“pulse” – melissa etheridge (2016)


Last Monday, I woke that morning to the news regarding the horrific gun violence that occurred in Las Vegas the night before.  Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old resident of nearby Mesquite, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel on concertgoers attending the Rout 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.  In a window of ten minutes, hundreds of rifle rounds were fired resulting in the deaths of 58 people and the injury of 489.

I was mortified by the news and I needed to take some time to process the details of the deadliest mass shooting in this country’s history.  My heart ached for the survivors and the families of those killed.  I cannot imagine pain and suffering they are experience as the result of being subjected to such inhuman and evil carnage.

Details surrounding the initial reports were basic.  We knew basic information about the murderer and that he was dead.  In the following days, updates and breaking news alerts would tell us additional information.  This is where we would learn about the reactions from Paddock’s family, Paddock’s history as a high stakes gambler, Paddock sending his girlfriend to the Philippines with a ton of money, and stories about the brave people who risked their lives to others caught in the crossfire.  All of this was important in painting a complete picture of what happened, what led to these events, and how we can learn to prevent it from happening again.

All the while we were learning more information about the shooter, a heated debate had risen about gun control.  Gun control advocates vocalized their ongoing support to ban certain assault weapons and restrict at-risk individuals from purchasing firearms.  Critics of gun control argued this wasn’t the time to discuss gun control and that we should wait until a more appropriate time.

I became disturbed by some of the developments that came out of these discussions.  When I learned that stock prices of firearms manufacturers rose the day after the shooting, I couldn’t believe the audacity of these people.  Their baseless fears of extreme and stringent gun-control legislation that led them to believe the government would take away their guns overshadowed any empathy for the victims and their families.  From this reaction, the most awful thing I saw was a congressman appropriating Martin Niemöller’s “First they came…” poem about the cowardice many Germans displayed following the rise of Nazis.  In a photo on social me, he was holding an assault rifle and making a tone-deaf stand on gun-control legislation.  It was disgusting that he was supported for equating the extermination of Jews and banning assault weapons.

As details emerged about Paddock’s history, it was revealed that the 2017 Lollapalooza could’ve been the site for his massacre.  He had reserved a room in a hotel overlooking Grant Park, but never checked in.  I realize that what happened to the concertgoers in Las Vegas could happen to me.  However, learning that it almost happened in Chicago hit me really hard.  I don’t know anyone who went to the concert in Las Vegas.  But, I know a lot of people in Chicago who went to Lollapalooza.  And the idea that they could’ve been gunned down by a madman at a music festival is too much for me to handle.  I’m glad it didn’t happen here and I’m sorry it happened anywhere at all.

These mass shootings are becoming the new normal.  The movement to support gun-control legislation has seen increasing popularity since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.  However, nothing has gotten done.  The National Rifle Association, as the most powerful lobbying group, has successfully collected the GOP to do their bidding preventing legislation from passing.  The NRA is successfully living up to their reputation that they care more about their bottom line than the lives of innocent people.

I want all of it to stop.  I’m tired of waking up to news stories about horrific violence committed for senseless and selfish reasons.  I’m tired of nothing being done to stop dangerous people from legally obtaining dangerous weapons.  I’m tired of our politicians dismissing the cries and please from victims’ families to stop future massacres.

The Las Vegas shooting on October 1st is the deadliest mass shooting ever.  Prior to that, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando was the deadliest.  On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed.  It took less than 16 months for Stephen Paddock to top that record.  And now his name sits on high in history’s dark hall of fame.

In response to the Orlando shooting, Melissa Etheridge recorded a download-only single dedicated to the victims.  Named after the nightclub, “Pulse” is Ehteridge’s way of coping with the tragedy; one that we are seeing more frequently.  While the song is named after the club, Etheridge said “there’s just something very poetic and very meaningful about the name… You just start thinking about your own pulse. It’s the way I’ve always felt about the gay movement, the gay issue. Here we are – people who are loving; we are fighting for who we want to love.”

The song was meaningful then and it remains so now.  Listening to the lyrics, it is hard to get emotional.  Etheridge acknowledges we all have a pain inside, but we don’t have to act on the hate that can build in us.  We’re all human with a pulse and a capacity to love and be loved.  She poses a question to the Pulse shooter (which can be applied to future mass murders) by asking who will they hate when there’s no one left but them.  Etheridge’s resolve stays strong because she knows, like many of us, that love will always win and no gun can kill that truth.

Nine days later and there has been no progress in the debate concerning gun-control.  We now have a lot of information about the shooter, but none of the motivation to prevent others like him.  I’m trying not to lose hope that we can win the fight to slow down, or even stop, mass shootings.  However, they are happening more frequently and increasingly deadly.  Still, I must remain grounded and know that love will win and that fight is worth the reward.



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