As all eyes turn to the television, an unprecedented hush quickly quiets the chatter in nail salon. For a brief second, no one is speaking and the manager raises the volume so all can hear the reporter on the news. The woman to my right gasps when images of police and ambulances flood the screen. The abhorrent mosque shootings in New Zealand captured everyone’s attention.
After a few moments of intent listening, we discuss the tragedy. We share our shock and our disgust. Questions with no simple answer are asked between strangers: Why do mass shootings keep occurring? How can we stop them? What is to blame — guns or mental illness?
But within minutes, the conversation subsides and that same woman to my right looks down at her nails and says, “Hmm… this shape just isn’t right.”
Just like that, the nail salon begins to bustle again. The television channel is changed and people return to their own realities, soon forgetting about the atrocities we had just witnessed. I couldn’t believe how quickly people could suppress the tragedy. One moment they were motivated to get to the root of the problem and enact change, and the next, it seemed as if they had dismissed it entirely from their memories.
This reminded me of a scene from Hotel Rwanda, a movie I had recently watched. A Rwandan asked an American journalist how Americans could ignore a genocide when there is footage showing its brutality.
The journalist replied, “I think that when people turn on their TVs and see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, that’s horrible,’ and then they’ll go back to eating their dinners.”
We tend to hear about tragedies, acknowledge how horrifying they are, and then forget about them. After all, we have our own worries: How can I complete my work by the deadline? Afford to pay my rent? Get all my applications in my for summer internships?
Truthfully, it’s easier to get lost in our issues than accept that there are problems greater than ourselves. But this mentality is the problem.
So how do we change this? Unfortunately, like most complex issues, there is no simple answer.
I think acknowledging this dilemma is a fundamental step. But it’s not enough, we have to do more.
Thoughts and prayers won’t save us.
We have to feel affected by these tragedies despite their lack of proximity. We need to start taking action. For example, consider the students of Parkland, Florida, who did much more than initiate dialogue after a shooting in their community. They created a national movement that thousands of people rallied behind — even Lehigh students.
We don’t need a seat in the Senate to enact change. We just need to be a person with an opinion.
We don’t need to live through tragedy to be motivated. We just need to keep up with the news.
Talk to your friends and rally behind your opinion.
As college students, it’s even more pressing for us to be the ones facilitating action. This is our world, we’re the ones growing into it. We should be expected to leave Lehigh having an understanding and a drive to create change. Everyone has their opinions, be strong enough to follow them. Pay respects, but don’t stop there. Make your voices heard to those in power, be the voice of change, stand behind what you believe.
Brianna Cimaglia, ’21, is an assistant lifestyle editor for the Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]