It was my father who first informed my family of what happened in Charlottesville. His voice was low and empty as he entered the kitchen, shoulders sagging, head shaking in disbelief. My mother and I looked up from our own discussion, waiting. Then: “There’s been an attack … in Charlottesville.”
A horrified gasp escaped my mother’s lips, and suddenly I was scrambling for my phone, barely listening as my father wearily described what had happened at the protest. I scrolled through article after article, reading until the words blurred with my tears.
We are still grieving, clutching our loved ones and staring at our tea-colored Indian American skin, wondering how the darkness of it – how the color of anyone’s skin – could possibly deserve such hatred.
How can we hate each other for so foolish a reason? How can we think one life is more precious than another, that the factors that make us beautiful and diverse are the mark of inadequacy? How can we believe in a world where blind hate justifies murder?
But beyond the internal screams that fill my mind with confusion and anger, I am concerned about something else. Something that terrifies me even more.
Why are we so numb?
This is not the first act of terror in this country, and certainly not the only tragedy to occur in the world this year. When such an event happens, we open our mouths to say something, anything, to expressed how we feel. But then time creeps by, and more horrific events occur. We tighten our lips with the belief that this is the new normal, that each new act of violence devalues the previous one.
It seems as if we’ve steeled ourselves, caging our feelings to avoid suffering the shock wave of horror and grief that comes with events like these. Because of the pain and the frequency of these events – which, in fact, should only serve to help us see life more clearly – we choose to not feel anymore, slowly accepting that the world is evil, and that no amount of fighting for good will change that fact. In other words, we’ve been living as if acts of hatred don’t need to be addressed and that each victim isn’t worth remembering.
What a repulsive lie we’ve been telling ourselves.
Life is so terribly, terribly fragile. Each one that is cut short deserves to be looked upon with the recognition that our world has lost a person. A human, with feelings and smiles and people they loved. We have all felt tempted to sneak away from our feelings, to push away the sadness. However, if we allow ourselves to lazily accept acts of violence, terrorism, and bigotry, to raise our hands in defeat instead of recognizing evil where it stands, we are no better than the murderers and bigots.
When violence occurs, we must work together. Let us join hands, regardless of background, and acknowledge each incident and the people who were lost. Let’s honor their memory – take a moment to fix our own attitudes. We must not turn away in complacency.
To those who have been affected by violence and hatred, in Charlottesville or elsewhere, stand strong.
We stand with you.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.