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On the heels of my blog about frustrations with my accent, I experienced one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said directly to me about my country, friends and family. If you don’t know about the shooting in Aurora, CO yet I’m not going to reiterate them here and you need to look it up to understand this post.

I found out about the shootings last night and into this morning. I went to work quite shocked but okay. It is a tragedy on so many different levels, to individuals and the entire country. But I was dealing with it just fine.

One of the regulars came in as usual – quiet seat in the back, iPad in hand. He called me over, asked where I was from exactly, and had I heard. This is the conversation that followed:

Him: I suppose this is a result of having a country that allows guns. You know, when the tragedy happened in….where was it?

Me: Norway?

Him: No. Tasmania. Howard banned all guns. And now things are better.

Me: I guess. But its a different culture, and so its a bit different. I grew up in a Republican household with guns and it’s a part of who we are.

Him: Then you deserve this. You deserve this tragedy.

Nevermind my thoughts on Australian gun laws. Nevermind that the killer in the Aurora tragedy could have gotten a gun license here in Australia based on his profile. Nevermind that I respect and believe in the right to own guns, even if American laws are far too loose. Nevermind why I think that. My beliefs in how the gun laws in America should be decided and enforced are completely irrelevant to why what he said is wrong.

The victims have not been buried. The wounded have not healed. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, friends are still shocked. Right now all that needs to happen is recovery. And then justice and perhaps prevention methods. That’s what needs to happen. But right now, innocence has been killed.

What doesn’t need to happen is a blame game against the American people. I understand the United States role in world politics and economy, the hurt that has been caused at the hands of our government. I understand how the media portrays our culture. But in turn, it needs to be understood that we are not all guilty. We are civilians. The entire nation does not need to be blamed for a single man’s actions. This is not proof that we are dangerous, that our civilians are dangerous.

There is never a reason innocent people deserve to be killed. Never. My father, proud owner of a pistol and member of the NRA, does not deserve to be killed. I do not deserve to be killed because I learned to shoot in the backwoods of CO and enjoyed it. The four-month old injured in the movie theater that night…well? What are your thoughts about what that child deserves?

You would be proud, America. I kept my cool against him. I was suave.  I told the man he didn’t understand me or my country, and he’s shown his ignorance. And I walked away. I will never serve him again.

And then you wouldn’t be proud, America. I cried. I couldn’t breathe. The realization that ignorance and judgement together can create such a horrible thing shook me. And me and my world were the target of misplaced hatred. I had exaggerated feelings of weakness, fear, and just being alone. I called American friends just to hear a voice of comradery. I needed to be reminded of the innocence left in my country.

Australia is like America. It’s safe and the people are beautiful. Yet this lack of interest in understanding another side was here. It’s in America as well. It’s everywhere. Where and when did we become lost? When did we start to think that the loss of innocence was a sort of retribution for a belief?