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The Myopia of Tragedy

Today a nearby school will be joining us in solidarity in response to the shooting in Pennsylvania, and I find myself harboring the same opinion I held when the Twin Towers fell:  This kind of tragedy happens all the time in other communities and other countries.  Why is this different?  Why do we only post a profile overlay of solidarity when there’s tragedy within our micro-communities or when there’s enough media coverage of it to warrant a hashtag?  What makes this tragedy more worthy of your time and attention than the daily trauma and tragedy of people who suffer under dictatorship, extreme poverty, famine, drought, war, Ebola, slavery, trafficking, abuse, racism and discrimination right now?

It feels so myopic to me, the minute ocular circumference of Americans.

I teach the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 about the bombing of a church in Alabama when four little black girls attending Sunday school in their finest dresses were murdered.  In Texas just last year, 26 black people were murdered in church.  In 2015, there was a shooting in another predominantly black church and 9 people were killed.  The list, literally, goes on.

WHERE WERE THE PROFILE FILTERS THEN???

I feel sickened and ashamed that we only seem to care or notice when it’s happening in our own backyard, to our “own” people.  Is there simply so much atrocity in the world that we can only monitor what is our “own”??

And, if that is the case—that there is simply so much horror that we can’t process, own, or attend to it all—then why do any “honoring” of the slain anyway?  It feels so hollow to me to “stand in solidarity” by picking and choosing who we feel worthy of our time and bowed heads.

Who is more worthy of our brief attention spans?

It is not my intention to express that my way of dealing with tragedy is better than another’s, nor it is my intention to minimize in any way the suffering that happened this week or diminish the genuine grief of those affected.

But I feel impelled, and blood-boiled, to point out that if we stand together, then we must mean everyone.  If we stand together, then our action must be for everyone.  Humanity isn’t a pick-and-choose experience.

So, please, if you are “standing together” today, spare a moment or a piece of change or a donation or an expose story about all the other goddamned things that are harming humans around the world right f*cking now.

NYTimes: Shootings at places of worship

BBCNews: Sexual Abuse of Women in North Korea

Al Jazeera: Teenage Suicide Bomber in Russia

 

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