“The World’s Gone to Shit”: Opinion Piece
“The world’s gone to shit.”
Beginning in June of 2017, hurricanes tore through the South and mid-Atlantic. On September 2, over 1,500 acres of land in Los Angeles burned to nothingness. On October 1, 59 were killed and over 489 injured in a mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival. On October 2, the mental reverberations of Nevada set the whole campus of the University of Southern California on lockdown. On October 9, ash dropped from the sky as Napa and Sonoma flame.
So pessimism seizes vulnerability. On October 9, I wake up with a head cold and claim my physical incompetence. I sniffle in front of the TV, snot oozing from my nose as words of crisis ooze from news anchors’ mouths. Massaging my neck, I attempt to alleviate the pain of my illness. As my body shivers underneath piles of blankets and sweatshirts, text messages flow in from my father: our restaurant is on fire, the valley beneath our house is on fire. And suddenly, in my morose state, I decide that the world has gone to shit.
On September 30, the night before the Nevada shooting, I have a dream that the Golden Gate Bridge is bombed. I wake up believing that the landmark that my life is built around collapsed, the symbol of San Francisco obliterated out of hate. I wake up with dried tears in my eyes, once crystals bronzed into crust. I wake up with a palpable fear lodged deep in my throat, fearing that San Francisco can no longer protect me from tragedy. So, that night, as I lie in bed, complaining at my stomach’s fullness from too much filet mignon for dinner, armies of bullets fly through the Las Vegas festival air; innocence is penetrated. I confirm that, indeed, the world has gone to shit.
But it’s not the notion of wronged innocence that accentuates the fear in my throat, but rather my own proximity to the mass shooting. I rant about the importance of gun regulation, of more security, of how the hell does something like this happen at a music festival? What if this had happened at a festival in San Francisco? We would all be so mad, so upset, right?
Would. We would be so mad, so upset, because a mass shooting in San Francisco would turn news headlines into our reality. But the matter of the fact is, we should be so mad, so upset, because, no matter location nor motive, a mass shooting has been committed out of hatred. The same hatred that manifested in the bombing of the Manchester Ariana Grande concert, the same hatred that seeps from the Islamic State’s bombs. Hatred itself knows no race, religion, or politics. The same hatred shuts minds from the opinions of others, fueling controversy lined with insecurity. Hatred for Muslims, hatred for environmental advocates, etc., can be summarized as a general hatred for humans. When we choose to hate others, we choose to hate ourselves.
On October 9, as an image of our restaurant burning popped up on my screen, for the first time, I feel the true potency of hatred. I must admit that I was baffled by my own thoughts, failing to see the correlation between natural disaster and hatred. But as my nose oozed snot and my body shivered, as I typed fiercely to my friends that “I hate people who don’t believe in climate change,” I realized that in my own way, I, too, am an outlet for hatred. Guilt quickly engulfed the fear in my throat; I felt wholly and insufferably hopeless.
On October 9, I realized that I only pay true regard to tragedy that exists in my own reality, that touches me personally, and when affected by tragedy, I respond with my own form of hatred. Like two bulls charging at one another with their horns colliding in between, one bull unable to reach the other, hatred cannot be deflected- no, countered- with hatred.
On October 9, I realized that we are a nation of bystanders or moreover perpetrators, either responding to tragedy with immobile sympathy or hatred. Sitting in front of the TV, my head aching from a seasonal cold, my throat throbbing with guilt, I realized that it is not the world that has gone to shit, but our priorities, as humans, to protect the world from going to shit.
So I ask, the next time we naively claim that the “world’s gone to shit,” that we consider our individual contributions to the world. I ask that we consider the measures that we can take in thought, discussion, and action to redirect our priorities. The world as a whole is not a matter of politics, race, climate change, but is a matter of sustainable prosperity.
So no, the world hasn’t “gone to shit.”
by Sarah Flynn