April 07, 2021

POV: I am feeling numb

I am struck by the violence in this country. I’ve been under the wrong impression that gun violence has decreased during this global pandemic, but instead I have learned that the perceived decrease exists in the media reports of gun violence. 

Because of that, it is important to remember that while the recent mass shootings have sparked media attention, they have not all of the sudden risen after a ‘shut down’ during this global pandemic. Also happening, is a steep rise in the acts of racism and violence against the Asian community. Grappling with all of this, makes me numb. 

I was raised very closely within the Japanese community and remember hearing stories from survivors about the Japanese Internment camp here in Utah (called Topaz). I was twelve when my friend Renee accidentally shot and killed our other friend Martin. I was in my early teens when two friends were gunned down in separate drive-by shootings. They both fortunately lived. I was sixteen when my friend Brandie put a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger – the shot was fatal. I was a senior in high school when Columbine happened. I was living in Salt Lake when the mass shooting happened at Trolly Square. I was living in Denver when the mass shooting happened in Aurora.  

The chaos and grief in all of those memories is raw, even decades and years later. And every single time there is another useless act of gun violence I find myself reflecting back to 1992 when my 12 year-old self was first touched with gun violence. I instantly recall the sad and terrified look in Renee’s eyes when I saw him just days after Martin died. Just like this week, today, this month… I am numb.  

I think I am supposed to say something unifying like, “Together we can end gun violence and racism in this country.” Perhaps something uplifting like, “When we mobilize as a community, we can find solutions that lead to healing.” Or even something inspiring like, “Every year when I visit Brandie’s grave and each year when I put up my alter I think about how excited she was to learn how to make meatloaf, how she refused to wear blue and red together, and how she left behind a baby girl called Angelia. That those memories of her ground me and guide me for my future.” But all of those statements (while 100% accurate) ring hollow for me. If we all really believed and acted in a way that centered the sacred and important gift that life is for each and every one of us (regardless of life choices, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) then our world would look and feel very different.  

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts please reach out to someone. The Utah Department of Health can offer help. You can also call the hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Help is also available through the SafeUT app.   

If you witness violence toward another person, intervene. Rally behind that person, help them get to where they are going, and assist them in making a report to law enforcement. Salt Lake County is offering Bystander Training each month according to their website. The Center for Student Wellness at the University of Utah also offers a bystander workshop.  

If you feel like hurting someone because of a problem you have (or because you somehow think they are inferior to you), stop. Just stop. Get yourself some help. NAMI has Mentors who are ready to answer the phone: 801-323-9900. Help is also available through the SafeUT app.  

If you have a firearm at home make sure all adults in the house know how to properly handle your weapon, talk to your children about gun safety, and of course lock it up. Here are some official tips on firearm safety.  

Perhaps the best, most grounding advice I can muster is this, talk to your neighbors. Learn their names. Wave to them. Say hello. Call them when you see something weird. Because even though I feel numb I am smart enough to know that we do get through this together if in fact we all do our part. If we don’t act, if we are guided by silence, if we let fear and racism lead us, or if we refuse to see what is really happening then the cycle repeats for every single one of us. I for one am tired of feeling numb.