Finding Solidarity in the Face of Tragedy

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Yasmeen Waliaga

Grant Spencer is a goofy, intelligent, strong person that many of us are lucky to have as a friend and were lucky to have as a member of our community at Georgia Southern for a while. 

I met Grant my sophomore year of high school at a friend’s house. All of us would always go over and have the silliest times, running around, playing beer pong, goofing off and what not. He’s the funny kid that would confidently wear jorts to every country concert that all of us in the Atlanta suburbs would look forward to. 

I can imagine how Michael Gatto played a tremendous role in the lives of his friends and family. And it has broken my heart since the moment he passed what his friends will no longer be able to look forward to with his presence.

Every soul is beautiful, distinct, and remarkable. Being part of this tornado of emotion we call life can be exhilarating, but it can also be heart wrenching. 

We need to remember that moral absolutism gets us nowhere. After the incident that night, I remember thinking about all of the people I have seen in the news who have been prosecuted for different crimes and punished for different actions, and questioning everything I have ever supposedly been certain of.

Not everything belongs to one pole or the opposite. Not everything can be defined and labeled as bad or good.

When you are assessing the situation, when you decide to share this on Facebook or gossip about it among friends, don’t be quick to assume guilt, hate or anything else before remembering that Grant, just like Michael, is a person. He is a person who has so much to offer and has been working on himself so that he can do that. He has thoughts, especially about his choices and actions, and his thoughts now are much more difficult than ours. 

No one deserves to be dehumanized, no matter what the circumstances. Michael Gatto did not deserve what happened. But challenging the very strength that defines Grant Spencer’s existence is a crime within itself.

It’s okay to be upset about what happened. It’s okay to feel anger or confusion. But it is not okay to dehumanize someone because of a single act and penalize him for the rest of his life because of it.