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Not One More

Lucero Alcaraz, 19 years old.

I was sitting in class when I felt the familiar vibrating buzz in my pocket; it was one of the short vibrations that we all know by now signifies some lesser notification of the outside world (not the all-important text message). It was a lull in the class, and so my 21st century instincts took over: I slid the phone out of my pocket to find a CNN Breaking News alert. “Reports of 10 people killed, more than 20 injured after shooting at community college in Oregon, police say,” my phone told me.

Lucas Eibel, 18 years old.

I glanced sideways at my phone, half-muttered, “Not another one…” under my breath, and then slid my phone back into my pocket without another thought. With that simple gesture, I had shut myself off, so that I wouldn’t have to think about what had just happened, who the victims might have been, or what unspeakable kind of anguish the victims’ friends and family were suffering through as I, with a mix of practical callousness and a stunning lack of empathy, tuned back into my lecture about—and the irony is not lost on me—violence and its effect on the psyche.

I could use this as an opportunity to lay out the statistics for you. Instead, I will share just this one: This shooting took place on October 1, the 274th day of 2015. Umpqua Community College represents at least the 264th mass shooting of 2015.

I don’t think I need, nor do I want, to write yet another polemic about the current state of gun control laws throughout the country. Instead, what is needed, I think, is an examination of what allowed me to so easily and so calmly slide my phone back into my pocket, and how we, collectively, got to this place.

Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18 years old.

The numbness with which we face each of these new tragedies is, simultaneously, the saddest and most understandable feature of our reactions to the almost-daily mass shootings we now witness. If I tried to feel, and I mean really feel, each shooting, I would have nothing else on my mind; it would be a constant cycle of grief and despair. No one could bear such a burden.

Treven Taylor Anspach, 20 years old.

What we are left with instead is an obligation to shoulder this burden collectively and communally. If we all felt just a tiny fraction of the pain that we ought to feel, how could we slide phones back into pockets, tune back into lectures, and continue on with our days?

If we all felt just a tiny fraction of the pain that we ought to feel, there would be collective anger the likes of which we saw when Richard Martinez, the father of Christopher Michael-Martinez, held a press conference in the aftermath of his son’s murder in May of 2014. “[These shootings] ought to obsess us,” Obama said in 2013.

If we all felt just a tiny fraction of the pain that we ought to feel, the cold logic of “the NRA is just too powerful” and “well, what would you have me do?” would not assuage our anger. It would embolden our struggle.

Lawrence Levine, 67 years old.

Because ultimately, the moral imperative of anger, empathy, and action transcend political calculations and the seeming psychological necessity of indifference.

Serena Dawn Moore, 44 years old.

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