I grew up in the same city as the El Paso shooter.
We graduated high school in the same year. He went to Plano Senior High; I went to Plano East. When I heard the news about Patrick Crusius, I felt sad and disappointed but not in the least bit surprised.
There may not be a suburb in America as politically charged and confusing as Plano, TX. The combination of “right-wing or die” Republicans, immigrants from around the world and average middle-class families creates a diverse yet complicated city. The last presidential election shook Plano to its core.
The day after the election, my high school was a madhouse. Walking toward the school, I saw giant phrases like “Build that Wall,” “Hillary for Prison” and “Can’t Stop Trump” splayed across the sidewalk, a mess the Hispanic janitors had to clean up.
Many minorities became too afraid to attend school and left early. Black students were pushed against lockers; girls’ hijabs were ripped off of their heads; Hispanic students were told to go back home to Mexico; Make America Great Again hats were thrown in the pond; I cried in public for the first time in my high school career.
Like I said, when I heard the news about Crusius, I was not surprised.
Only a culture fueled with apathy and a lack of respect for other human beings fosters this kind of event to occur. This tumultuous atmosphere raised Crusius. It created a monster responsible for killing 20 people and injuring over two dozen more.
Still, though the news did not shock me, the gravity of this event truly hit close to home. I have attended several football games where Crusius could have committed a similar crime. An event like this could happen at any time, and this reality is more than frightening.
In his address to the nation concerning the shooting, President Donald Trump cited video games, mental health and the internet as reasons for the shooting. In one quote, he said, “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
I understand the rights presented in the second amendment, and I do not see a problem with people hunting or going to a gun range. But I will never understand why anyone needs an AK-47, an assault weapon used for the sole purpose of killing humans, in their garage.
While the president rightfully condemned white supremacy and hate speech, his actions directly contradict this message. Other than his efforts to dismantle birthright citizenship and numerous racially-charged sentiments against minorities, the president recently gave a speech where he engaged in insensitive banter.
At a Trump rally only three months before the shooting, the president began a statement about Mexican migrants, saying, “How do you stop these people? You can’t, there’s—” only to be cut off by a rally-goer yelling, “Shoot them.”
After a pause and a smile, the president proceeded with the speech, saying, “That’s only in the [Florida] panhandle can you get away with that statement.” Laughter throughout the audience followed. Laughter. They laughed at the thought of shooting people.
The same fear Hispanic students felt at my high school in Crusius’s district was amplified to the nation. I will never know what his high school experience was like or what kinds of conversations he had. None of us will. But those conversations and experiences culminated in one of the most catastrophic shootings in American history.
Americans like to say “politics won’t fix the problem, people will.” I cannot disagree. People have the responsibility to fix societal problems, one person at a time. Call out racial injustice. Vote for politicians who do not invoke hatred. Have discussions about controversial topics. Challenge others as well as yourself to practice compassion in politics.