In today’s day and age, we frequently wake up to news notifications on our phones about terrorist attacks and mass shootings happening both abroad and in our homeland. Most of us – myself admittedly and unfortunately included – will read an article or two about “whatever” happened, think about it for a moment, and quickly move on to check Instagram or Facebook next. Why is it, that with the passing of each occurrence, we as a society care less and less? Why is it that this kind of thing has become so commonplace?
I personally believe that the frequent acts of terrorism occurring both in the United States and abroad are desensitizing the public to manslaughter. As violence seems to spread across the globe, and more and more people are killed, the entire foundation on which our society currently stands is put into question. Why are these acts of violence becoming so common, and are we as a society – and more specifically, as Americans – reacting appropriately?
As a 19-year-old in today’s seemingly ruthless world, I find it difficult to recall a time that mass shootings were not ordinary. I remember growing up learning about Columbine in school and hearing about the tragedy of the loss of the high school victims. I also remember coming home from school one day my freshman year of high school and hearing the news from my father that Sandy Hook Elementary School had just been attacked. I had a very difficult time trying to wrap my mind – as most others did – around the idea of not only killing, but also of killing children, and I just didn’t get it. Everywhere I went, people were speaking of this attack and analyzing the situation – no one could let it go (and rightfully so).
As the years went on and more stories of terrorism and shootings flashed before our eyes on all the news outlets, the idea of violence and downright hateful acts became to feel like just a series of events. With each attack, the world became just a little more comfortable with the idea of killings – and comfortable should be the last word we use to describe our reactions.
And this past week, when we received the news of the devastating attack in Las Vegas, I don’t think we as a nation had as strong a reaction as we should have. I think we see the notifications on our phones, we post about praying for the victims, we talk about it for a hot second, and we move on. But why in God’s name are we moving on? Who said we could? The world doesn’t feel like it’s stopping the way it used to when news came out of these attacks.
Global terrorism is without a doubt to blame. There have been countless attacks, especially in Europe, committed in the name of ISIS. Although not every mass shooting is connected to terrorist organizations – and it is still unknown whether or not this is the case with Las Vegas – we hear about terrorism so often that violence is becoming a regular part of life, regardless. It’s terrifying that an essentially made-up nation of evil people without one specific voice can have so much control over our modern world. How are we letting them get away with spreading the notion of murder as if it’s something that needs to exist?
Aside from global terrorism, which has unfortunately been in existence long before ISIS, some may blame the media for our desensitization to violence. And by “media,” I more specifically mean the television, film, and video game industries. Are some of these criminals – who are already mentally unstable to begin with – being pushed over the edge by the depiction of violence as “fun” and “cool?” Never before in the entertainment industry has a blurring between right and wrong been so popular. Previously, we always rooted for the “good guy” and booed at the “bad guy.” But evil has recently become a gray area, and we find ourselves as consumers of entertainment rooting for the antagonist (at least we think he’s the antagonist, right?).
So is a lack of censorship of the entertainment industry to blame? As a writer myself, I will defend the first amendment and the freedom of creators until the day I die. I believe that writers and artists should be allowed to put out into the world whatever they enjoy creating, and whatever will be successful. But unfortunately, modern consumers are in love with violence, and this makes the industry thrive. While 99.9% of Americans can watch a violent, rated-R movie and leave the theatre feeling just as rational as they did when they first walked in, there’s still that .1% who take away all the wrong messages.
In turn, perhaps it is not the .1% being influenced by these media artifacts, but instead it’s the 99.9%. There is a large possibility that by watching violent shows and movies, and playing violent video games, that we as a society are being subconsciously molded to accept violence as a part of life. If it’s all we see on all the screens in front of us, how is seeing it outside our windows going to be any different?
Another fault as a society, in my opinion, is giving too much attention to the attackers and not to the victims. Of course it is important to figure out who did it and why, but in focusing on the criminal aspect of the crime, we forget the people we have lost. We forget the innocent Americans – the people going to see a movie, or going to school, or going to a concert – whose lives have been taken by the hands of a filthy, detestable basket case. Most of us are guilty of not knowing a single victim’s name, not just from Las Vegas, but also from any of the other recent shootings. This goes to show that we need to do more than pray – we need to be educated.
I am only scratching the surface here, and there is so much more to be analyzed and questioned in terms of why these shootings happen, how we can prevent them, and how we as a society can react appropriately. But what is most important to take away here is that we cannot forget. We cannot ever forget about the mass shootings committed against our people, and we most certainly cannot let it become a part of our daily lives. News of these kinds of events should still be rattling our nation the way they used to, because it is the shock from what occurs and the compassion for the victims that leads us just a little closer to finding solutions.