Jaxon Silva is a Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
In October of 2017 I read a LA Times Op-Ed piece titled, “What Natural Disaster Can Teach Us”. It described that natural disasters will touch all of us. That it can happen anywhere. I read it, absorbed its somber message, but thought, “That’s probably true for most of the country, but not Ventura, our weather is too perfect.”
Then on Dec. 4, 2017, I was proven wrong as the Thomas Fire raged on the hillsides of Ventura, and the message from the article I read ringed in my head. It can happen anywhere. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Flash forward more than a year later. I get out of bed and see an email from the Dean of Students. I skim the words “Shooting in Thousand Oaks.” Curious, I search on Google only to find myself horrified. On the night of Nov. 7, a man went into the Borderline Bar and Grill and killed 13 people. My first thoughts were of how I had visited there myself for line-dancing and how my brother and his friends frequented Borderline often. Promptly then I immediately texted my brother, hoping and praying he hadn’t gone to that night, which was usually college night.
For the next few hours there was no response and all I could feel was the sinking feeling in my stomach growing. Luckily, he texted back, saying he was OK and that he hadn’t gone that night. But I thought of the others who will never receive that text.
Thousand Oaks, while not Ventura, is still part of Ventura County. In Ventura, we like to think of the county as pretty close-knit. We bump into friends and acquaintances from the surrounding cities here and there. We think that nothing like what transpired last night could happen, that we know our neighbors and those who share our county, but we were wrong. I was wrong, and yet when looking at the data, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, five have happened in the last 10 years. As the number of mass shootings have seemed to have increased and dominated the news cycle, we tell ourselves that those places are different. That there was something wrong with them and not us. That we are closer-knit, have better values, are better than that. And every time, we are proven wrong. From Orlando to San Bernardino. Virginia Tech to Columbine. Parkland to Las Vegas.
I’m not here to tell you what should be done or who is right and who is wrong. That is not my place and I know too little to make an argument for either side. You want to hear facts, head to Google. You want to hear arguments, go on MSNBC or Fox News. I’m not here to present either. If you want to act, follow what you think is the right course of action.
What I’m here to say is that we shouldn’t be surprised: the paradigm shifted a long time ago. I used to think that December was too cold for any wildfire to happen, but as California Gov. Jerry Brown poignantly put it, “This is the new normal. We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas.”
This is the new normal. There will be more shootings and more may lose their lives. And as dealing with this topic has become gridlocked, it may be a while before anything happens. Tragedy will come, hopefully not soon and hopefully not here, but it will come. In the end, all we can do is treat each other the best we can. Check in on each other and make sure we are OK. Include others in our community and be part of ones ourselves. We’re all we got. This is our Mustang Family and we have to take care of each other. While I’m not sure if that will stop the next crisis, I know better than to be surprised when the next one comes.