the struggle to maintain hope in an age of anger

Writing is often a form of therapy for me, and with the recent events in Orlando, coupled with the countless other acts of violence and hatred which have happened over the past years, I’ve felt an overwhelming sadness fall over me this week. In an effort to work through my thoughts and feelings I wrote the below post. It’s not meant to be political, but instead, I wanted  simply to put emotion to paper so to speak, and let others who are feeling this same sense of sorrow and discouragement know they’re not the only ones. My heart goes out to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives to this seemingly continuous and insensible violence. 

Yesterday a friend of mine was sexually assaulted at a train station and then punched in the face for confronting her assaulter. The day before three cop cars drove by me with their sirens on and a man walking near me muttered “I bet they’re going to kill someone”. Two days ago 49 people were murdered in a place they felt was sacred and safe.

This has been the environment within which I, and my fellow Millenials, have had to grow up. An environment of hatred where every event spawns more animosity and suspicion. In college I used to sit in the lecture hall planning my escape route if a shooter were to enter. Now every time my friends invite me to a show or a club a small voice in the back of my head says “is it worth the risk”? The things which, in the past, have been encompassed in a universal understanding of “off limits”, schools, churches, concert events full of young people, gay clubs where people go to feel safe and understood, have repeatedly been violated.

Yes, war is nothing new, young people die all the time in other countries due to violence and extremism. My goal is not to compare our way of life to other countries’ because I know that is a comparison we would lose every time; but I still fear for our generation, those both within America and outside of it. I am afraid to think how growing up in this environment of violence and paranoia will affect us. My constant fear for my mother and sisters makes enjoying the good things in life more difficult. These acts of hatred and violence remind us that life is fleeting and nothing is guaranteed, and we try to use that reminder to in turn remind ourselves to hug our loved ones a little closer and find happiness in the little things, but those moments of elation are constantly interrupted by yet another warning that our world is not always a safe one.

With each of these experiences, whether it’s the man mumbling about his hatred for the police or a 29-year-old Floridian walking into a nightclub with the aim to kill as many people as he can, I am left with a deeper and deeper feeling of helplessness.  What can I do to help the growing number of victims? What can I do to change people’s mentality? What can I do to help ensure that this doesn’t keep happening? The flip side, trying not to think about these atrocities , leaves me feeling guilty and despondent. Allowing myself to feel sad for a measured amount of time so as not to let it overwhelm me instead makes me feel like I’ve let the victims down, that I don’t care enough, even though when I do allow myself to truly feel the magnitude of these events I’m often unable to get out of bed.

I can feel this uncertainty and guilt and anger bleed into the lives of my friends and family. Almost every social media post reflects those feelings in one way or another. I see it reflected in the conversations, and candidates and violence experienced during this election. Fear as an emotion is like tar. It sticks to everything, darkening every interaction, difficult to shake off. As this fear continues to loom over us, it seems myself and those around me become unable to forgive even the smallest impositions.  We seek to control people and things in our lives when so much seems totally out of our control. We push people away before allowing ourselves to get to know them, even when these times more than any other should bring us together.

My hope for my generation is that despite all this hatred, or perhaps in spite of it, we will continue to love, and care and put forth empathy and understanding. My hope is that we won’t allow ourselves to be covered in the tar of fear, but instead maintain our optimism that as a whole the world is a good place and people themselves are inherently good.  These are the things I struggle to remember and practice on a daily basis. Too often I allow these tragedies to affect me, making me angry, causing me to go on rants about things I don’t know enough about, causing me to begin to allow myself to fear someone because of their religion or the color of their skin, causing me to not allow myself to give someone a chance before judging them. I know these are not struggles which are unique to our generation, but as the world becomes a more connected place, I hope so strongly that we can maintain and grow our human connections and foster those emotions which separate us from our animal brethren, Love and Empathy.