We Deserve So Much Better

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I admit it. On a consistent, quite unwavering basis, I’m a worrier. Even when no immediate threat appears to be hovering nearby, I tend to feel a constant swirl of dread nevertheless. This unfortunate inclination has a great deal to do with my general anxiety. Fearfulness is a dark reality that I must always confront, though I somehow don’t let it stop me from pursuing what I wish to accomplish. But over the years, this continual fright has only worsened. And while I take complete responsibility for my own choices and reactions, fully realizing I cannot blame the world for the personal struggles that I endure, one crucial complication also exists within this mindset. It’s my view that societal values play a pivotal role in any individual’s feelings of overall safety. So in this context, I have to say that, collectively, we deserve so much better.

We deserve to live in a society that values life, that embraces diversity of every kind, that doesn’t elevate capitalistic objectives above all else just so the exorbitantly affluent and powerful can hoard an obscene amount of wealth at any moral cost.

We deserve so much better than all of the above truths that are unjust aspects of today’s America. To make matters worse, the absolute indifference by those of a particular political party, one that has no right to maintain such influence over our everyday lives due to its obvious disregard for our best interests, just makes this reality even more hideous.

After recently passing the tenth anniversary of the horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, little has changed in terms of protecting human life over gun sale profits. We still must endure violence that’s so often spurred by weapons of war, which certainly don’t belong in the possession of civilians. These guns are designed to decimate lives within seconds and without any mercy. But still, even years after young children were senselessly murdered in their own school and thousands upon thousands of other innocent victims have lost their lives because of these assault rifles, no meaningful laws prevent these extraordinarily lethal firearms from being available to just about anyone who wishes to purchase them.

The end result is a society that’s disconnected from a sense of mutual responsibility to one another, from a desire to preserve precious lives as an undeniable priority. There should be absolutely no tolerance for the violent tendencies of unstable individuals who are determined to destroy families and communities at will. Indeed, these threatening figures must not have any access to such weaponry – a notion that may seem simplistic, but underscores an essential truth. The fact that such freedom exists to acquire guns of this magnitude, that it’s easier to obtain an AK-47 than to purchase decongestants at a drug store, speaks volumes about this nation’s principles.

Although, again, it’s the party of extremism that has defaulted on its duty to represent its constituents’ needs and to develop effective policies in partnership with its political counterpart that’s mostly to blame for this sickening oversight, it still amounts to a significant blemish on American culture as a whole. Because we’ve been held hostage by corruption and greed, unable to free outselves from this damaging and incredibly dangerous grip, we are forever fractured as well as so vulnerable to subsequent attacks that demolish us from within.

While I’ve never heard anyone address this state of our society in the dismal manner that I view it, I strongly feel it’s unacceptable to live with the constant actuality of becoming a random statisitc of gun violence. Even though I recognize that I’m merely one person among millions, my life still matters and should be treated as valuable. It has the same importance as every other individual’s existence, an enrichment to the world that is impossible to replace once it’s gone. So to view any life as disposable, where the right of a mentally unbalanced individual to buy an assault weapon and use it to cause devastating harm takes precedence over the prerogatives of those who are needlessly murdered, indicates immense depravity.

So, once again, I must say that we deserve so much better.

This nonsensical structure within American society that allows for such mass bloodshed over and over without laws to prevent these continual occurrences has numbing ramifications. With tragic episodes happening so frequently, the apathy from those who could stop the appalling murders is normalized. Even though numerous irresponsible lawmakers no longer extend their meaningless “thoughts and prayers,” they maintain the same negligence as ever before, knowing that the initial horror will eventaully fade away and insulate them from taking any action.

Not only does such contempt make our country more susceptible to endless gun violence, I also think this diseased mentality plays a terrible role in the overall disinterest that’s developed in these last months toward keeping up with Covid-19 vaccinantions. If our legislature doesn’t feel accountable to confront and successfully resolve the cultural obstacles that hinder the definitive banning of assault weapons, where millions of lives are continually at stake, why should we as individuals care about protecting the vulnerable around us from deadly infections? We model our behavior after our leaders in countless respects and they’ve failed us on so many crucial levels. The resounding message is that human life just isn’t sacred, that it doesn’t warrant every effort possible to preserve and to protect.

So I have to repeat with even more vehemence that we deserve so much better.

Another unfortunate aftereffect of this nonchalance from lawmakers is that we’ve each become necessarily more separate and on guard, never sure if a basic trip to the grocery store could be our last venture into a public space. We shouldn’t have to take our lives into our hands to buy a gallon of milk, to enjoy a night at the local movie theater, or to go dancing with friends. But because our lives are shrugged off, largely left unconsidered by the body tasked with maintaining our safety, we must decide if being among others as a potential target is a risk we’re willing to take at all times.

I see these circumstances as a major contributor to the lack of empathy toward minorities and marginalized groups as well. When lives are considered so secondary, the logical extension is to disrespect cultural, racial, and social differences, too. All of these dehumanizing factors naturally emerge when life, in general, can be extinguished so easily, so thoughtlessly, and with little societal consequences.

The horrendous complexities of these intertwining issues embody the subject matter that I continually explore in my fiction. Though this effort does nothing to inspire positive change, it grants me with a most nourishing control that I can’t achieve in the real world. From the sidelines, I can try to figure out this dysfunction and lessen my own constant fears in the process. My worries are not so immobilizing then.

But despite this form of therapy, the only action that helps me feel less victinized by the twisted, life-threatening lack of moral principles that are still urging us toward fascism, my worries will not end any time soon. I look forward to the day when I can feel a sense of safety again, when life is not viewed in such an expendable light. That time, however far off it might be at this juncture, is my vision for a healthier culture in which everyone, from every race, gender, religion, and social class, can magnificently thrive. This is because, and I speak these words with passion anf great determination, too, we deserve so much better.

Alisa Burris
Alisa Burris

Alisa Burris is a literary fiction author whose work depicts alienated lives with glimpses of mystery blended into the narrative layers. Her novel Detached (Running Wild Press) explores how three vastly different women cope with the trauma of a violent murder in their townhome community as they face private secrets of their own. In addition to writing stories that reflect today’s complex world, Alisa holds a PhD in English. Her dissertation specifically explores the fiction of Jewish-American women authors in the context of the cultural estrangement that they personally experienced during the twentieth century. Currently, Alisa also teaches literature and composition courses, which are a great source of enrichment in her life.

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