This is an opinion essay from our editor-in-chief.
Let’s call this what it is: a mass murder.
On June 7, a 50-year-old Michigan man drove his pickup truck into a group of cyclists outside Kalamazoo, killing five and injuring four more. The tragedy has garnered national news but despite the horrific violence committed on these innocent victims, the culture at large has once again resorted to excuses, victim blaming and even outright celebration.
The dead have been identified as Tony Nelson, 73, and Larry Paulik, 74, both of Kalamazoo, and Debra Bradley, 53, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, 42, and Suzanne Sippel, 56, all of Augusta.
They are not a statistic. They are not a meme. They are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, who will never return.
No, you should never read online comments, but nearly as disturbing as this incident is the predictable reactions. Beyond cyclists, there is no other group of humanity that I can think of for which is it is perfectly acceptable and tolerable—if not celebrated—to openly discriminate and promote violence against.
It’s a sickening response to an act of malice. We don’t know yet if the driver was impaired, or if his actions were intentional, but we cannot tolerate the apathy these incidents elicit. Paul Selden, the director of road safety with the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club, told MichiganLive.com it was “One of the worst, if not the worst, bicycling-motorist accidents in the county.”
I’m sorry, but this is no accident. Roads are designed and built in an unsafe manner. Untrained citizens are given license to operate hugely dangerous machines on a daily basis. All of this can be prevented. None of this should be tolerated.
The tired, misanthropic trope of cyclists as spoiled, self-entitled derelicts needs to stop. Now. You see it in popular culture, you see it in social media. Perpetuating these cliches advocates violence and, as far as I’m concerned, anyone who likes, shares, tweets or snapchats a version of them has blood on their hands.
How to help
While nothing can bring back those who died in this horrific incident, they are not the only victims. The families of those involved face months or years of grief after having their lives shaken to the very core. To help them, you can donate to Kalamazoo Strong, a non-profit agency created in the aftermath of a mass shooting to help and support those who face life-changing crises.
Update, June 9
The driver, Charles Edward Pickett Jr. of Battle Creek, Michigan, was charged today with five counts of second-degree murder and four counts reckless driving causing serious impairment. Authorities have not yet commented on his possible intoxication or what led to the incident.