Op-Ed: It’s Okay to Be Angry About the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting — But Not at Jason Aldean
Less than a week after Jason Aldean ran offstage as a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nev., UFC President Dana White publicly shamed the country superstar for turning down White's invitation to return to Las Vegas and sing the National Anthem at Saturday night's (Oct. 7) UFC 216 fight. Multiple survivors of the tragedy, as well as hundreds of first responders, were attending the event, and after Aldean declined White's request, White -- via a TMZ report -- tossed an expletive Aldean's way and told him to "stay out of Vegas."
At least one person -- radio DJ Bobby Bones -- has called White's motives into question. However, in the days since the shooting, Aldean has also faced criticism from social media users for running offstage when he realized what was happening, not yelling a warning into his mic before doing so, canceling his concerts the weekend after the attack, appearing on Saturday Night Live after canceling said concerts and turning down that UFC invitation, and not visiting victims sooner than Sunday (Oct. 8). That’s likely not a complete list of gripes, either, because this is the internet, where people often feel emboldened to say things they wouldn't say in person.
The person we should be angry at is the man who pulled that trigger.
The nine days since the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting have been tough ones even for those who weren’t in attendance. So many country music fans – so many music fans, period – can’t help but think “It could have been me there.” So many people are simply heartbroken and angry that someone could perpetrate such a heinous act. Making the situation even harder to grapple with is the fact that investigators are still searching for a motive for the shooting. But lobbing rude comments, social media shaming and hatred at Aldean isn’t going to help; actually, it's basically doing the opposite.
Aldean -- and his wife Brittany and his crew -- is a victim of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting just as much as those who were in the crowd. Like everyone else there, he was confused and frightened and unsure of where to go to get out safely. It’s unfair, to put it lightly, for anyone to dictate how he, or anyone else, grieves in the days, weeks, months and even years following this tragedy. We all grieve differently.
Remembering the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Victims
Let’s look at all of those criticisms in other ways: Aldean running offstage when he did let the crowd know something was seriously wrong. Yelling a warning could have caused mass panic and led to even more injuries and deaths. The fact that Aldean has a plan to return to the stage at all at this point (on Oct. 12) is fairly incredible, and the fact that he made an appearance anywhere this weekend is as well. Finally, Aldean and his wife went back to Las Vegas less than one week after the shooting; he visited victims there while the festival site was still an active crime scene.
Aldean, and his wife, band and crew, deserve praise, not anyone's vitriol. He, and they, have proven themselves to be incredibly brave and strong human beings – braver and stronger than most, without a doubt.
Aldean, his wife Brittany and his crew are victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting just as much as those who were in the crowd.
As the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting unfolded, a number of concertgoers took care of fellow fans who were injured or frightened. In the aftermath, people from all over have stepped up to help in whatever ways they can. Artists such as Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini have preached love and encouraged fans to keep the kindness going in honor of the shooting's victims. And yet, people are trashing Aldean. Is it really so impossible for us all to remain civilized human beings?
Anger is an understandable emotion right now. But the person we should be angry at is the man who pulled that trigger.
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