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Headshot of me wearing red lipstick Kara Babcock

When we tolerate intolerance, people die

Published .

So I came home tonight from a long night at work, only to see Twitter full up about the shooting at a Umpqua Community College in Oregon. My initial reaction was weariness—I was tired, already not in a great mood, and here there was yet another mass shooting.

My second reaction was anger.

I’m angry that a country where this happens would dare to utter the hypocrisy that it is the “greatest country on Earth” and then go around and impose its will on other countries unilaterally. When you let your citizens do this to each other, you are not the greatest country, unless you have a seriously messed up definition of greatest.

In a civilized country, this does not happen. There is reason for mass shootings to be as common as they are becoming in the United States. If someone shrugs and says, “What can we do?” call them out on their bullshit, because the answers are pretty clear.

And yes, you can love guns and still support gun control. You can vote Republican and still support gun control. Gun control does not mean the government is going to round up all your guns. The politicians and pundits who so vociferously oppose gun control do so by ignoring the fact that it’s lax gun laws that make these shootings possible. If your system would rather let people die because preventing those deaths means a company loses money, your system is broken and needs to be replaced.

But it goes beyond gun control, which is a start but not an end to this crisis. Moreover, while you can lobby your politicians to support gun control (if you are an American) or add your voice to international pressure (if you are not), you alone are not capable of implementing gun control. So what can you do?

Actually, it turns out you can do quite a bit.

Mass shootings don’t just happen because someone has access to guns. That’s the means, but there needs to be motive too. Again, those who subscribe to the “all shooters are mentally ill” or “all shooters must be religious terrorists” are taking refuge in a specious form of reductionism.

Simply put, mass shootings happen because we’re creating a society where it is acceptable, even encouraged, to hate someone because they are different from you. We are told we must fear and vilify those who think, speak, or act differently from us. Different religion? Different clothing choices? Different sexual orientation? That’s wrong, and not only is it wrong, but it’s so wrong you should die because of it.

When we tolerate intolerance, people die.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is an alternative.

Tessa Violet said it best in her response to Nicole Arbour’s “Dear Fat People” video when she frames it as “Why not choose kindness?”

That’s it. You, as an individual, can make the world a better place. Be tolerant. Reject intolerance. Choose kindness. If we all do this, we change the world. But that means it has to start with you.

Now stop reading this and go do it already. Lives are literally on the line.