Warning: I am heart-broken and rambly and this is probably the worst thing I’ve ever written, but at least read the last paragraph please thank you I love you.
I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. This might surprise you, but Peace Corps Volunteers tend to be people who want to make a positive impact on the world. They tend to be people of action; they tend to be people who get stuff done (I dream of the day that this is true for me here). So for our nation to be going through so many struggles and conflicts while we are distanced from it is tough. Actually, I would open that up and say that it is tough for us to see our world constantly hurting. These lists of terrorist attacks by month are heartbreaking to look at. Yet, for me, what is happening at home that really concerns me? Why?
I had a conversation recently with our Country Director (CD) about how Colombians react to news of mass murders in the US. She mentioned that none of the Colombian staff members in the office mentioned anything after the Orlando shooting. She had recently been doing research for a training she’ll be doing with the next cohort, and found staggering statistics regarding the number of mass murders annually in Colombia, and it seemed to her that perhaps people here are desensitized to these kinds of murders. Certainly, in the local news you read about 5-10 murders in the city each week. However, the violence here is different than what we have happening back in the United States. The murders reported weekly in the news here are almost always gang-related or (even sadder) related to some sort of violation of a woman. The mass murders were almost all related to either to guerrilla warfare groups or the paramilitary fighting against them – making them more like warfare rather than mass murders. Meanwhile, back in my Minneapolis, while there are some gang-related killings each year, it seems like the majority of murders are because people overreact. Meanwhile, back in my country, angry people with automatic weapons enter into public spaces where people are not aware they’re doing anything to anger the people with automatic weapons, and shoot up multiple people.
What’s really hard is that I don’t know how to take action. I can e-mail my representatives and beg for them to make gun control reform and for them to provide more affordable health care so that people with mental health problems can get the help they need. But how do I actually make these changes happen? I can e-mail my local law enforcement officers and let them know that I believe they are valuable in keeping our people safe, but that they need better training and better engagement with their communities because right now non-whites are terrified of any interaction they might have with police. But how do I actually make these changes happen? I can talk to family and friends about how dangerous stereotyping is and let them know that their fear of black men is irrational, but honestly, these are the toughest minds to change so sometimes I wonder, “why bother?”
I don’t know how to make a postive impact on the world. I don’t know how to take action. I don’t know how to get stuff done.
I am filled with sadness because of the hate that there is around the world. I am filled with sadness because people are so convinced that their beliefs are right and are the most important that they will kill others over them. I am filled with sadness because so often people would rather attack attack attack than listen listen listen.
Please listen. Please listen to the stories you hear. Please listen, and imagine yourself in the shoes of the other person. Because doing this, striving for sympathy and empathy, will create better mutual understanding. Better mutual understanding results in better collaboration and cooperation. Better collaboration and cooperation leads to better teamwork and greater change and less fighting and more peace.