Posted on December, 16th 2012 by Marie
Arriving in Denmark with my American family to celebrate Christmas with the Danish part of my family – I was shook at hearing of yet another violent American incident involving weapons and innocent civilians. This time, the most innocent of innocents: Little children.
And as my emotions kept me awake for part of that first jet-lagged night – I had lots of thoughts running through my head.
It seems as American as Apple Pie these days: to have a time of national mourning accompanied by media frenzy. It seems much of the coverage includes endless hours of details about a mentally deranged person, and the ones that this person chose to execute.
The way we focus our attention on these devastating events, the way our media “rides it for all it’s worth”, the way we talk about these types of events creates a fertile ground for what Morgan Freeman speculates is a partial motive for these kinds of killers:
“Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.”
In our celebrity focused culture, it might seem to some unstable and frustrated people that being an anonymous “nobody” is worse than being an infamous “somebody”.
Could it really be that the more we dig and dig into these events, the more outraged we get, the more tears we shed, the more we play right into the twisted expectations of the next crazed gun man, who is currently incubating?
My 19 year-old son, who has lived in Denmark for the past two years, made this comment:
“It just seems to be part of American culture. The endless fascination with guns and gun culture….”
And we do seem to engage in the same free-fall debate about gun control each time it happens, where people either pro or con make the same arguments over and over. Each side claiming to have the answer to reduce the likelihood of this happening again. And this debate is important, yet there is something else that each of us can have a direct influence on.
As my husband and I travel with our kids, we have agreed that we will not spend our time discussing or reading about this latest Sandy Hook event.
We will hug each other and our sons, cherish each other’s company and not fan the flames of sensationalist hunger by looking for details about the last words of the victims or intricate case-studies of the shooter.
Grieving and facing pain are necessary components to healing. But I believe that in our ever-connected global world, where the horrors of near and far can be accessed instantaneously, we can grieve and worry ourselves into a constant state of upheaval.
We can in fact worry ourselves into an action-frozen state of paranoia about our world, where each of us withdraw into our own little cubicles adding both virtual and real locks and defense mechanisms to our daily routine.
Maybe a possible way of honoring the victims of a man-made disaster could be as simple as to embrace those we love and to spend our undivided attention on them for at least a few moments every day. Maybe if the perpetrators of future incidents are loved thoroughly, they will be less inclined to line up for this kind of desperate fame?
A much more constructive use of our energy than using up the 10th box of Kleenex in front of the tube might be to instead volunteer a bit of time, money or both to organizations that seek to improve conditions for people with mental problems, with emotional issues, orphans, or any organization that seeks to improve the lives of the lost and forgotten. If we do, we might also transform a good part of our grief into a sense of being part of the solution. We can lose ourselves in action instead of losing ourselves in a sense of futility. And the causes obviously benefit as we do…
I wonder what would happen, if in the future we refuse to partake in the horror show by not buying into the media-induced emotional rollercoaster? If the media, after reporting a story about the next shooter, got bad ratings for the follow-up coverage? If instead rates of volunteering in, and donations to, organizations that seek to extend a helping hand to those who suffer skyrocketed?
I for one refuse to continue to be a silently angry, acquiescently sad or adrenalized loud-mouthed participant helping to fan the flames of the frenzy, and thus indirectly aid in the creation of the next desperate gun man, who is watching and waiting in the wings.
For me the question is no longer simply about debate about gun control or not. It is about refusing to partake in the media circus, and it is about walking each step forward believing in our common human potential, when we join hands together in action.