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Column: How did we get here?

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Column: How did we get here?

Melissa Wells, columnist

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America is under attack, and this time we’ve done it to ourselves. It’s no wonder voters are anxious as midterm elections approach—days like Oct. 27 don’t happen out of the blue. Words matter because they inspire action.

We can no longer ask how we got here. Instead, we must ask how we ensure tomorrow isn’t another Pittsburgh. Or Sutherland Springs. Or Charleston.

Author Toni Morrison said, “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence.”

America has a history of brutality, even in the midst of progress. Violence has become a recurring part of American life, and it is the American people who reflect those actions.

We have validated violent language in an unprecedented way as of late: given it a platform in the press and circulated it through social media. Some in America even voted for those who represent it.

If you’re scared, I don’t blame you. If you’re heartbroken, you have every right. If you’re angry, get in line. Don’t let those emotions silence you—let them fuel your actions.

It’s no longer a question of blue or red, it’s about respecting human dignity. It’s our responsibility to stand up for each other.

Demoralizing rhetoric and negative behavior that praises violence has no place here, nor do those who spew it. It is also our responsibility to vote for leaders who will not give those with violent thoughts the power to bring them to fruition.

There are many ways to demand change. But what gets less attention, in the magnitude of hate, violence and bigotry there is today, is the kindness, love and solidarity that combats it in simple, everyday actions.

In September, young staffers in Mexico City trained senior citizens to run a Starbucks store entirely on their own — all in an effort to increase employment opportunities for the elderly.

On Oct. 5, Nadia Murad won the Nobel Peace Prize. She pledged all her prize money toward ending sexual violence and advocating for marginalized women.

Also last month, artists at a non-partisan organization called For Freedoms recreated Norman Rockwell paintings to include diverse Americans. Or, as co-founder Hank Willis Thomas said, “to make a portrait of the America that we live in.”

This past Monday, Muslim organizations raised thousands for Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting victims to “reach out as human beings to help.”

Yesterday, 250 people formed a human chain to help a bookstore in Southampton, England, move thousands of books 500 feet down the road to its new location—which was bought through donations and loans after their rent was increased.

 

It only takes one act of kindness to start changing how we interact with one another.

 

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