Columns, Opinion

Let’s Talk About: The downsides of returning to normalcy

Content Warning: This article discusses gun violence and murder.

After 440 days –– the exact number of days since the first coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan, China –– it’s safe to say that most parts of the world are on the right path to minimizing and reducing COVID-19 cases.

With vaccine roll-outs ramping up in the United States, United Kingdom and Israel, as well as reports that show a significant decrease in coronavirus cases as more people are vaccinated, it’s easy to imagine that a return to normalcy is just on the horizon.

But we shouldn’t be celebrating.

Mayela Machribie Lumban Gaol

For a moment, life in the United States seemed to be returning to the regularity of existence prior to March 2020. That sounds amazing — until you have the sickening realization that normalcy in the United States also means the reemergence of gun violence and massacres.

A mass shooting in Atlanta unfolded March 16 at three spa centers, resulting in the death of eight people. The incident occurred during a surge of violence against Asian Americans in the United States, and the spa shooting has been labeled by some as a racially motivated hate crime.

Yet, so far, the police have been reluctant in ruling the shooting a hate crime, even though six of  the eight victims were Asian women.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told NPR the suspect’s act “does not appear” to be motivated by race, but at this point, it’s hard to disentangle race from the killings.

It’s unsettling the killings have not been recognized as a hate crime, but it’s repulsive to hear Capt. Jay Baker — the spokesperson for the sheriff’s office in Cherokee County who is no longer on the case — justify the suspect’s actions as the result of a “really bad day.”

Six days later, another mass shooting occurred in Boulder, Colorado, resulting in a total of 10 dead, victims ranging from 20 to 65 years old.

Nine days later, another mass shooting occurred in Orange, California, resulting in a total of four people dead. Among the victims was a 9-year-old boy who died in the arms of a woman most likely his mother.

These three tragedies are just a few of the at least 20 gun-related incidents that occurred in the country in the past month. Americans are no longer solely threatened by the viral pandemic — rather, they are challenged by the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

A time that once seemed to be promising and hopeful is withering away, leaving fear and dread behind. Americans are slowly emerging from the pandemic to images of blood, death and bodies on the ground, toppled with feelings of vulnerability and uneasiness.

It’s also impacted the U.S. psyche, as many Americans already believe leaving their homes is a safety risk. One-third of Americans avoid going to certain places or events as a result of fear from mass shootings, according to the American Psychological Association.

That study was conducted in 2019, pre-pandemic. So imagine how citizens might respond now with added health concerns and recent gun deaths.

Even amidst lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the number of mass shootings has inched upward. In 2020, there were almost 600 mass shootings — defined as when four or more, excluding the shooter, are killed in an incident — an uptick of around 150 incidents from 2019. 

But the rise of fear and terror is not only happening in the United States.

In Makassar, Indonesia, a suicide-bombing incident wounded more than a dozen people March 28. The perpetrators who died in the attack were allegedly members of the local Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, a terrorist group that pledges its allegiance to The Islamic State.

In the past two decades, Indonesia has suffered multiple terrorist attacks and threats. The most deadly attack, which took place in Bali in 2002, took the lives of 202 people, and the recent bombing in Makassar serves as a stark reminder that radicalism in Indonesia continues to be a problem.

Whether it be mass shootings in the United States or terrorist attacks in Indonesia, a disturbing trend between the rise of violence and terrorism seems to be ever-present in the decline of COVID-19.

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