Violence has once again destroyed an American community, and I feel like I should write something about it, but honestly, I’m just so exhausted by all of it, and in this case, more than a little heartbroken – I used to live in Las Vegas, and this will make the third place I’ve called home to suffer a violent attack. Do we need to stop saying “there’s nothing we can do!” when it comes to gun violence? Absolutely. Do we need to recognize mass shootings are domestic terrorism? Yes. Do we need to start calling white men who shoot up crowds terrorists? Damn straight.
But if like me, you’re feeling more than a little exhausted from making the same argument over and over again as people continue to suffer and die, here’s a reminder of the small and simple things we can do in the meantime to help those who are suffering.
If you’re in Nevada, you might consider donating blood if you can – here’s a list of blood donation clinics and the Red Cross’ donation policies. It’s worth checking beforehand if you can donate – a lot of people are disqualified automatically (any man who has had sex with another man or any women who has had sex with a man who has sex with men is automatically disqualified, for example, and as it happens, I’m permanently disqualified by virtue of the time I’ve spent living overseas), and the exemption interviews are very lengthy and take up a lot of the staffs’ time, so if you can find out beforehand that you can’t donate, that’s better for everyone.
If you’re not in Nevada – DON’T GO DONATE BLOOD! I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but most of the blood donated in other states during serious disasters never makes it to that disaster location because blood has a short shelf-life and so many people are donating on the ground. If you want to donate, make an appointment and go in a week or two weeks, by which time the donations on the ground will have died down. While you’re at it, if you’re in good health, look into platelet donation – it’s more time consuming, but also has wider uses.
Also, while we’re at it, here are some options for supporting Puerto Rico – the island is still in dire straights, and it’s important we not get distracted by one disaster and forget about the Americans who are still without power, clean water, and fuel. As it happens, I have colleagues at the Superfund Research Program in San Juan – they specifically recommended that people donate to the United Way of Puerto Rico because the group is already on the ground in PR, and so aren’t suffering from as many transportation issues as other relief efforts (because, as the President pointed out, Puerto Rico is an island, in the big, big ocean). However, the site is in Spanish, so if that’s an issue, and Google translate can’t overcome it, there’s also a list of charitable organizations working throughout the Caribbean published and vetted by the New York Times. Remember, if nothing else, PR gave us Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has given us some of the greatest musical art of our generation, so we definitely all collectively owe them for that.
Finally, to the people of Las Vegas, in case anyone from LV is reading this, I would just say, you are the most warm, welcome, wonderful community I have ever lived in. I still regularly tell people that of all of the places I’ve lived, Las Vegas has, hands down, the nicest people. When I lived there, I was working on a political campaign – knocking on doors, standing outside of grocery stores registering voters, organizing political rallies -, and with very, very few exceptions, people were kind, thoughtful, and generous. I had people, on more than one occasion, answer their door saying, “I’m not on your side, but do you need a bottle of water? Are you doing okay out here?” Vegans (that’s vay-gans, as in the people of Las Vegas, not people who don’t eat animal products, although some Vegans are probably vegans) are just the best people, which I think is probably part of why this most recent attack has hit me so hard, because it feels so unfair that this city, of all places, would have this kind of unthinkable violence wrought against it. But in my heart, I also know that’s why you’re going to bounce back, because everyone there has each other’s back. I love you, LV, and I am so tremendously heartbroken by what’s been done to you.