.Ubuntu: ‘I am because you are’

By Robert C. Koehler

A young man clothed in body armor entered Club Q in Colorado carrying an assault rifle and started shooting as a drag queen danced. In maybe two minutes, he killed five people and wounded, according to some accounts, 18. Then a patron risked his life, tackled the shooter, held him immobile till police arrived.

Five people killed, a few more critically injured. This time the minority group targeted—“the enemy”—was the LGBTQ community.

Hatred, guns, “permission.”

In that sense, yes, America is the land of the free: free to imagine an enemy . . . free to project your own self-hatred outward, onto a specifically defined group of people and sculpt them into the enemy, perhaps with the help of others, especially via social media. We are also free, for the most part, to purchase guns, including assault rifles, and lots of ammo, and plan an attack—at a church, a school, a grocery store, a nightclub, whatever.

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, for instance, who tweeted remorse about the Club Q shooting and said the victims and their families “are in my thoughts and prayers,” had, until then, been a notorious tweeter of anti-LGBTQ blather, making the fact-free case that they were “sick, demented” people bent on “grooming” innocent children to become gay—kind of in the same way, it seems, that refugees, according to Donald Trump, not only take our jobs but are often rapists and murderers. Create an enemy, get a following! (And guns are just for self-defense.)

We can’t stop tolerating hate until we realign ourselves with what it means to be alive, for which South Africans have a term: ubuntu: “I am because you are.”

And now we need a national stopping point, as we let this truth transform us. This will never be a perfect world. This will never be a world without conflict. But let’s pause in this moment, calm ourselves, set down our hatred and look each other in the eyes. I am because you are.

Robert Koehler is the author of ‘Courage Grows Strong at the Wound.’


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