December 14, 2012. 10:55 AM PST. Like every other day that semester, I walked from my AP Literature classroom to the lunch room to meet my friends. At my lunch table, I was greeted by my friends, all glued to their phones. Unlike the usual chatter, shouting over one another, and singing that comes with theater kids, they were dead silent, eyes furiously scanning their screens.
"There was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. They think like 20 first graders were killed."
A flashbulb memory is a vivid, enduring memory for how one learned about a surprising, shocking event. This is my flashbulb memory of the Sandy Hook shooting. I don't get flashbulb memories of shootings anymore. Even when the shootings hit rather close to home (Umpqua Community College in my home state, Oregon), I could not tell you where I was when I heard, how I found out. At 19 years old, I've become desensitized to mass shootings.
As Mother Jones reports, "an FBI crime classification report from 2005 identifies an individual as a mass murderer if he kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), typically in a single location." While the stat of 350+ mass shootings in a year has been thrown around by the media, under the FBI's classification, "there have been at least 73 public mass shootings across the country since the mid-80s, with the killings unfolding in 31 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Thirty-six of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006." This includes Columbine, the South Carolina Church Shootings, Sandy Hook, University of California-Santa Barbara, and the most recent in San Bernardino. No matter how you look at it, the take away is the same: mass shootings are too common nowadays.
When you google "millennials mass shootings," there is no question that a trend has been noticed. Our generation has grown up on not just lock out or in drills, but active shooter drills. There is a need for companies to design bullet-proof covers for children. Is it possible that our generation is becoming desensitized to mass violence?
What does it say about a generation when their reaction to shootings is "Another?" Since Sandy Hook, our reactions have changed drastically since, explained best by Rachel Braun of Portland, Oregon who "was obsessively reading about Sandy Hook when it happened, but I don't bother reading about recent shootings." The news presents the same information time and time again, as satirized by the Onion's article "‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens." If the perpetrator is white and male (as most have been), they're a loner, misunderstood, a bit different. The situation changes when the shooter is Muslim--no longer are they misunderstood, rather anti-American and radical.
It goes without question that social media has greatly impacted millennials and how they view mass shootings. Quick, on-the-sight reporting is a double-edged sword--while it gets the information out to alert others, it also causes misinformation to go out before all the facts that established. Possible perpetrators witness the mass media coverage of their predecessors and see the infamy and attention they would attract. It also changes how we should support our discontent with the events, as seen in the wave of profile pictures in support of Paris. Oregon State University Senior Grace Weaver believes "people make an obligatory post or change their profile picture and feel satisfied. Showing support only works when you stop supporting the system which allows these events to persist and become normalized and begin to support those who have been impacted." We show our support from a distance, but struggle to actually take action against the violence.
As cheesy as it is, Millennials are the future--we are the politicians, teachers, and lobbyists for generations to come. We must stop fear mongering and tackle the issues head on. We must redefine our understanding of terror and come to terms that terrorism is happening here. With a connection of ISIS in the San Bernadino shootings, the media is acting as if the Planned Parenthood shootings never occurred. As Loyola Marymount University Senior Steven Ceniceros explains, "it's easier to attack those who do not share your same values."
There is a glimmer of hope though. On the front page of the New York Times this Sunday, the Editorial Board calls for an end to the gun epidemic in America. For every act of terror, more and more people finally realize the flaw in society. As desensitized as our generation has become, we still strive for change. Despite our post-9/11 cynicism, we can't and won't become desensitized because there are too many people who need our support.