Newtown

8

December 17, 2012 by John-Charles Duffy

I don’t know how to say this without sounding crassly cynical or insensitive. But I am genuinely confused as to why the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting has taken over the news as thoroughly as it has; why it has become such an intensive focus of collective national mourning; or why this event has managed to produce so much political energy oriented toward doing something to prevent such events from happening again.

I don’t recall there being quite this much media attention, national mourning, or political energy around the Aurora, Colorado, shooting in July, or the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shooting in August. Here’s an example of the difference, as I’ve seen it: When the Aurora and Oak Creek shootings occurred, people at church prayed for the survivors and their loved ones–and it was somber. But this past Sunday, when they prayed for Newtown, people were close to weeping. Somehow, this shooting had impacted them more than the others.

Why is that?

The obvious answer is that this was a shooting of children. Which… I get. But then I think: So, was there this much media attention, and political commentary, and national mourning in response to the 2006 shooting at the Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania? That’s not my recollection, at least.

What I’m trying to say is: There’s something about the way that news media and broader American publics are responding to the Newtown shooting that is unexpected to me and that I therefore find odd and bothersome without knowing why.

I think this may be what bothers me: I worry that the Newtown shooting has galvanized people emotionally the way it has because it occurred in a community that the majority of Americans–white, middle-class–are able to readily identify with. This shooting occurred in a virtually all-white, New England town that, the way I’m seeing it portrayed in the media, is ready to be pasted on the front of a Christmas card. And because of that–I worry–the majority of Americans are able to imagine this shooting as something that could happen to them.

I’m not sure that a shooting in an Amish schoolhouse has the same effect. Majoritarian Americans recognize it as a horrific event, of course. But it’s a horrific event that happened to someone else. The same–I worry–is true for a shooting in a Sikh temple. Or at a midnight movie screening attended by hardcore Batman fans.

Which makes me wonder: Would a shooting in an elementary school in South Side Chicago, or East LA, have impacted the white middle-class American majority in quite the same way as the Newtown shooting?

I would like to think so. But I have my doubts. And that doubt makes it hard for me to not feel uncomfortable about what are, of course, very admirable expressions of national solidarity and calls for action to prevent future violence.

8 thoughts on “Newtown

  1. I suspect the reason is that more money is being thrown at this event to blow it even more out of proportion than normal. I’m convinced the real objective is gun control. Obama is going to need that in the coming years.

    • Eric says:

      Maybe you’ve already answered the question when you pointed out that this is a disturbing trend in our society. Again, maybe it’s not the singular event of this tragedy, but the number of these tragedies accruing on the pace we’ve witnessed.
      I would ask this; why schools? Fortunately it hasn’t been churches or sporting events, but what psychological disturbance is causing these crude events to happen in schools?

  2. Sara Jordan says:

    Although delicate in your questioning, I think you’re spot on. I can’t get images of the 30+ Palestinian children killed by Israeli Forces last month out of my mind. American tax payer subsidized those deaths, but where is the outcry? Instead we support Israel’s right to protect itself. But ask the families of those affected – cold-blooded murder is cold-blooded murder.
    It’s very clear that life in the modern world (and probably always) has hierarchical worth – not every life is equally valued in America or around the world.

    One reason this shooting has received so much attention in the media is that many, many of the radio folks who I listen to regularly are from communities on the east coast, like Newtown. The kids killed could literally have been their kids. It’s hit so close to home that some can barely hold their composure while on air. I thinks this speak to, among other things, the need for more diversity in the media so that we (sadly) get better coverage and deeper understanding of violence as it affects all segments of society on a regular basis. Maybe then, we could make changes that create a safer environment for everyone.

  3. LDSDPer says:

    I can remember years ago reading a newspaper that dealt with ‘hard’ issues, and the focus of one of the articles that changed me–

    was the lack of compassion or . . . lack of sensitivity most Americans (white) have towards those who are not white–

    It’s very disturbing when you realize that this is happening. I happen to be white (mostly; I at least look very white), and I am ashamed of this; I am deeply disturbed by it–

    Until a white American can weep over the death of an African/Asian/Indian/South American-Hispanic child who has dark skin . . .–or over the death of a child with Arabic ethnicity–

    there will be no Zion, and the wars will continue–

    How can this be changed? Somehow this feels bigger to me than any other issue–

    Mormons are no better–

    And, yes, I agree with you that the media manipulates people–

    I happen to have very white grandchildren; I love them and worry about their safety, but they are no more important in God’s eyes than the brown grandchildren around the world who have been blown to bits by American taxpayer-supported weapons–

  4. Joel says:

    Obama cries for the victim children of Newtown but not for the hundreds he’s murdered in the Middle East. America joins him in this behavior.

  5. dallon j says:

    every day there are around 18,000 children dying from hunger. no one seems to care. no one mentions them in their prayers at church, at least i never hear it. we are just starting to reap the harvest of our seeds of hate now, our callousness towards the children of the world will fall back on our own heads. and our hypocrisy will only make hate for america increase. 900 children were arrested in israel this year, but no one cares about them.

    http://www.childsoldiersglobalreport.org/content/facts-and-figures-child-soldiers

  6. Aaron says:

    How exactly does one blow such a horrendous event out of proportion? I agree that some atrocities seem to receive more attention than others, but should this have been downplayed? As for Obama, he will have to kill a lot of people to come close to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died as a result of our invasion of Iraq. Please don’t cheapen this disaster with talk of equivalence.

    • tariq says:

      I don’t think anyone is arguing that Newtown should be downplayed. I think the argument is that these other tragedies — which are caused by callous U.S. foreign policy — should be up-played. If it is a major tragedy that children in Newtown were killed (which it certainly is), then it is also a tragedy when children in the Middle East or South Asia are killed by our military, CIA, contractors, or by forces that the U.S. trains and arms. As for talk of equivalence, you are right; at least in talk of sheer numbers, far more children have been killed overseas by U.S. forces than were killed in Newtown. That fact doesn’t cheapen the tragedy in Newtown, nor should it. It simply asks Americans to be good enough to value the lives of brown children overseas as much as we value the lives of white American children.

      For example, when former secretary of state Madeleine Albright was asked about the 500,000 Iraqi children who died as a result of U.S. sanctions against Iraq during the Clinton administration (democrats are guilty too), she answered that the price was “worth it”. This shows the typical American disregard for the lives of children who live in the middle east.

      Absolutely we should treat Newtown as a tragedy, but we should also treat the deaths of these “other” children as tragedies as well, not as a price that was “worth it” just for the furtherence of America’s wicked foreign policy objectives.

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