Friday, December 21, 2012
The Tragedy at Sandy Hook
For a nation at peace – or at least, at peace on its own soil – the elementary school shooting in Newton,
Connecticut is truly a tragedy beyond our comprehension. 26 victims are dead, twenty of them childrenv of only six and seven years of age.
Tragedy? It’s a nightmare.
Here’s another bit of trivia I noticed as I sat down to write this: there’s been so many of these mass murders that we now unconsciously rank them in order of their misery. How many dead? How many wounded? Were they all adults? Was the shooting at a workplace, or at a place of worship?? Was the shooter unknown to them, or someone they feared?
These mass shootings aren’t an epidemic; they’re a damn competition to see who can ratchet up the most attention from the grave.
I don’t know what motivated the killer. I’ve heard plenty of rumors, but I’m old enough to remember the half-truths that emerged post-Columbine, misconceptions that still skew our attempts to understand the horror. Just a few days ago the media publicly labeled the wrong man the Connecticut shooter, so you’ll have to forgive me if I doubt what they scrounge up now. Whatever the eventual consensus is on his motivation, I call foul.
I was bullied, and I know what it feels like to be an outsider, but I can guarantee you the thought of picking up a gun and killing children never occurred to me, or to the millions who share a similar lief story. I do not believe that video games, TV, or bedwetting inspired his actions. Gun ownership isn’t to blame (though let’s get real: no one could walk into that school with a baseball bat or a knife and kill twenty-six people). Maybe his Mom was great, maybe she was awful; either way, plenty of people deal with the repercussions and live a normal life. If he was truly mentally ill, then yes, he needed help, but blaming his illness would be to wrongfully smear the millions of American with mental illness who aren’t murderers.
Go back for a moment to what I said about this being a competition and look at all the attention paid to these shootings. The victims are the focus at first, but soon enough we hyper-focus t the killer and reduce the victims to historical footnotes. In time what remains? I can’t tell you the name of a single Columbine victim, but I can rattle off the duo of ‘Klebold and Harris’ without pause; show me a picture of a victim of the Colorado theater shooting and I’ll draw a blank, but I can ID the killer from any photo lineup. We do the same with everyone with blood on their hands – in time, they become the focus ofour memories and achieve a dubious, sick immortality.
I don’t blame the media. When dozens of people are murdered it is news, and must be reported. I blame you and me, the people who three weeks after the tragedy eagerly scoop up a magazine about it, or years after the fact plop down hard cash for a true-crime book with a lurid title. If it was up to me,the killers would never get their name in print. “We” don’t need to learn from them to prevent future deaths; that’s a job for psychiatrists and law enforcement, and they are welcome to immerse themselves in their biographies if it will do any good.
Take away that promise of fame, that proof that their otherwise worthless life was worth remembering,and I think some – not all, but some – of these future tragedies will be avoided.