Many of you are aware of the tragedy that happened in Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 21. Someone drove an SUV through our Christmas parade. This person struck one of our local high school marching bands, a children’s dance troupe, and a group of grandmothers known as the “Dancing Grannies,” among others. As of this writing, six people have died; the most recent victim is a child. The innocent lives taken from us are:

Willem Hospel, 81

Virginia Sorenson, 79

LeAnna Owen, 71

Tamara Durand, 52

Jane Kulich, 52

Jackson Sparks, 8

I’m talking about this because I live in Waukesha. The route the parade took is a street I frequent often. Two of my favorite coffee shops are there. My favorite book store is there. As far as I know, every single business on Main Street is locally owned.

So let me tell you a little bit about Waukesha.

We’re a small town in atmosphere and character, if maybe not in number so much anymore. Milwaukee isn’t that far away, but honestly, Milwaukee doesn’t offer much that Waukesha doesn’t already have.

We are a diverse people. There is a large Hispanic community here. My neighbors are White, Indian, and Black. The two houses at the end of my block are inhabited by an ex-military conservative next to a dedicated liberal. While the conversations are frequently what you might call animated, if someone loses their cool they will apologize, and they are there for each other when the need calls for it. When BLM held their protests after George Floyd’s death, Waukesha made sure the marchers had water bottles, etc. We enjoy groups like “The Dancing Grannies.”

This is who we are.  Are we perfect? Of course not.  Do we deserve the push back we’ve received?

Let me think…. no. Wait…. let me think…. NO.

There is a political activist, thankfully now a FORMER political activist who tweeted about us. This former activist essentially said we deserved it. All of us, even the children.

I want you to think about that for a minute. According to this person the youngest hospitalized victim, just three years old, deserved this. Think about one other thing- how do you get to be a Dancing Grannie? By having grand children. Who are now devastated by what happened. And of course, a different activist is now hoping this is just the start of a much larger war. Then there is the group of people who set up a GoFundMe to try and raise bail for the arrested suspect, who has a rap sheet that is longer than most. Predictably, one of his outstanding charges is for bail-jumping. People want to free this guy.

I dipped a toe into twitter, and saw people arguing whether it was a Christmas parade or a Holiday parade, with all the name calling that such important discussions usually entail. People have died, and they’re arguing over a title.

I would hope that any reader of mine will find these views as repugnant as I do. Seriously who feels these things, much less says them?

I think it’s important to recognize that we all have the capability of great hatred. Human beings are a broken, messed up species. We’ve all said things in anger that we later regret. This level of hatred, however, just takes things to a whole new level. What on earth could a three year old do to deserve blame for what happened?

I fully understand that racial tensions have to be addressed. Inequality runs deep in our nation. But they aren’t going to be addressed by name calling, blaming the innocent, or justifying murderous acts. As humans, we MUST have more empathy for our fellow humans.  

I come from the Christian faith. We are called to love our neighbors, not engage in any of the above behaviors.  I encourage you – regardless of your faith or lack thereof- to do the same. We need to focus our minds, our hearts and our ears. We need to listen to each other and empathize with them. Remember that just because someone has access to the same facts that you do, they may not see those facts the way you do. Part of that is due to how different news outlets cover things, and part of that is due to natural biases. Don’t check your mind or your voice at the door, but check your anger and hatred. God will judge, He doesn’t need us getting in the way of that.

One last thing, my friends. If you are hurting, reach out to someone. Not to a bottle, or a needle, but to someone who can help you permanently address this pain.  My entire city is paying a terrible price for the anger and hatred of one man, and others are rubbing salt in our fresh wounds. We are hurting but we aren’t hurting alone. Find a professional, a friend, work through your pain and grief in whatever way works for you. Just don’t let it fester.

If you have been affected by this tragedy, or any other, and have suggestions for your fellow readers, please share them in the comments section.

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.  May God bless us all.

2 responses to “#WaukeshaStrong”

  1. Very well sai!

  2. I am deeply touched by your writing. Besides being quite articulate in your words, you touched on the humanity of an experience such as this.

    (I found this from your other writing from Sara Werner podcast class.)

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