I want to preface this by saying I am of course sickened and horrified by the shooting in Arizona yesterday, as are most people in this country. But I have to say it gave rise to some curious ponderings.
I first heard the news on Twitter yesterday, a cryptic tweet from someone who said his prayers were with the victims in Arizona. So naturally I checked my e-mail for news alerts from CNN and started getting details on the story. Huge news. Huge story. It nearly brought Twitter down, the constant retweeting of updates, bits of news (both valid and later found to be invalid), info about the suspected shooter, and on and on. As more trickled out and word came of the death of the nine-year-old girl, the person whose tweet had first told me something bad had happened made another comment. The girl who died was the same age as one of his own children. And then I did something I probably shouldn’t have. I responded and said children die violently all around the world every day. We just usually don’t have to see it.
And that’s the crux of it. We are so intensely horrified by what happened in our country yesterday because it happened to one of us. Because it was a random, unexpected event in a place where people normally consider themselves ‘safe.’ But it is not an anomalous incident in the broader world. People, young and old, die violently even here in this country every single day. And when those things do happen to make the news, as they seldom seem to anymore, we either don’t even register it, or we somehow make excuses for it happening in ‘that part of the world.’ We are not sickened. We are not horrified. We shrug (if we even bother to do that) and go on with our lives. We expect it there, not here.
But it is happening here, too. Here’s one example: A fourteen-year-old boy in Los Angeles was gunned down while riding his bicycle. Oh, we think, but it was probably gang-related. Why is that any less deserving of our anger and sorrow and sympathy? To an extent it’s a survival mechanism for us, we can’t be overwhelmed with every tragedy or we wouldn’t be able to function. I don’t know, it’s just all very strange how we seem to have reached a place where some people matter, and some people don’t.