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With Thanksgiving, that greatest of holidays, right around the corner, I was thinking about items to be thankful for this year. One area was that of the safety of my family and friends. And then I got to thinking that being safe is certainly something for which to be thankful, but it also seems selfish based on recent events across our country.

Mindless acts of violence seem to be on the increase once again. October 1 was not that long ago when a shooter changed the lives of hundreds of people, leaving 58 dead and over 500 injured at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. The pure carnage of that event shocked so many of us. Here were many people enjoying some good music, only to have a madman open fire from a hotel room high above. At times like that, you think about the luck some people must have had as they witnessed others around them go down in a hail of gunfire.

On October 31, a terrorist took a rental truck and ran down people on a bike path in New York City. He killed eight innocents and wounded 11 more in this cowardly act. Five of those killed were men who got together to celebrate a reunion and decided to go on a bike ride. The brutality of the pictures of mangled bicycles and covered victims was difficult to view. Some people just decided to go out and enjoy life for an afternoon and had their lives taken for no reason.

And most recently, on November 5 in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a man walked into the First Baptist Church and slayed 26 people, including an 18-month-old and an unborn child. Twenty more people were wounded. Imagine going to your house of worship, a place of peace and prayer, and dying at the hands of a man who research has shown should never have had access to a gun.

What’s going on here? What’s happening in our country and around the world to cause so much grief and suffering? And indeed, look around the world at acts of terror and sheer mindless killing. It’s not just the United States that faces these horrible events.

The three murderers I’ve mentioned seemed to have varying motives. The most recent theory for the Las Vegas shooter is that he was narcissistic about his wealth but became depressed when he lost vast amounts of money gambling, perhaps losing some of his prestige. The New York killer has been found to have ties to ISIS. The Texas gunman had a sordid history, having escaped a mental health facility along with a trail of death threats and other distressing signals that something was wrong.

You may have noticed that I’m not naming any of these men. You could easily find their names with a quick Google search, but I really think that one reason we have so many of these incidents is the large amount of exposure these people are given. It’s a fine line; the news media has a responsibility to report on what’s happening, but there are so many pictures flashed of these killers that I think some people look at it as their 15 minutes of fame, even if it costs them their lives. Some people will go to any end to get attention, and if something’s not quite right in their brains, that desire could lead to mass murder.

I’ve written about gun control before, so there’s no need to rehash that now. Needless to say, regardless of where you fall in that debate, it’s once again at the forefront of much of the rhetoric from politicians right now. The New York killings bring the debate about immigrants forward as well, even though it’s seemingly been front and center for over a year anyway.

And there’s no simple answer to either of those questions. The wonderful freedoms our country was based upon make sure of that. We were a country built on immigrants, and our freedom was won with guns.

Where do we go from here? If you’re the religious sort, you likely find yourself praying for peace daily. Sometimes, living in a small community, we feel insulated against some of this, but then the Texas episode happens in a town about the size of some of our own. People worry about traveling, about visiting high-target areas such as New York or overseas locations like Paris.

Since 9/11 we’ve become a people who need to have our fear factor turned on. We have to be aware of so much more in our lives and our surroundings. Just look at Waseca where an observant citizen potentially saved that town from having to deal with a massacre. Vigilence is important.

But so is living life. If you had a trip planned to New York or Las Vegas, I hope you haven’t cancelled. I hope you can enjoy what life gives us in the great vistas and events we can see. Should there be a prickle of worry? You wouldn’t be human if there weren’t.

So give thanks during the upcoming holiday. Find both the big things and small wonders that make your life more complete. If things have been tough, try to find that glimmer of hope and look for positives to pull you through to better times. If your life has been really good, find ways to help others and pay forward the thanks you have. Please have a safe and fulfilling Thanksgiving – after all, I’m thankful for all my readers and want to keep having you as a part of my life!

 

Word of the Week: This week’s word is pantophobia, which means a fear of everything, as in, “After surviving a terrible shooting, he found himself afflicted with pantophobia, afraid to move ahead with his life.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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