The outrageous story of the week is not one story but a series of stories that show that communication is beginning to breakdown in our state and nation.

It started on Monday, when there was a shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, Christian school, where six people, both teachers and students, were killed by a former student. The former student was a female who identified as trans, and some reported that she had been rejected by her parents and others in their Christian community. Rather than try to speak with them and resolve the issue peacefully, she shot and killed innocent people, including three 9-year-olds.

Those on the right largely focused on the fact that a trans person killed Christians, potentially for not agreeing with her views on gender identity, while those on the left largely focused on the guns she used.

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper was among many who focused on the gun angle, bringing up the incident in his statement denouncing Republicans for overriding his veto of a gun bill.

Paige Masten, who writes for Charlotte Observer’s opinion section, said it was “kind of icky” for Speaker Tim Moore to celebrate the override so soon after the incident.

But that was hardly the only incident showing the increasing gulf between us. There was also outrage over a LGBTQ+ pride event in Winston-Salem at Foryth Tech Community College, where there is an early college full of high school students. Both college and high school students were invited to the event, and videos began circulating of inappropriate incidents, like a drag queen giving a girl, reportedly in 10th grade, a lap dance. You can see that below if you really wish.

Things escalated further on Thursday when Forsyth Tech’s campus was put on lockdown and all classes were canceled for the remainder of the day due to what was called at the time an “active shooter” situation. Later it was reported that one person was in the hospital with a gunshot wound to the hand, but that there were no fatalities and the situation had been resolved.

It’s unclear yet if there is any connection between the shooting at Forsyth Tech and the national attention from the earlier pride event. Congresswoman Kathy Manning, a Democrat who represents parts of the Triad area of N.C. in the U.S. House, released a statement on the campus lockdown that referenced the gun bill and the Nashville shooting.

One state House Democrat, Rep. Julie von Haefen, touched off even more debate in a long post about how hard it is to be a Democrat in a legislature that passes bills on guns, abortion, and other issues, which she disagrees with. Her complaints about crisis pregnancy center funding especially received pushback, including from the NCGOP.

Displaying another example of the communication breakdown we are living through, the Republican’s message mentioned “pregnant mothers,” but von Haefen in her response used the neologism “pregnant people,” which apparently is meant to be more inclusive. She wasn’t able to maintain that inclusivity though, using the term women words later in the message.

Are you a Pokemon or Pokewomon?

Lastly, it looks like we can’t even play children’s games anymore without getting our wires crossed. In Charlotte, controversy exploded early in the week when one of the stronger players at a regional Pokemon tournament was summarily banished from the building.

The judge (a nonbinary person who goes by they/them pronouns) walked up to the contestant, Makani Tran, and asked for Tran’s (no pun intended) pronouns. Below is his recounting of what happened next, but the entire thing is worth reading.

“On our way over to the stream area the judge asked us for our preferred pronouns. I said ‘Um he or him or uh’ and I paused trying to think of the third pronoun (the third pronoun being his). As I just stood there looking stupid trying to think of the third pronoun I felt embarrassed because I was failing to think of a simple word. Due to the nerves and me being embarrassed I let out a little laugh just a normal nervous laugh.”

Tran thought nothing more of it. But then, during his next game, multiple judges descended, called a stop to game play, and separated the two players. After explaining the situation to his opponent, they demanded that Tran explain what tone he used when giving his pronouns.

“During this I was very polite and calm I made sure to clearly get my point across and made it extremely clear that I had no intention whatsoever of harming or upsetting anyone,” Tran said. “I explained that I have absolutely nothing against peoples pronouns and I never have.”

This is the most interesting part to me. Tran, from beginning to end, has made clear he is very pro trans and pro-pronoun. In public statements since, he has actually seemed more concerned about the impact the story is having on the trans community than on being treated like a thought criminal. Maybe he’s signalling that he’ll never make trouble again, or maybe he’s just really a true believer.

Regardless, the teenage boy was then not only disqualified from the tournament but banned from the venue. He was forced onto the street of North Carolina, states away from his home in Utah, stranded. People started a GoFundMe for him, which allowed him to get enough money to pay for travel and other expenses, but the damage was done. And I say damage because this was a very emotionally fragile kid.

He said in his story, “In the past years I had been extremely suicidal and depressed and after years of medication and therapy and working through it all I was finally starting to be better. I was stable and going to school and doing things on my own. Life was good. I hadn’t had suicidal thoughts in a while until this event. As I was sitting down crying my in disbelief I get up and say ‘I’m going to kill myself’ and start walking away from the stage.”

Thankfully he didn’t follow through. Despite that threat to self harm, the tournament staff shrugged it off and told him the Pokemon inclusion policy was firm. He was to be disqualified and banned.

“The judge said that while he believed that I had no bad intentions, it didn’t matter because at the end of the day, someone was offended and upset,” Tran said.

In a culture where the way one feels trumps everything else — including facts, other people’s intentions, and the law — we should expect many more of these communication breakdowns in the future. We all need to pray that our difficulty communicating, due to the different moral languages we speak, do not lead to more violence like they did in Nashville.