I am with you completely on this.
You certainly hit the nail on the head with that one.
It also gets more of a reaction because it's more unusual. I think the general zeitgeist is that Iraq is completely screwed up and that people are getting blown up/shot/killed every day out there, so one more set of bombs doesn't surprise us or peak our interest. We've become numb to it and it's not really "news" anymore.
Yet, we see our universities as safe and while school shootings have happened before they are few and far between - and usually happen at high schools, not colleges, so it's far more shocking to our senses.
It's not that we don't care about other people, it's that we are more interested in the unexpected than the expected.
Nope. Dozens of people died in a tsunami in the Solomon Islands just a month ago, and it didn't even register. It took hundreds of thousands dying in the Indonesia region for people to notice. But if it had happened in Florida, you can bet there would be posts.
Part of it is the shock factor, but that's not all of it.
This has been my stance since the tragedy, but I'm biased. Thank you for bringing it to light so eloquently.
I will say that the hand wringing and wailing that people did after 9/11, people with NO CONNECTION TO IT, drove me nuts. It actually angered me. It was as if they enjoyed the attention, the mourning. It was so PUBLIC, and it in a way made it harder to cope with.
You know I still get questions from strangers about where did I live, was I there, etc. And I don't know to give them the simple 'no I wasn't" and leave it at that, or tell them the connections I did have -- my fears are that I will be more fodder for their public mourning -- oh I met this person and she was ok but she lost x, y, z and this that and the other thing happened to her. And I don't want to feed that.
And I am sure this will now happen to any future VT grad -- did you, did you know, did you see, did you hear...
Yeah, the impulse to make oneself part of it really bugs me. Be grateful that you aren't!
I don't know. I had a conversation with two of my co-workers yesterday about how we felt sad, but not totally grief-stricken by the VT shootings. We each reflected that perhaps it is because we have become inured to these types of events because we hear about them so often on the news, especially in news about Iraq. Thirty-two people shot is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy we've heard about in a daily basis, reported to us in almost a passing way. "In other news, 37 people were killed in a roadside bombing of a bus in a Baghdad market. Now let's give you an update on Britney Spears."
Of course, this points to something even more unfortunate: my coworkers and I are becoming blase about human tragedy no matter how close or removed it is from us. This is going to keep me up tonight.
It's not so much whether you feel or don't feel the depth of the tragedy - certainly we all have a higher level of shock from that which is unexpected. It's the artifice of some people who want to clutch the tragedy to their hearts as their own, like they somehow are personally wounded by these deaths, but don't care at all about other tragedies.
Saw that myself - and considering doing the post myself. Take something totally pedestrian in nature - how many people are killed today on the freeways, for example? Would you even know about it?
Well, to be slightly contrarian I would say there is a slight difference. We've come to rationalize the killings in Iraq as part of a rebellion or religious movement. We can admit it serves some purpose.
The Vtech incident, on the other hand, has no rational explanation other than some dude became irrational, which is a terrifying thing to realize.
Also, color me cynical, but if we were to truly care about each and every death in the world, would we not go insane?
I was going to make the exact same post today.
But it doesn't. Virginia Tech actually shocked and appalled us because we can interpose our lives on those people.
Or because it is completely unexpected. At least it is when it happens here.
At Tech (lived there 5 years), any shooting is unexpected...33 deaths + how many wounded? Completely unheard of.
I can understand why people would react differently to a bomb going off in a nation at war. I suppose one could argue that if you're going to shed a tear for one senseless death, you must shed an equal tear for all senseless deaths, but I don't think that is realistic to expect anyone to do that.
I haven't heard about people who can't function because of the tragedy. I've heard people empathise with the parents, families, and friends (I am one of them)...but unable to function? If you didn't personally know one of the victims, that's a bit odd.
Where is the sympathy for the families in Iraq?
And yeah, while it is more of a shock, the overreaction is what gets me.
I guess so. My friendslist didn't really make mention of either event, but most of my friendslist isn't American. It's probably a bad sign that school shootings in America are kind of on a scale for us with bombings in the Middle East - it's happened enough that we think it's sad, and that the relevant country is messed up, but there's not really a lot to say about it.
I don't think we don't care because it's a different country - the first times it happened this country freaked out too, it's just... there's nothing left to say.
But I would generally assume that someone who "cannot function" because of something that happened to a bunch of people they don't know at all is being a bit of a drama queen anyway.
Thanks for an "out of country" perspective - it does emphasize that we tend to favor our own, no matter who we are.
(And, yeah, drama queen is definitely the right call.)
Having grown up less than an hour from VA Tech, my shock and grief are at the shattering of my home. Where I grew up was a sleepy, idyllic setting. A place where nothing ever happens.
Certainly not a place where some random guy grabs a gun and ruthlessly murders 32 people.
I had this conversation with my best friend, who actually attended VA Tech. It's not about the murders, for us. It's about the fact that we were there. It's supposed to be safe. Baghdad, Iraq is not a place that is safe, to us.
It's like hearing about muggings or gang activity in New York City- ok, yeah. That stuff happens. It doesn't happen in Blacksburg/Roanoke/Salem that often- it would be news, and surprising, in a similar fashion.
It's not that you reacted - of course you reacted - it's that people who are a long way from it act like it's a huge impact on them personally, and that they don't care at all when it's not new drama. That's the part that bugs me.
Your position and mine are similar, which is why I listed what was weighing on my mind yesterday
in the order of world, national, and personal.
I'm peculiar, anyway, since I don't watch or listen to any news programs other than the BBC. It's not perfect, but it's far closer to balanced news than anything broadcast in America.
I appreciate the BBC coverage that we do get, though it seems to be polluted with Americanism more and more these days....
You're not wrong, but you may be a bit premature (and thus have contaminated the experiment); I didn't see a single thing on the flist about Tech until about 4pm on Monday, and your post went up before (here in EDT, of course) Wednesday had really even got started. You'd have had a stronger argument if you'd waited to make this point until this afternoon.
Yeah, I probably should have waited, but I don't think there was going to be nearly the notice.
I read this after I posted my latest public post, and if you read it you can see I wholeheartedly agree with your perspective on this issue.
Natural disasters are unavoidable evils of living in the world. It is tragic and sad that people die in tornados, tsunamis and hurricanes. Bombings in countries where the apparent status quo is people will be shooting and bombing - somewhat avoidable, but requires a great many people to want to avoid it. One young man who was the subject of completely avoidable abuse and neglect - a shame upon his family and those who ignored the signs - a completely avoidable situation and a tragedy.
I typically do not even watch the news because I can not stomach the loss of life and innocence on a daily basis. To be honest, if my husband hadn't called me to tell me to turn on the news, I would still be oblivious to it, by design and self-preservation. Call me selfish, I call it personal survival of sanity.
I became a news junkie after 9/11, it lasted for about a year, year and half. Then I realized that I was always depressed about the state of the world, and stopped watching. My mom called me Tuesday to tell me about the shooting. I spoke to my grandmother that night, who lives in a completely different state, who told me about a bomb threat at a college in my city. I'm going back and forth between wanting to watch the news to know what's going on and wanting to continue living in oblivion because of the insanity around us.
AMEN! If we really cared for each other it would be such a beautiful place instead what it really is.
I've actually had a smattering of people on my friends' list comparing the shooting to Iraq or to other tragedies. But I also agree with other commenters, in that this wasn't a natural disaster, or a dangerous area. Young people trying to better themselves by getting an education should be safe
. It's nearly a social imperative. It doesn't make what's happening in Iraq, or Darfur, or many other places in the world, any better - but I do believe that it is something that cuts very close to American hearts, and with a good reason.
That said, I wish that we wouldn't have a media hysteria over shootings, because that makes them all the more attractive to people who want to go down in a blaze of un-glory. I think that this is happening more often because it's so successful. It's the same motivation that caused a depressed and disfranchised person to burn one of the Seven Wonders of the World to the ground
, to make his name a part of history.
And now that the VA Tech shooting has become the most horrible shooting spree in U.S. history, it gives other mass murderers a number to shoot for.
How much better it would have been to simply give a short blurb about the shooting, and leave the gory reveling behind...
I don't disagree that it's a shock, but the people who claim to be overwhelmed by the loss of life are hypocritical to regard loss-of-life that is less novel as less interesting.
At every instant, something horrible is happening to thousands of people (at minimum). Those who can't come to terms with that should probably not watch the news.
2007-04-18 03:09 pm (UTC)
Throwing my 2 Cents into the ring...
I completely agree with you and this post. Thank you for pointing out the hypocrisy that seems to run rampant in the world today.
It just goes to show the impact of proximity, both in terms of distance and also in terms of level of similarity to us. The farther a person or people are, the less we tend to connect with them, at least on a reflexive basis.
It also illustrates that things that've happened repeatedly lose their shock value. We've heard about so many horrible things happening in Iraq that most people have become desensitized, if not numb to it. A shooting rampage in a school like this, though, is uncommon enough that we haven't gotten accustomed enough to it to be as affected or freaked out.
I actually feel worse for the mourners in Iraq. The students and families dealing with this in Virginia at least can do so with a relative sense of safety. In Iraq, it's a daily act of bravery just going to the market. We have the luxury of being inured. They just have daily terror.
2007-04-18 03:12 pm (UTC)
Out of some combination of curiosity and hubris, did My Post
on this subject yesterday bring this up?
Not directly, but it was one of many factors in the whole thing.