own against unfair treatment of a group they can sometimes be even more influential than the oppressed speaking out.

The power that someone entirely privileged holds is often underestimated. It shows that empathy for other humans is real, and that it is not morally right to let one person, let alone a whole group, suffer in silence. Fixing an issue is used by many people as a more rational and left-brain way of healing. By making sure nobody can suffer like you have, you feel as if you have undone the wrong. To be fair, without the pain you would not be driven to fix the problem as efficiently and ruthlessly as you could be with it, but the point of fixing anything is not to let it go wrong and affect someone in the first place. The point is to work on it before it develops into a nation-wide or world-wide epidemic.

As the years advance, it almost seems as if real-life detachment could be happening. With global warming destroying much of our planet, human rights being fought over, and the President of the U.S. standing for only those like himself, the hope we have in each other is fading slowly but significantly. It is through selflessness and for each other that we begin to develop compassion. We stand up for others that are different from us, and we start to understand and empathize. It is not easy to become involved in what you do not fully understand or are hurt by, but what is important is how it affects others, be they across oceans or living next door.