Living in violence

Taylor Muñoz

Reckoning with unavoidable risk


When I learned that 12 people, some my age, were shot dead in my home state last week, fear and anger swallowed me whole.

Leaving the safety of my bed felt impossible.

Some days, it was.

The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to understand that Americans are slowly beginning to live in a new reality.

This reality is predicated on crippling fear and increasing compliance. With every mass shooting that takes place in America, we continue to collectively assume our roles in this new reality.

If the likelihood that we might get murdered by gun for daring to step outside of our homes in America continues to persist, perhaps we should begin to adjust our lives accordingly.

When the protesters pack up to go home and the online prayers are done circulating, the new reality will continue to loom over our heads. We will accept it.

Every mass shooting leaves me under the impression that the only thing I have left to cling on to is fear itself. I’ve found that it may be one of the only things that can protect me.

On my best and brightest days, I feel affirmed in my place as a student, friend, and family member. I see my hard work in school paying off. I feel excitement for where life can take me.

In the aftermath of mass shootings, however, as we are forced to face the implications of our new reality, I am reminded that despite all of my potential and the bright future that I can aspire to attain, I cannot do away with the target on my back.

This kind of violence has never concerned itself with potential.

My personhood feels like it’s eroded just a little more after every mass shooting. My ranking in the world is demoted to “Potential Future Victim.”

I cannot and will never try to claim the pain and heartbreak of those who have actually experienced this kind of senseless violence.

While these experiences eat away at me from afar, I am fortunate enough to not have gone through something so soul-crushing.

But who is to say I won’t? That you won’t? That’s the caveat of the new reality.

We will give up any hope of concrete action, because those sworn into positions of power are the most legitimate enforcers of our reality.

Perhaps I will also delete all of the news apps off of my phone and cancel my subscription to The New York Times.

Maybe I should begin to rationalize forfeiting my right to be a more informed citizen so that my fear and ignorance have the final say.

I will unlearn my love for live music. When I enter a venue to see an artist I love perform, after all, it is never a guarantee that I will walk out.

I’ll listen to my mother’s sobs on the phone when another shooting has taken place, stone-faced, because she comes from a generation that doesn’t yet fully understand the new reality.

I’ll avoid church at all costs and hope God understands my rationale.

On my 21st birthday, which is a week away, I’ll blow out a candle in the safety of my own home.

A survivor of the Thousand Oaks shooting, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, served as a painfully ironic reminder that celebrating your own livelihood can lead to your demise.

I have long rejected the notion that this can’t or won’t happen to me. At this point, I am naïve not to.

However, I no longer understand why I am supposed to be my own spokesperson for my basic right to live.

I wish someone would stand up for me. I wish someone would stand up for all of us.

There is no undoing the past, and every shooting that takes place squanders my belief that we are genuinely interested in preventing a bloody future.

So, we will continue to live our lives making exit plans in our minds, scanning the room for danger, or avoid leaving our houses altogether.

This is all the new reality could ask of us.