Las Vegas Has Me Feeling A Lot Of Things, But "Surprised" Isn't One Of Them

Las Vegas Has Me Feeling A Lot Of Things, But "Surprised" Isn't One Of Them

We have to decide if we as a society are OK with mass shootings being such an inescapable part of the American experience.
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When I first heard about the shooting in Las Vegas, I was just about to go to bed. The initial estimates I saw showed a few people dead and a couple dozen injured.

I was saddened but, honestly and depressingly, I was not at all shocked.

When I woke up the next morning and saw the end result of the absolute carnage –– 59 dead and upward of 500 injured, not to mention the thousands whose lives will be forever tinged by the trauma associated with surviving what was like a war zone –– I was devastated.

For a time, I was just numb to it all.

But still, I wasn't shocked.

I refused to read anything more about the attack or any of the many profiles of the victims which are inevitably written after each mass shooting, I couldn't bring myself to do it. After about a day had passed, I watched the heart-wrenching Jimmy Kimmel monologue, in which he opined that "It feels like someone has opened a window into hell," and I teared up.

Then, after another couple of days passed and my numbness had faded, I went outside and sat on a bench, late at night, and read through the "New York Times" tribute to the victims. Halfway through the first entry –– on 46-year-old Lisa Patterson, mother of 3 –– I broke down. I wept through the next 58 entries.

Out of the 59 people dead, there were left so many years un-lived, so many hopes and dreams not realized. There were so many children left without parents or parents outliving children. So many people lost close friends or family or coworkers or neighbors or significant others.

So many others will be saddled with medical costs and debilitation for the rest of their lives. Countless more will have their memories forever tinged with tragedy, marked possibly by survivor's guilt or PTSD or just general trauma and distress.

In just one night, an unbelievable amount of suffering was enacted, an immeasurable amount of damage done. A 64-year-old man with no previous criminal experience stockpiled hundreds of bullets and a shocking amount of weapons designed with no purpose other than to kill, and then he used those weapons to carry out their most logical goal.

As easy as it would be to demarcate this as a so-called "lone wolf" attack, a simple case of a deranged man bereft of morality, the truth is that the Las Vegas shooting was not an anomaly.

Far from being a mere glitch in the otherwise perfect American landscape, it was a symptom of a culture which glorifies guns and violence, a culture which holds the right to keep and bear military-grade arms designed with the express purpose of killing other human beings above the right to a safe, secure, and happy future for its citizens.

The shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting carried out by an individual in modern American history, but, then again, so was the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, and that happened a mere 16 months ago.

In the past 477 days, there have been 521 mass shootings in America, which is more than one per day.

I mentioned before that as devastated as I was, I was never shocked by what I saw and heard about the shooting in Las Vegas. It has become routine, predictable in a way that tragedies like this should never be.

There have been times where I've wanted to write or tweet or say something about guns or violence or solidarity or the ultimate, necessary good of humanity after some attack like this and thought, "I can just wait, there will be another."

And that is heartbreaking.

I've grown up in a country in which most mass shootings barely scratch the headlines outside of local coverage. And, when one manages to reach a national audience either by circumstance and luck or by its sheer size, nothing happens.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting shocked our collective consciousness, each successive shooting has felt less and less surprising and more and more inevitable and unavoidable. Rather than trying to stop these things from happening, our politicians offer up nice but ultimately meaningless "thoughts and prayers." I do not claim to know what the solution to our problem is, but I know that it is not whatever we have been doing for the last 18 years of my life.

I am so sick and tired of waking up and reading about the year's most recent mass shooting. I am so sick and tired of watching coverage of families weeping over lost loved ones. I am so sick and tired of hearing calls for something –– anything –– to be done, with politicians acting like men, women, and children dying from the bullets shot from a legally acquired killing machine just has to be a fact of American life.

Never mind that nearly every other developed country has managed to move beyond this and has found some way to eliminate or drastically reduce deaths from mass shootings and from gun violence as a whole.

See, this is America, and America is exceptional.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia commons

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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A Glimpse Of My Adventure In Germany & Poland

This why everyone should study abroad.

Learism
Learism
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Two days ago, I arrived back in the States from a two-week study abroad trip to Germany and Poland. This trip was entitled Experiences in International Justice. On this trip, we studied the Holocaust and its consequences through the lens of criminal justice. This trip changed my life in so many ways.

Firs, I really connected with all the other students on my trip, so I know that I can find friendship and understanding in them because we shared this experience.

Secondly, I discovered a newfound respect for life and need to work towards a more just world through learning more about Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and the Holocaust. We visited three infamous concentration camps: Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. I don't know if I can explain to you the emotions I experienced, but I would like to try since I think it is very important to share my experience with others. It was so surreal to be in a place where millions of innocent lives were taken away. Seeing where the many Jews, Roma, and many other groups slept, worked, suffered, and died really put my life into perspective.

It got me reflecting on what I have to be thankful for, and the problems that I feel are a too big deal to handle. Nothing I could ever go through can be compared to what those poor people went through. Because of this realization, I have become empowered to do what I can to help those who are suffering and who do not have anyone to stand up for them. I know I can't effect change all over the world, but I want to help others in any way I can, in my community and in my future career as a Forensic Psychologist, as well as with my friends and family.

I also have been inspired to be a torch-bearer for the memory of the victims as well as the Holocaust itself, so that something like it never happens again. Knowledge is power, and so being educated about what happened and how it happened can help us take a stand for what's right. Because not everyone has the privilege to travel to the concentration camps as I have so I have an obligation to share my experiences there with the world. I do not want the victims to disappear, from the Holocaust or any tragedy. From a criminal justice perspective, it was also very interesting to read more about the perpetrators, how normal people can be so violent and destroy fellow humans without remorse. I think it is beneficial to study them because it shows that anyone can become overwhelmed with power and let it go to their heads.

My trip to Germany and Poland was an amazing experience that expanded my mind and my world, inspired me to continue down my chosen career path, and gave me great friends. I hope that everyone has a chance to study abroad and always be curious and open-minded because it will do so much good for you.

Learism
Learism

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