Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Forgive My Lack Of Sympathy

I suppose I should have more compassion for the people of Tucson, AZ. The events of this past weekend have focused attention on their city in a way no one would want their municipality to suddenly grab the spotlight. Furthermore, mass murder does have a way of making people pause. All the same, I found some parts of this story on Morning Edition from NPR just, well, ludicrous.
Ms. SARAH EVANS: It's kind of like 9/11 for me. It took me a long time to wrap my head around the complexity of all the events that happened.

ROBBINS: The tears are never too far away as she talks. It will be a while before the processing is complete, if it ever is.
If there is any evidence that narcissism, now removed from the psychologist's "Bible", was still prevalent, this short bit should disabuse them of it. See, Ms. Evans, all teary-eyed, considers what happened on Saturday "complex", an inscrutable act like the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, that, for her, have everything to do with Sarah Evans. Her tears are for her inability to "process" (which reporter Robbins helpfully adds, in an aside, may never end).

I'm sorry, but I have very little sympathy for Ms. Evans. A nice woman, I suppose, gathering with a couple hundred fellow Tucson residents to walk and run through the streets of the city, she seems to have little comprehension that events on Saturday have nothing to do with her. They are, by and large, clear and easy enough to understand. There is no "processing" needed. Not really.

All I can get from Ms. Evans statement is she almost no psychical or emotional resources to deal with even the most peripheral tragedy. I consider this a symptom of how far too many Americans can be considered ill-prepared to handle any type of emergency situation. Seriously. This woman is aflutter because of a shooting in her city. Good Lord, what if she sat back and considered the reality that there is, roughly speaking, a hate crime committed once an hour each and every day somewhere in the United States? That there were, on average, 151 violent crimes committed each and every hour in the United States in 2009? Of course, these numbers reflect reported incidents.

What if I were to say to Ms. Evans that 34% of women in the United States were the victims of sexual coercion by a spouse or significant other? Would that leave her teary eyed, unable to leave her home because the situation is so complex?

We are not going to be able to address the reality of violence in the United States as long as close our eyes and ears to its banality. As long as a single shooting incident leaves people so flustered and unable to cope that they cannot leave their homes, and when they do emerge are teary-eyed and barely coherent, I have to wonder how it will be possible to talk about the reality around us without causing a national case of the vapors.

Our moral confusion in the face of the events on Saturday are as much a result of our insulation from the reality far too many of our fellow citizens face as it is a measurable and acceptable emotional response to a public trauma. Far too many Americans understand the reality of violence as just another part of their day to be either surprised or unduly horrified by the mass shooting. It is cheap and easy to point the finger of blame. It gives us an eased conscience to denounce the act, something that costs us nothing, asks nothing of us, and leaves us content in our remove from the human reality around us. I am not saying that the shooting on Saturday is not evil; on the contrary, I am insisting it is an all-too-common evil, something with which we have become too familiar, too accustomed to do more than shake our heads at its "senselessness", without ever grasping the far more disturbing reality that, perhaps, it might just make sense as being part and parcel of living in America.

Virtual Tin Cup

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