A dangerous immunity

September 19th, 2013

Another tragic mass shooting; a man seeking help after being injured in a car crash gunned down by a police officer, presumably because he was African American; Americans enraged by an Indian American being crowned Miss America. Talk about a national case of the Mondays. I’m not saying that to make light of all three of these terrible, terrible incidents – all of which happened before dinnertime on Monday. But that’s just the thing – how is it that we exist in a state of mind that is so immune to the gravity of incidents like these? We don’t expect everyone to put his or her life on hold every time anything bad happens in the world – nobody would ever accomplish anything. But, in so many cases, it seems like when we hear about something horrible that happened, we think about it for a minute, say, “Wow, that’s too bad,” and forget about it. As a whole, we often seem to ignore the sheer enormity of an incident and go on as though it never happened.

There seems to be only one possibility: we have become so used to hearing tragic news on a daily basis that we have become nearly numb to its emotional effects. Not an hour goes by during which I don’t look at my Twitter newsfeed (okay, yes, that’s where I get most of my news updates – I admit it) and see a story of another murder or another brutal assault or another instance of prejudice. When we see these, we usually experience a fleeting moment of shock, pity or fear – often some combination of the three. But then reality calls – we have to go to class; we have to buy groceries; we have to text our friend. And what becomes of our connection to the bad news? It becomes insignificant to us. If it’s not something happening nearby or affecting anyone we know, we might not even think about it again. Meanwhile, 12 innocent people are dead and their families are experiencing earth-shattering grief. Or Nina Davuluri, who was just crowned Miss America on Sunday night, has to deal with cowards with keyboards who are angry that a “terrorist” and an “Arab” (mind you, she’s from India) was given the crown. Incidents like these are enough to make you want to throw up your hands and say, “People suck. I give up.”

Along with this comes a sense of utter hopelessness, because when it comes down to it, what can we even do? We can’t resurrect the dead, we can’t cure people of their learned, intentional ignorance and we can’t rid  the world of hatred. So what choice do we have rather than to just move on? I hear people say all the time that they hate watching or reading the news because it is always bad news that only brings their mood down.

However, one of the most crucial things that we can do is take some time to reflect. It sounds like a cop-out, but it can actually be very effective. Reflection can take on many different forms – meditation, prayer, writing, discussion, etc. Reflecting is not going to change anything that happened in the past, nor will it alter anything that will happen in the future, but it will restore in us a hope that there is immense goodness being overshadowed momentarily by overwhelming sadness. And every so often, you might realize there is something you could do to help the situation, no matter how small.

There’s no way to know the best way to deal with tragedies, especially when they directly effect you or your loved ones. But the worst thing to do is nothing. Doing nothing doesn’t mean that we don’t care, but it does show that we have become desensitized to things that would normally break our hearts, and it might affect how we act or treat people in the future.

So, next time you see or hear about another mass shooting or unjustified murder – and God knows that will be soon – don’t just look the other way. Instead, think about whether there is anything you can do to help, and if you cannot, think about how you could change how you act or treat people in the future. I refuse to believe that we don’t care – that everyone is okay with the tragedies that have become routine to the world, because that would be the ultimate tragedy.