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Two Tragedies; the same and yet so different

August 7, 2012

In the past few months we have witnessed appalling tragedies happening throughout our country.  Fires have ravaged homes and taken lives, droughts have caused entire crops to burn, apparently zombies are “real” and most recently two truly heartbreaking events occurred when a man walked into a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire and, this past weekend, another man walked into a temple in Wisconsin and proceeded to do the same.

While all these events are horrible, the first few can be attributed to natural disasters and, perhaps, global temperature issues that we seem to have brought upon ourselves.  I don’t want to start a political debate though (you can find enough of those during Olympics commercials) and so rather I want to focus on the savage events that have occurred most recently. More specifically I’d like to discuss how they were/are being covered and talked about in the news and by society in general.

When James Holmes walked into an Aurora movie theatre and began massacring helpless patrons the news world proceeded to explode: and rightfully so.  You couldn’t turn on a television or visit any social media website without getting the latest updates. Who was the shooter? Did he act alone? How many are dead? Did he really say he was the Joker? And the critical question that no one seems to have an answer for- Why did he do this?

Why?

The story garnered massive attention for a number of reasons. First, the act itself was vicious and not something we hear about every day. Second, it hit home because seemingly half the world planned on seeing this movie and it could’ve happened in any theatre, anywhere. Perhaps the greatest reason why this story garnered such attention though is because of the last question I asked above.  No one is able to make sense of why this happened.

As a people we need to have “Why?” answered.  We can’t move on until we know the meaning. It’s why you stay and watch movies until the end.  It’s the reason that, as soon as we found out all the “zombie” attacks were related to some mysterious drug nicknamed “bath salts” the story died down (even if that’s not true…) Think of it like the movie The Prestige– As soon as you know the truth behind an event the thrill, magic and interest is gone.

This is why national tragedies don’t remain stories for very long. Yes, it’s devastatingly sad that Tornadoes ravage entire towns and uproot the lives on countless people.  But the story went away because “Oh…well, tornadoes are going to happen”.  We have our reason. We can move on. In fact, more time is often spent focusing on the failures of the government and the lack of proper preparation instead of the horrors of the event and the people whose lives were taken far too soon.

This is why I’m upset but not surprised about the news coverage of the recent shootings in Wisconsin.  This weekend a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh Temple and murdered 6 people and nearly killed a police officer before being fatally shot by the officer’s partner.  This awful story could be found if you went to a news channel or website but for the most part it wasn’t that big of a story.  People on Twitter and Facebook seemed mostly nonchalant about it.  But why?  Just like the Aurora shootings this could have happened to anyone.  It occurred at a place of worship, on a regular day, in a community just like yours and yet, no one seemed to care.

I have two thoughts why this happened and I’m really hoping only one of them is the real reason. However, both answers are pretty disappointing for us as a society.  First, it didn’t garner a long-standing story because we knew the reason. A white supremacist murders 6 people at a Temple because they resemble Islamic people and are mistaken for extremists…somehow. Never mind the fact that the Sikh religion is based upon the belief that everyone is genuinely equal and good. See, we know why he did it so… yep, it’s sad but time to move on. It’s almost as if we justify it because, “That’s what hate groups do”. The second and even more disappointing reason is because they do resemble Muslims so we, as Americans, just don’t care about them very much. It’s a disappointing truth that, since 9/11, anyone with a beard, darker skin and a turban obviously follows a belief system founded on “Death to America!”   The truth is that these people are generally are peaceful and, often times, much more welcoming than we “Americans”.

Now before you go getting all riled and posting comments about how wrong I am please just understand this: a few days ago a man walked into a peaceful place of worship and viciously fired a deadly weapon at helpless people minding their own business and it was barely worth a BREAKING NEWS update when the same thing happened a few weeks ago at a movie theatre and the country lost their minds.  I can’t imagine any possible scenario where I could be filled with blind rage or hate so intensely that I felt the need to take someone else’s life. These events are indescribably tragic and both deserve to be known about and reflected on. Sadly though, only one is receiving the attention it deserves. And that leads me to ask just one question…Why?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012 9:31 am

    I don’t disagree with your general sentiment. There is some questioning that needs done as to “Why?” but I do offer some theories.

    In Aurora, the shooting wasn’t the only aspect. There was the booby trapped apartment and potential bomb scare. The tragedy, and sensationalism related to it, continued even after his rampage in the theater. I think that caused people to become attached to it and searching for more information on the event in question.

    I also think religion plays a part in the reason why it hasn’t seemed to receive the same coverage, but for differing reasons. First, I think as it is a religion that many people don’t know or understand, they don’t feel a connection and dismiss things easier. Many people may just see it as a fringe religion and since it wasn’t in some type of Church (lumping Christianity and Catholicism together here as major American religions), they had that “well it couldn’t happen to me” feeling. Whereas in Aurora, it was a theater that anyone could have been in, hell so many people talked about seeing the film at midnight, that the randomness of it resonated with so many people. I do sincerely hope though, that if they do dismiss it, it isn’t because of any inferred connection to Islam. Second, I think any time attacks/tragedies happen in the name of, or because of religion, we are becoming desensitized to them. I’m not saying that is right, but it gives a reasoning to the attack that we can try and wrap our heads around, whereas in Aurora, everything seemed so random.

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