It’s 2:15am and I am finally considering going to bed after checking my phone all night for updates on yet another mass shooting. It’s something we’ve grown used to in this country, but this one hit so close to home for me. Cascade Mall in Burlington, WA – about 15-20 minutes from my home – was trending world wide after a man reportedly walked into the makeup department of Macy’s and shot four women and one man. All four women are reported dead while the man remains in critical condition with life threatening injuries. At the time I am writing this, the suspect is still at large and some unofficial tips have even said he’s been seen just minutes from my apartment. More than likely just paranoia, but that should give you an idea of how close this is to me.
Tonight I kept refreshing #CascadeMall on Twitter. Hoping to see updates on this tragedy, since it was hardly a blip on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News’ radars and our local news went off the air after midnight. What I saw though had nothing to do with the four lives lost tonight. Instead it was people using the tragedy as a way to spread more fear and hatred. The suspect, who is thought to be a “Hispanic Male” was theorized by many amateur “sleuths” on Twitter to “definitely be Arabic/Muslim/Middle Eastern/Islamic.” And who knows? Maybe he is. It wouldn’t be the first time the news has gotten something like that wrong, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. All I see in the picture taken from a security camera is a sick, evil man and we’ve seen way too many of those recently.
Many of these wannabe Sherlock’s were also quick to point out why he “definitely was a Muslim” or why he “definitely was Hispanic” based on what they “knew” about Washington State. Many would go on to Tweet about things such as how the “leftists” in this state would surely crawl to Donald Trump after this. These people were from New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky etc. yet they “knew” all about the state that I have lived in for 30 years. The state that I was born and raised in. The state that nobody cared to talk about until tonight because it became a talking point for their political agendas. Mass flooding? Barely a word. Devastating wind storms? Nothing. East Coast gets hit with a small earthquake and it makes the news all day, yet a few months ago I rode out a 5.9 magnitude quake (which is relatively small here) and it hardly even made the news here locally. I don’t intend for this to sound like whining, we’re ok with being obscure. I am just trying to paint a picture of how little we actually get talked about up here. Tonight though, so many “experts” suddenly came out of the woodwork. You are free to believe whoever you want, but I do sincerely hope you will trust my 30 years of experience here and allow me to tell you a little bit about the state of Washington rather than read about it from people who more than likely think Seattle is our capital.
I grew up on a farm between Ferndale and Lynden, WA about 10 minutes from the Canadian border and about the same from the Lummi Native American Reservation. We were surrounded by agriculture, whether it be potato fields, corn fields, raspberries, blueberries, wheat, barley, you name it. Many of the people I grew up around were Hispanic and worked out in the fields. Not just in the summer months, but year around. I used to ride my bike to a little gas station down the road from me that was owned by Egyptian immigrants. Lynden itself is a Dutch Town and Ferndale has it’s fair share of Polish, German and Russian immigrants. These people and memories were a huge part of my growing up and helped shape me as a person.
I love the state I live in. We see a mixture of all different types of weather, ecosystems, wildlife, fauna and the people here follow suit. We are a diverse crowd, yet we all coexist, most of the time without even thinking about it. I have Hispanic neighbors, Asian neighbors, Hindu neighbors and Muslim neighbors. I play Ultimate Frisbee each week with a group of people with Muslim backgrounds, Jewish backgrounds, Hindu, Christian, Native, African American, White, Asian, Gay, Straight, you name it. We didn’t do it on purpose, that’s just how it is here.
The reactions I saw on Twitter tonight showed me just how little people actually know about Washington State. No we aren’t perfect, racism still rears its ugly head from time to time, but if you think this tragedy will define our vote in November or claim to know which areas are “Muslim areas” or “Hispanic areas”, you are just flat out wrong.
Like I said, this state is beautiful, both our land and our people. Sadly though over the past few several years we have seen our fair share of mass shootings. The only real consistent statistic with any of them was that the shooter was a man. So if we’re talking about mass deportations or who to be afraid of, I suggest you start with my own gender first. Your xenophobia is pathetic at best. Perhaps I should just ignore the reaction from these people, but I love this place, so forgive me for getting defensive over it.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the Burlington shooting. As I said earlier, this one basically happened at home for me. The Cascade Mall is a place that I have frequented throughout my life. It is small and recently has seemed to struggle a bit with keeping traffic up. I have no idea why this happened, who the man with the gun is or where he is right now and what his motives were, but I do know that it takes pure evil to do such a thing to something as beautiful as human life. We’ve seen the same thing in Aurora, Co, at Virginia Tech, Roseburg, OR, Newtown, MA, Orlando, FL and San Bernardino, CA. The only constant in any of those is the lack of humanity that each perpetrator exhibited.
My heart will be heavy for a while. This one will take a while to shake off, but just like the mountains and the coastline, the people of this state are beautiful and strong. We will get through this, not by taking the easy way out with hatred and intolerance, but instead with love and resilience. Be safe, be you, Washington. My home.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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