School shootings in the news never get easier to see. If anything, they get harder as you grow older.
I was 12 at the time of the Columbine massacre. I remember feeling as though the air had been sucked out of my school; every teacher seemed gloomier, maybe a bit on edge. It was strangely different for the students. We knew what had happened was wrong and tragic, but for the majority of us, there was little emotional cost. And although I could probably chalk part of that up to the socioeconomic status of most of the students (including myself) giving us more to worry about at the time, I like to think age played a big part in it.
Fast-forward to the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. I was 20, and it seemed very different. The victims were a bit older, save for the professors who were killed. They were my age, and having been an “adult” (whatever that is) for a few years, my experiences with death, or, at the very least, the fear of dying, seemed to color my perception. This seemed more real. The stories were somehow more heartbreaking although I know that can’t be quite right, and so, I attribute it to maturity. The harsh grace of wisdom seemed to unlock tears easier.
And now, this past Friday, the shooting at Sandy Hook. I saw the headline when it first appeared on CNN, and at the time, I thought it said only two adults dead, and that was tragic, but in my mind, I was relieved. No kids. That’s good.
An hour later, I started seeing the statuses pop up in my newsfeed. Sandy Hook. Tragic. Elementary School. I must have seen “Why?” a few dozen times from friends.
I went back to CNN, and I was shocked. 10 kids. No, 15 kids. No, 20 kids. How old? We can’t confirm. Two gunmen? One gunman? Ties to the school? Random?
So many questions and so much heartache. And for the first time, I legitimately cried in the wake of a tragedy like this. I didn’t cry for Columbine. Or 9/11. Or Virginia Tech.
But there I sat, in front of my computer, crying because 20 children and 6 adults were gunned down. And I knew it was wrong not to get as emotional over the adults, but I was crying mostly for the kids. I didn’t know what came over me. Maybe I thought of my 10 year-old sister and 14 year-old brother being among the victims. Maybe I was shocked that someone would go into an elementary school and start shooting.
And then, something strange happened. I got pissed, and I wasn’t yet really pissed about gun control although I was busy away researching it and conferring with friends on Facebook about it.
I was pissed because of the reaction of the media. It all seemed so brazen.
“Hey, I got a great idea. These kids have just witnessed a shooting massacre. They’re only 6-10 years old, but let’s interview them in the heat of the moment!”
And that’s really what it felt like. I know there’s a lot to be said for journalistic ethos, capturing the moment as it unfolds.
But shoving a fucking camera in the face of a kid who just went through that?
There’s a difference between pointing your camera to capture a moment as it unfolds and actively engaging the victims in the heat of the moment.
The news networks didn’t give a shit about capturing heartache. They wanted the clips, 5-10 second shots of kids sobbing uncontrollably, parents wrapping them up and refusing to let go, police officers huddled together in comfort after seeing the bodies, etc.
They wanted clips that attract the morbid fascination of people far from the scene of the crime. They wanted ratings. They wanted the advertising revenue that comes from ratings.
“But Charles, they’re a business. Are they not allowed to position themselves for profit?”
Yeah, but there’s a line, and as vague as that line may seem in peace time, there are moments when most people are onboard, and when an 8 year-old child is crying and in shock from going through something like that, pushing your lens into their mug is just callous. It comes across as bloodsucking and predatory… because it is.
Even the little things about the media’s reaction pissed me off. Some of the news networks had elaborate, cartoonish logos for the tragedy. They looked like movie titles, like I should have been holding popcorn and soda while I watched teachers be interviewed, parents cry, and the President give his speech on Sunday.
It seemed incredibly careless and just wrong.
And then there was Mike Huckabee making his assertion on Friday, even while the school was still swarming with first responders, that, essentially, the shooting happened because God had been “systematically removed from schools.”
This, of course, is bullshit, and Mike Huckabee knows it’s bullshit, and that actually hurt more, that this man who wanted to be our president, who is supposedly a dedicated man of God and moral purveyor of truth and light, actually exploited this tragedy to make an obscene religious statement to grandstand to the Evangelical community.
And I couldn’t believe my ears when he said it. I couldn’t believe in my heart that he had really done what he did.
20 kids, all of them either 6 or 7 (as we would later find out), had each been shot multiple times and several (if not many) of them likely bled out and suffered. Death was not instantaneous.
And this asshole has the nerve to put forth an assertion that I know he doesn’t believe in order to sell more books and attract more viewers to his program.
Guys, I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry for rambling, but I really don’t know how to tie this altogether, and I’m not sure anyone else knows, either.
It just hurts.