I don’t understand how to live a life so afraid. What’s so scary about “them” you have to take a gun into a place of worship and shoot people? How can you live a life so afraid of strangers you’re compelled to kill them? How is that going to help? Who are you helping?

Certainly not yourself. You’ll be caught and imprisoned. Or killed.
Certainly not the victims, their family or their community. You’ve managed to destroy all those.
Certainly not “society” at large or your cause. Whatever misguided cause you believe you’re helping by murder.

The question I want to ask the shooter is: What did you want out of this? What did you expect to happen? What was the point of all this?

I don’t understand why. I want to. I want to know how it could be that shooting people is OK.

I grew up in a small, rural, white town. I can count on one hand the number of black kids we had in our school. There were even fewer Hispanic kids and except for exchange students, no Asian kids either. I have seen where hate like this grows and flourishes. I believe it grows from ignorance. Never knowing another life. Never seeing other kinds of people. It’s easy to hate what you don’t understand and have never seen.

I knew people growing up who had never left the county they lived in. Many had never ventured out of Virginia. There is one family I know that had only ever been as far as Richmond, VA to the State Fair. They’d never been on a plane. Never gone to Washington, D.C. They never got out of the tiny bubble that made up their world.

They farmed. Sent their kids to school until high school graduation. Then back to the farm. College wasn’t a reality for many of the kids I grew up with. There was no value in an education past 12th grade. They went to school long enough to get a high school diploma. Then it was back to the farm. Back to their families. They grew up and married people they’d know their entire lives.

They never left.

This is not a unique story. This happens all over in small communities. I’ve met people with similar tales all over the place. When you’re living in a small community like that, you become the product of that environment. And if that environment is racism and hatred, then it’s what you become.

Maybe you don’t know better because you’ve never known any different. Maybe it’s the years of being told you’re doing so poorly in life because of them.

Them could be the blacks of the gays or Hispanics. They could even be other white people who went to college. They got an education and now make more money and have a better quality of life. They’ll have what you never will.

This does not excuse it. This is not an excuse for the violence and the murder and the death. This does not make it right. This does not make it OK. I do not condone the violence or hatred. But I understand it. These are very different things. I am not excusing it.

When you’re entire world view is us vs. them it’s easy to see where the hatred and violence take root. But to have any hope of closing the rift and addressing this problem, we need to know how it starts and where it comes from. Knowing how it starts and how it perpetuates itself is the first step in combating it and saving lives.

Patrick Rhone wrote a post today worth your time. It’s important to step back from reacting. There’s a root to everything. It doesn’t happen by accident.

patrickrhone / journal » Right Understanding

Ideas and beliefs do not form in a vacuum. They are usually the product of some perception or experience. Some of these may be the same as yours. Others may be vastly different. So different, in fact, that you immediately recoil from and reject them. Yet, these ideas likely formed from very similar places and likely for very similar reasons as yours. The opposite side simply arrived at a different conclusion.