During the transition to college, freshmen are constantly reminded that they will most likely face failure at some point as college students. Provosts, professors and other mentors insist that it is part of the growth process. This weekend, I experienced failure, although it looked different from the failure I was told to expect.
The failure looked like this: I woke up on Saturday morning and tapped on my phone. A New York Times notification read “Multiple casualties reported after a shooting at a synagogue near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” Although something churned at my core, I was not overcome with shock and rage. I failed to feel, empathize and emote bred by a societal normalization and desensitization.
Later that day, I finally began to read about the mass shooting. I allowed myself to feel. Raging blood flooded my numbed instincts, directed at my country, at lawmakers and at myself for almost succumbing to the delusion that this massacre was normal, acceptable and forgettable. The following is the beginning of a try at rectification.
With great power comes great responsibility. Therefore, by transitive property, with great education comes great responsibility. In times of crisis — crisis of identity, humanity and country — the Stanford community has a duty to fulfill. It entails staying informed, applying our problem-solving abilities, and employing the empathy-inducing powers of the humanities to problem solve in the real world. When 11 people are murdered with an AR-15 because of how they pray, the problems facing our society hit us in the face. Will we rise to the occasion?
Science tells us that we cannot ignore the data we have about mass shootings and guns. Another AR-15 rifle was used on Saturday. This same weapon of war was used at Sandy Hook Elementary, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a concert in Las Vegas and Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A symbol of mass shootings, it has tragically folded itself into the fabric of our country. Yet the data is explicit: countries where this weapon and other similar weapons are inaccessible to the public do not face the same tragedies of gun violence. As a university community that purportedly values data, failing to act upon this explicit information is blatant hypocrisy. Changes in gun legislation are long overdue.
You, reader, own one the most well-educated brains in the world. Simultaneously, you find yourself in a country reeling with pain and hatred, unable to enact necessary change, dangerously desensitized to mass shootings. So you, reader, have a hefty duty.
I failed on Saturday morning. They say we are scared of failure here, so if failure is what will motivate us, here is a proclamation I am unashamed to type: We are failing if we do not react with action and force our country to change. We are failing if we do not feel the burden of eleven lives on our shoulders as we bike through Main Quad. The next 11 lives taken by gun violence and hate are on us. The next round of bullets is on us, too.
Let it be known that Stanford is a community of scholars that feels the pains of this country, that we care about the world and that we will commit our resources and abilities to changing it so that children can go to school, friends to concerts, families to the movies, and worshippers to synagogue, church and mosque without fear. We have a duty to ensure that the winds of freedom blow beyond Palm Drive. Let it be known that we will rise to the occasion.
Contact Grace Scullion at gscull ‘at’ stanford.edu.