We ask because of what happened Saturday in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed — and, several hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, where nine were killed.
We ask because the mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, said: This is not who we are. (We're paraphrasing.)
He said it with conviction. And he's right.
El Paso is a peaceful, neighborly city. El Pasoans live their lives harmoniously, interdependent with the residents of Juarez, the city on the other side of the border. It's how El Paso and Juarez have been for 350 years, Margo said.
El Paso averages fewer homicides in a year than happened Saturday — if you need statistics to show you who El Paso is and isn't.
More to the point, the gunman didn't come from El Paso, or from the other side of the border. He came all the way from Allen, Texas, 659.2 miles to the east-northeast via interstate, according to Google Maps.
What happened in El Paso is as unlike El Paso as what happened inside a church at Sutherland Springs, Texas — 26 people shot dead — was unlike that church congregation, and what happened at a school in Santa Fe, Texas, 10 people killed, was unlike that group of students and faculty.
The killers in those other two shootings had a direct connection to their targets. The El Paso killer has no known connection to El Paso — proving Margo's point that this is not who El Paso is. It's somebody else. Somebody full of hate — hate that was encouraged. Hate that has no place in El Paso.
El Paso is a safe city and an example of how relations between two countries should be. El Paso steps up to protect immigrant children.
Now, El Paso is in shock. El Paso has lost mothers and fathers, tios y tias, abuelos y abuelas, people who mattered. But, according to Margo, this tragic, avoidable loss will not define El Paso. It's not who El Paso is.
Who are we? As Texans, we're a people who have endured three horrific mass killings in less than two years. In defining who we are, we must ask and answer for ourselves:
— What could we have done differently?
— What are we willing to do now to stop this madness?
— What will our leaders do and what will we demand of them?
— We can start by asking Gov. Greg Abbott who he is, who he'd like to be and how he'd like to be remembered. He has been governor during all of these shootings. Is that how he wants to be remembered?
Abbott, to his credit, steps up during crises, going to disaster scenes sometimes when they still aren't safe. He shows compassion, but struggles to acknowledge gun violence is hurting our state.
Abbott is the governor who went to a shooting range to sign a bill lowering the fee for concealed carry permits. During this stunt, he shot a few rounds and said he'd save the bullet-riddled target as a message to news reporters. What will Abbott do, in the aftermath of El Paso, to make us forget he is that guy?
Will he blame mental illness — the increasingly popular scapegoat of cowards who don't want to admit there are too many guns and too much hate, and are unwilling to do something about it?
Who's Gov. Greg Abbott? A religious man. He said he and his wife are praying for El Paso and he asked the rest of us to do the same. We have no reason to doubt that he has been praying and believes in the power of prayer. But we've heard this all before, and the result seems to be one more mass shooting after another.
Why not on President Donald Trump, who spreads hate, which is the cause of these mass shootings? Or Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who targeted Black Lives Matter after the Dallas police shootings and is blaming video games for the El Paso shooting? Asked and answered. Abbott gives us reasons to have higher expectations.
It still doesn't answer the question: Who are we? Who do we want to be?
We all should want to be more like El Paso, as fine an example of peace and harmony as there is — a peace and harmony that it took an outsider to disrupt. And we must find effective solutions that will prevent similar tragedies. That's who we need to be.
--Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times