We are all filled with grief at the shooting that took place at the Q Club in Colorado Springs. What happened there is shocking. It is, grievously, not surprising.

In high school we had three bullies in my class. They had a group of followers who actually did most of the damage. One week, they focused their verbal bullying on me. So it was shocking but not surprising that one of these followers decided to punch me in the face. These three bullies knew exactly what they were doing. But the three main bullies could all say, “I didn’t do it.”

Today we have, according to surveys, 12 million people willing to engage in political violence to “save the country.” These are often like the followers of the bullies in my school. They hear dehumanizing language through social media, from news sources and the web regarding some group. They hear that this group is a threat to the nation, to their community, to them. Then a few of those 12 million decide to engage in violence. Meanwhile, those who verbally target LGBTQIA, Asian Americans, Indigenous Peoples, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Black, Hispanic/LatinX, or immigrants stand back and say, “I didn’t do it.”

The bullies in my high school knew what they were doing.

The bullies in our politics, in the media, and on social media know exactly what they are doing.

They know that when they focus on transgender people as “a threat to our children” violence against them will take place. They don’t know who of their followers will do the violence but they know it will come. And then they deny their contribution to the violence we are facing.

The question is: What can we do?

  • If you are part of a community of wisdom, connect with a community being marginalized and publicly stand with them.
  • Tell a positive story about that community to your friends, family, coworkers.
  • Show up and be supportive at public events that celebrate and honor groups that are experiencing this form of bullying.
  • Write to publishers and media conglomerates and give them feedback about the impact of their words.

In short, we must stand in solidarity with each other. We are in a long season of violence, I think. But remember that the vast majority of people want good for their neighbors, want peace in their community, honor the dignity of every person.

The bullies in my high school later apologized for their behavior. Let’s hope that the bullies today will do the same. Until then, it’s up to us to stand together.

Photo by Rohan Gupta on Unsplash