I don’t know where to begin. I know where I want to end, but I don’t know where to begin. I’ll start, then, with what I wanted to blog about today.
This week, Nobel Laureates for 2015 were announced, culminating in today’s announcement that the Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to the National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia, continuing a trend in awarding the Peace Prize to multiple individuals at a time. I wanted to write about the need for collaborative peace efforts, about the beauty of seeing peace as a cooperative effort, something produced only through group effort, something whose responsibility we cannot place on one individual. I wanted to write about the Arab Uprisings or the history of the Peace Prize. This morning, while the good news was announced, all I could see was tragedy. My home town of Flagstaff, and my Alma Mater Northern Arizona University, became the victim of yet another campus shooting. My heart broke. Today I wanted to celebrate peace, but the day has been dominated by violence.
The week has been dominated by violence. Earlier this week, NAU held its annual Coming Out Monologues, at which a speaker was forcibly removed by the police, making it difficult to trust the police even further. Today, we are forced to trust them because of a different kind of violence. Both instances are not equally tragic, but are worth noting together because of the psychological friction created by their close proximity, and because they do, in a way, go hand-in-hand. State-sanctioned violence and suppression, systematic violence as a tool of censorship, was at play during the Monologues. The shooting today, on the other hand, was part of larger systemic violence.
Hours ago, another shooting in Texas Southern University has occurred. Last week, there was a shooting in Oregon. There have been too many to count. Too many to keep track of. I will admit that I’m surprised one happened at NAU, because of how easy it is for an academic to look at the intersectional issues and rhetorical problems to distance myself from tragedy. It’s the only way a historian can survive emotionally, sometimes. But today I’m broken. Today, I’m in very real pain.
Regarding gun violence: this was not an isolated incident. None of the endless school shootings that have come to define my generation, ever since Columbine, are isolated. They are part of systemic issues in our country related to guns, healthcare, toxic masculinity, and other factors. From here on out, we need to change the conversation entirely. From here on out, those who deny that these shootings are connected to guns are no longer invited to the conversation. At this point, it’s sheer stupidity to believe that lax gun laws will solve the problem, and while such a position has never been valid, we are doing ourselves more harm by allowing a space for such voices to insist upon validation. From here on out, the conversation cannot be about whether guns are part of the problem when they so obviously are. Additionally, many gun-related deaths are connected to gun safety, and if the NRA devoted as much time to educating the public about gun safety as they did to buying politicians, they would actually become a useful institution.
Regarding peace: I am heartbroken. My community at NAU is in greater pain and shock than I can know. I want to be there. I want to be back at NAU this instant to hold my friends and tell them how much I love them, because when I woke up this morning, I seriously questioned whether or not I would see them again, because that’s the climate this country is in these days. Going to a college campus is now a bodily risk. Today should be about peace. Today should be about mediating conflict in a revolutionary space, in a space where the individual can become wrapped up in a positive movement, can become something greater than an individual. Today should be about dismantling oppression through peaceful activism, but instead, today is about grief.
The day is hardly over, though. We can still make this day about peace, even in the wake of violence.
Today, I sought comfort in a piece of music, “Dona Nobis Pacem.” In truth, it’s traditionally a Christmas song, Latin for “give us peace.” I want to take my violin and play this on every street corner in Lincoln. I want to fill the world with this simple, peaceful music. My reaction to violence will always be to produce more art, all the more vigorously if violence increases. I will write poems and play music to drown out the insufferable fire of apathy to collective suffering.
I think the Nobel Prize Committee has the right idea. Peace is a collaborative effort. Peace is a collective effort. Peace is an orchestral effort. It requires a symphony’s unity, and I am only one musician. I don’t want to play music alone anymore.
With my sincerest, fiercest, loudest love for the families and friends of the victims, and the NAU community, its faculty and students, and for every community hurt by gun violence, I repeat,
Dona Nobis Pacem