My younger brother, Michael, was murdered in our hometown of Tucson just over two years ago. As the images of the horrific massacre in Las Vegas are still fresh in our minds, I can’t help but think of the pain and anguish that 58 families of those murdered are experiencing.
Sadly, I can tell you it will only get worse for these families in the coming weeks. The journey that they have now embarked on was not one they chose. It was foisted upon them by a sick, deranged mind whose intent we might never know.
As I awoke early Monday morning, October 2, I glanced at my phone and saw a stream of CNN updates alerting the world to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. As the day wore on, no one ever would have imagined that we would witness what has become the worst mass shooting in America, with 58 individuals murdered – the news total of 59 dead includes the shooter – and over 529 innocent people wounded.
The numbers alone are staggering and hard to comprehend. Having lost my brother to murder, I now feel a strange connection to these 58 families from around the country.
Closer to home, here in Baltimore, Maryland, our proud city suffers from an ever-increasing homicide rate. This past Sunday, October 1, the Baltimore Sun offered this sobering assessment:
- Through September, 266 people have been killed in the city, exceeding the 262 people killed during the same period in 1992, when the city had 100,000 more residents.
- September ended with 31 homicides — more than one a day for the month and the fifth time this year that the city has had more than 30 people killed in a month. Between 2008 and 2014, the city never recorded 30 victims in a single month.
Both Las Vegas and Baltimore are a sad commentary on our humanity. Where have we gone wrong in our society? What fundamental morals and values have we failed to teach our children? I don’t know of a single parent who intends to raise a future murderer, but somehow the murder counts rise. The news has been filled with statistics, but a few bear repeating:
- So far in 2017, there have been 273 mass shootings in the United States.
- Since the tragedy in Orlando in June 2016, there have been 521 mass shootings in 477 days in our nation.
This madness must stop.
Our company, Kalix Marketing is headquartered here in Baltimore. Just last Friday, I received a very pleasant voice mail from the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). The caller said she was calling local business owners in the city to ask what the BDC could do to enhance the business environment here in Baltimore.
My answer is simple: We need to dramatically stop the murder epidemic here in the city. Is that an easy thing to do? No. Along the way we also need to tackle poverty, the sorry state of our public education system, figure out our approach to drugs and then determine what to do with the guns. Do we think for a moment that our local, state and national leaders will have the solutions? Our elected officials seem more divided than ever, and real leadership appears to be in short supply.
That’s a heavy burden to shoulder. You might think that I must be a hardened pessimist after what I’ve experienced these past two years as my family and I learn to live in a world without Michael and the brutal reality of his death. You’d be wrong. I’m actually a very optimistic person.
The path forward will not be an easy one. In the weeks ahead we have much healing to do. Those poor families of the 58 precious individuals who were murdered – note that I never use the word “killed,” they were murdered plain and simple. I reserve the word killed for accidents – will have funerals to hold and now must adjust to the “new normal” as they go through their daily lives.
How do we move forward? It’s both simple and complex. I rely upon a great reservoir of hope and optimism that the human spirt will help us turn this epidemic around. I see it in small acts of kindness practiced by strangers. Holding a door for someone, a simple “Good Morning” said while walking down the street, a random stranger stopping in Phoenix, Arizona to help a friend of mine change her tire on the side of the road.
If we are to stem this senseless tide of violence, then it has to begin with a re-dedication to giving every child in America the tools and resources they will need to become a 21st century citizen. Education has always been the cornerstone of the great societies and we must model that same behavior. We have to re-enforce positive values and morals as guideposts for what is right and wrong.
Murder is evil. I’ve witnessed it firsthand and it a horrendous experience for anyone to endure. We have no choice but to offer those in need a warm hug, a smile and a hand shake as we proudly march forward with the keen understanding that good must triumph over evil and we as a society are up to the task.
Jonathan Oleisky is president and founder of Kalix Marketing.