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We are all Columbine — and all Charlottesville, too


On any given day in every neighborhood across the country, there are millions of people who watch television, online videos, and social media streaming. Seems harmless, right? People in their own homes just sitting watching a screen. Maybe it’s a show about a fictional character trying to save (or take down) the world, or a reality-TV star looking like an idiot as he tries to behave normally while inebriated. Others might be glued incessantly to 24-hour news channels, waiting to see crimes reported or the degradation of our political system.

Then on a Saturday less than a few weeks ago, millions turned to watching live the horrific violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. As a nation, we were transfixed to our tubes or computers, hypnotized by the spewing hatred and violence. Some of us were in tears of empathy for the peaceful protestors against bigotry, others in anger about losing our rightful white heritage, and still others in shock and disbelief that this was happening at all in a sleepy town in America.

Immediately, people flocked to social media making commentary on the events as noble, brave, or hate-filled, and even a few conspiracy theorists claiming it was all fake news. From that, the violence continued online verbally for days, turning against each other — our own family and friends.

So, what does this have to do with me?

Well in 1999, in the area of our small Littleton community, we had our own tragedy of senseless violence at Columbine High School, where 15 people lost their lives and even more were injured. Our world was rocked, shaken to the core. We banded together in brainstorming sessions with our neighbors and experts trying to figure out how this could have happened here and what we could to do heal as a community and prevent this from happening again anywhere. We began to make progress unified together in spirit and that common goal.

At that time, a mantra was born, “We are ALL Columbine,” a morphing of the high school’s cheer, claiming we were ALL responsible for the Columbine violence AND the healing. Together, we realized that we as a collective had created a culture where this was possible. Whether we had intentional or unintentional actions or subconscious thoughts, we were sewn into each other’s lives morally and were now taking responsibility for consciously creating our future community culture.

Now is the time to recognize that again. That no matter what numbing show or video you watch to try to separate yourself from reality, you too are complicit in the prejudice, ignorance and yes, even violence. We are all connected as fellow human beings in our grocery stores, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and places of worship. And we each have our own part in creating and sustaining a culture of increasing isolation, anger and violence.

It’s time to be conscious and aware that every thought and every action, no matter how small, has an effect on others locally and globally. It’s time to remember that we are all Columbine. And now, we are all Charlottesville. Let’s do something about that, not as members of particular ideological groups, but as fellow citizens of our village, collectively responsible for our humanity.

Linda Newell has termed out as the state senator of Senate District 26 and is now educating people on how to understand and influence their government. She may be reached at senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.


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