You, Pittsburgh, Are So Loved

fourth year lauren linkowski

photo by emily haynie

photo by emily haynie

I don’t think there’s anything that can prepare a person for an unexpected visit from Hate.

My moment came while tailgating for the GA/ FLA game. Amidst all the talk about rankings, Gator hating and calling the Dawgs, “Dixieland Delight” verses fade into white noise, and the world around me goes black. Shooting in Pittsburgh synagogue. 11 dead.

Do I know anyone there? Why Pittsburgh? Why my home? The sickening feeling ties knots in my stomach and restricts my words with its chokehold. That’s Hate—and to think we live in a world where people are capable of inflicting the pain I, my community and the victims felt is disheartening, and moreover infuriating. That’s your goal, isn’t it, Hate? To silence and diminish me, make me feel helpless, unable to do anything from miles away at UGA. But if I’ve learned anything here, it’s that being angry isn’t going to get me anywhere. Pittsburgh—my city, my people, my home— is a great example of this.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have reacted any differently to this news than that of any of the other 307 mass shootings of 2018. Still though, there’s something about imagining the realistic, hectic scene of ambulances and sirens on the bustling streets I grew up frequenting that makes it harder to brush off. Hate followed me like a shadow for longer than usual this time. One of my typically favorite Pittsburgh moments of emerging from the Squirrel Hill tunnel to see buildings and trees start to pop out of the concrete was attacked by an ominous tint when I imagined the first responders arriving to the synagogue. Squirrel Hill is the place where support for community events and messages of acceptance are plastered on storefronts and yard signs. Temples across from churches, Kosher bakeries across from pizza shops— all the  criss-crossing intertwines to create a web that catches the people who need this community. Pittsburgh feels as a city. We are all immigrants, all refugees, all children—we take the time to alleviate the suffering of others in any way that we can. This is the city I know, and Hate— you are not welcome here.

Maybe you haven’t pored over the media surrounding the tragic event like I have, but I’d like to think that you’ve at least read one story or post about something positive Pittsburgh has produced or the support from around the world that’s flooding the city. The smallest acts of kindness and love are changing the story, dictating the narrative that recounts this horrible time. Take that, Hate.

As people, we are called to treat one another with respect, dignity and, most importantly, love. What the hell is the point of getting a degree from a higher institution, toiling on capstone projects and studying for exams if we’re going to turn around and alienate our neighbors and forcibly put up walls that seek to divide? If that’s the end goal then we should all stop now. Why does it take something tragic to find Love shouting from candle lit memorials and seeping its way into the news for the first time in a while? We need to love the people around us all the time, not only when it’s vital after a tragedy. Not just when Hate comes to visit our places of worship, our concerts, our schools.

Turn anger into action. Turn away from Hate and towards Love. Use the same intelligence that gave you the ACT score you needed for admission to enact change in our community. Tell neighbors, family, and strangers they are so incredibly loved— because they are, and so are you. It’s an innate human trait to crave acceptance and love, and I don’t think our brains have any agenda of spontaneously mutating that. Give to others what you are also craving. Let’s nourish our bodies, and souls for that matter, with the love we all need and deserve.

This is not a conversation of Republican versus Democrat. This is not a battle for winning people over, to push personal agendas. This is being human. It’s having the courage to repeatedly slam the door on Hate, letting Love come in the back, seep through the floorboards, shine through the windows. It takes recognizing the beating heart inside your own chest and stopping for a few seconds to hear the hearts around you. The slight hum on the bus or in class. It takes smiling at the freshman that may be having the worst bout of homesickness yet. It takes showing up for a cultural event that you’ve never experienced. It takes using our social media followings to spread love and acceptance and positivity. It takes reaching out a hand to grab this very issue of The Bell and recycling it to a friend to read.

Hate, you are not welcome here. Not in my city, in my classroom, at my church, on my bus, in my life. But Love, thank you. I am ready to take Pittsburgh as an example, ready to spread you into the deepest cracks and holes of the world and people around me. So, bring it on Hate. You’ve got one hell of an uphill battle to fight if you want any place in my world again.