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Citizen's View: We must continue to live our lives without undue fear, anger, hatred

"So how was your weekend?" I asked. It is a question we often ask each other Monday morning at exercise class.

"Well, I went to a choral concert at a Portland church, attended by hundreds of people. And I hate to say it," my classmate replied, "but I was worried it could turn into a target for a mass shooting."

I understood my classmate completely.

I had similar thoughts Saturday night at the high school, where the auditorium was filled with families enjoying holiday music. A few minutes into the program, my mind wandered to the horrors of recent tragedies. If a heavily armed person burst in here now, how would I handle it? Dive for the exit? Charge them? Shield a child? And why am I even thinking of such awful things?

They say this year has had the equivalent of one mass shooting per day. That translates into more than 300 senseless calamities, with roughly 300 deranged individuals taking out their rage, frustrations and insanity on innocent bystanders.

Yet we are a nation of over 300 million people. Most of us get up each morning, put one foot in front of the other and go about our day trying to do well by ourselves, our families and our friends. There's nothing newsworthy about it. Just thousands upon thousands of decent people taking care of each other.

I've always maintained that most people are kind and good. We support different politicians, give to different charities, believe in different religions or no religion at all. We feel passionate about many things, but we learn when we can persuade others and when it's best to simply acknowledge a difference of opinion.

There are some news organizations today that work responsibly to keep us informed. But there are others in the media seeking to sensationalize the tragedies around us. Each time a new mass shooting occurs, a feeding frenzy begins as they report every salacious detail and relish every dark turn to the story. It's like the occasional infestation in our kitchen, when a wayward crumb on the floor is discovered and the ants swarm in dark clumps over it.

This unfortunate situation is made worse by the approaching election, and candidates are playing to the growing fear and anger of the populace. Some are resurrecting McCarthyism, replacing Communists with Muslims. How can we revert back to such a dark period in American history, giving up our ideals on freedom of religion and speech and assembly? Many candidates are also calling for a halt to immigration, shunning our legacy of welcoming the "huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." How can these individuals embrace our Statue of Liberty while rejecting all this nation stands for?

A minority of the mass shootings are due to extremists with loyalties to terrorist organizations. Most of these tragedies are at the hands of young, disenfranchised, American-born men. Young men desperate and disturbed enough to take out their aggressions in an elementary school or a movie theater or a shopping mall. Should we start deporting angry young men?

The best we can do is to continue to live our lives without undue fear and hatred. To love our neighbor and expect the best of others. Only then we can continue to live in a country we can feel proud of.

Joan Freed is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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