Logging into Facebook, it’s naturally expected to become overwhelmed by the number of emotional statuses condoning the atrocious attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A number of people posting statuses about their disappointment and emotional shock in hearing about the incident, followed up later by commenting on their weekend plans, finals woes, etc. At the same time, there continued to be an insensitivity heckled by pain staking attempts to lighten the mood with jokes about the idea of guns, those promoting gun rights, etc. It frustrates me to see an aggregate of people suddenly becoming vocal activists in the event of a tragic incident. It’s unfortunate that it’s not until devastating events like this that we come to remember that we can use our first amendment, our freedom to vocalize our sudden, emotionally charged opinion.
I am guilty of contributing to this cause.
I am conflicted in the use of social media being used to temporarily seduce this activist high. I’ve quoted this a number of times, but find it to not be any less true: in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”, there’s a moment where the a news crew is confronted by a local Rwandan on the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan commends the crew for seeking to expose the reality as a measure of increasing demand for international support. A member of the news crew, however, responds by saying that while people may turn away for a moment to comprehend the violence, they will go back to their routine lives, being untethered. Discussing the reaction and potential responses to the shooting with friends yesterday, I heard a similar response. The image of cyclic violence through the news, entertainment industry, etc. has corrupted and desensitized the human response to issues, that may otherwise gather stronger emotional response prior to a tragedy actually taking place. At the same time, if news crews isolated and didn’t focus as much on these issues, would there be enough response?
Take for instance the use of drones abroad. A number of innocent civilians in mostly poor regions are impacted and recognized simply as ‘collateral damage’. Drones are increasingly being manned by the Obama administration, while remaining to be un-transparent to the public eye. News programs may include a 15-30 second segment on statistics that will quickly quantify deaths of a family on foreign land. These 15-30 second clips are then galvanized into Hollywood productions, with films such as the highly anticipated “Zero Dark Thirty”. This is such a dangerous approach in decentralizing individual cultures and imposing American values, culture, etc. How are these types of productions suppose to stimulate emotional response when there is a deeply separation of human context?
Many of us preached sentimental support for civilians across the Middle East in 2011, with the start of the Arab ‘Spring’. Nearly 40,000 Syrians have died since the start of the Syrian protests. More than 400,000 Syrians have been registered as refugees in neighboring countries this year. In Egypt two years after the media marked a successful ‘revolution’, Egyptians continue to battle against an army and a president that have left the public with momentous unrest between those in support and those against the newly-(somewhat)elected regime. Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis north of Gaza continue to reconstruct the pieces of their physical and mental lives that were bombarded in the latest attacks, just weeks ago. Israel continues to increase settlements in the West Bank. Where is the support for this now? Where are our overnight activists now?
A conversation with a friend a while back struck me with a message that I’ve had a hard time shaking off: in events where we don’t have the right resources or access to resources to actually implement change, why even bother talking about it? Even without the appropriate resources, discussing these issues revive a conscious reminder to appreciate our own instances — that may lead us to give back, even if it begins at a local level. This lingo can be coined as superficial, but can’t a subtle mindful reminder encourage us to better our surroundings? In light of this, social networks may be serving under the right light. There is a huge transition to be drawn through activist sentiment to acting on sentiment
Loose regulations surrounding gun laws, particularly, have prefaced an accruing number of incidents over the past few years. And these incidents have been motivated individually by different interests — from hate crimes to individually suppressed reasons.
A rough timeline over the past few years suggests an increase in mass shootings:
2010 January – Jared Lee Loughner kills 6, wounds 11 – including Representative Gabrielle Giffords is Tuscon, Arizona. Loughner was said to have had an unbalanced past along with being diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression.
2011 October – Scott Dekraai kills 8, wounding 1 at a salon in Seal Beach, California. Dekraai sought to avenge his ex-wife over the custody of his child.
2012 July – James Holmes kills 12, injures 58 in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises”. Holmes attack sparked a number of reactionary, isolated incidents across the country.
2012 August – Wade Michael Page kills 6 and injures 3 by open firing at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. An army veteran, Page incited his violence as a result of hate crime.
(A detailed compilation of mass shootings since the 1990’s: http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/)
These are just a few of the major shootings that have headlined major news organizations. In the past few weeks, I’ve paid attention to the number of shootings at local universities and neighborhoods in Maryland – close to Baltimore. Many of these shootings have taken place in black communities marked by poor districts. It’s easy to forget about those less fortunate – stifling their access to economic resources. Yet, when we see an increase in drug use/trade, a spike in crime, resorting to prostitution – we ignore the socioeconomic conditions that prohibits individuals from prospering – and we criminalize them. When we cut off access to basic goods to any community, what other means do they have to turn to in order to provide day-to-day support?
In a society that allows easier access to guns than health care/mental health care/psychological support, how are we suppose to implement security on our own soil? While we continue to battle those abroad? How easy will it be to forget about the innocent children, teachers, parents, families that have forever been marked by the open fire in Newtown?
The easiest way to respond to this shooting is to write to your local representative.
There are also a number of petitions in action on the White House website that simply just need a signature.
This is not politicizing a tragedy, this is compelling action that can prevent the next. Whether you are in support for or against access to guns, these events must incite reasoning to agree that there needs to be, at the very least, stricter access.