Last night, after feeling quite exhausted for what was actually a short week (on account of Memorial Day on Monday), I found that I was flirting with insomnia once again. That’s not a pleasant feeling, but the reason that was causing my insomnia was much worse.
I had just learned about the latest mass shooting in America, this time in Virginia Beach, the largest city in Virginia by population. Another Friday. Another mass shooting. Another day in the timeline of these United States.
This time, 12 people were killed on account of a disgruntled employee who worked for the city. As I type this article, there is an investigation into the shooter’s motive.
It’s essentially a broken record for America that’s played and performed much more frequently than its national anthem or any pop single that’s topped the Billboard 100 Singles of the Week. Each time this record is played, innocent people are murdered.
Alas, it was not my insomnia that was bothering me. It was my own self-doubt about my reaction to the news. I don’t condone violence and I believe people should be able to live freely without fear that their lives could be unknowingly extinguished before eating dinner or going to sleep. I say “self-doubt” because I now wonder if I am desensitized. I don’t think I am, but I write this from the safety of my home office. I knew, instinctively, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, that a time would come when mass shootings might become a daily occurrence in America. That record has been achieved in 2019 — but it’s a terrible legacy to have, and I’m not jubilant that we’re finally here. I am devastated and infuriated.
It’s a horrific failure of our country’s government and society to address the loss of life in which nowhere is safe or immune. Recall how Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand immediately addressed and handled the March 15th mass shootings in the Christchurch mosques that shocked the entire world. Just as shocking is how the same world is no longer shocked by America’s mass shootings because they occur so frequently, and virtually nothing is done to prevent them. Gun violence is as endemic in American culture as racism, obesity, poor education, and cultural ignorance. I am more likely to be killed today in a shooting than any of my friends or family located in Canada, Mexico, and overseas. (Psychologically, it may explain why I like visiting Canada as often as I can. The fear of violence and death by gunfire diminishes almost instantaneously. I can explore the country knowing a violent confrontation is much more unlikely than even here in Seattle, which is still considered a relatively safe, major U.S. city in 2019).
If anything, one should have a real fear or paranoia that if it hasn’t happened in their town or city yet, then it may be inevitable. This is a very dark thought, but this is what’s on my mind. I am very upset, unhappy, and depressed by all the tragedies we’re seeing every day and not allocating the proper amount of time and resources to address or resolve them. Mass shootings, devastation caused by tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes — unless we’re actually in the situation (for which we would rightfully expect concern or sympathy), most of us blink our eyes, possibly feel sadness for a fleeting moment, either don’t want to take the time to think or do something about it, or don’t care to think about it, feel useless in what to do about it, or find false comfort in the belief that “It can never happen here.” Why do we do this?
I’ll stop here because I know I could go on and on about this matter, as it goes beyond desensitization towards mass shootings. We seem to be desensitized to critical issues that matter and affect people, until *we*, in our own respective communities, become those people who we see and choose to ignore in the news or via social media. It’s very disturbing and no amount of entertainment, reality television, humorous social media memes, or hallucinogenic substance will usurp the reality of what we’re witnessing.
I could talk about our federal government, the current administration, and my disdain regarding what’s happening, but I will refrain because that’s not the purpose of this article (and it’s certainly not the purpose of this blog), regardless of how intertwined and related all these terrible events are.
I will say that I’m often cautiously optimistic about America’s future, and what we’re witnessing (this dire proclivity for inaction to solve a man-made epidemic) is an aberration — an outlier in the standard deviation — to what the nation and the world are accustomed when it comes to America’s role in the world. At present, it’s on the opposite extreme of normal, but aberrations eventually yield themselves to self-correction and realignment, and I felt a need to express this perspective.
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Powerful post, Tosin. I don’t think there is one answer for why some people become desensitized or apathetic to atrocities that are happening and have been happening for so long. Perhaps, it is more a question of bandwidth? There are so many atrocities occurring on a daily basis that I wonder how anyone can keep up and have the mental strength to keep up, while still functioning well enough to go to their jobs (if they even have jobs) so they can pay their bills. What I can say, at least from my perspective (being brown and queer) is that perhaps for some of those who do experience daily trauma whether it’s on the receiving end of racism or homophobia (two examples that relate to me) or even reading about others who are dealing with the effects of prejudice, once again, reading about it causes one to experience it again, I wonder if it is all too overwhelming. Maybe the mind and soul only has so much bandwidth for injustice, so, for me, I need to take a break from the world and enjoy myself. I still need to cope and live and love. I do think it would be easier for everyone to be engaged in a sustained fight against multiple injustices if we all listened to one another and joined together in the fight against all of them, whether we are affected by them or not, however, I do think that white, straight men and women who do not feel the sting of racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia have to be more open to understanding and listening, and must also be brave enough to confront those in their circles who may espouse those values (hateful atttidues). In the meantime, there are millions upon millions of us and we should all fight in our own ways, when we can.
Thanks for sharing your point of view on the topics I raised in this article, Kirk. I sincerely appreciate it.