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Every now and then my favorite evening news anchor will introduce a clip by saying, "Warning. The following video may be disturbing to some viewers."  Usually it's a video of some mass shooting with the bulk of the scene blurred out.

 

My reaction:  Not disturbing enough.

 

It's not that I want to see the airwaves flooded with scenes of horrific gore, of shattered bodies and screaming survivors. If that's important to someone there are lots of places on the internet where such videos are available.

 

I'm just not sure we're seeing what we need to be seeing.

 

What concerns me most is that reports of such events seem to focus primarily on the numbers: five killed here, nineteen over there, twenty-seven just yesterday. The numbers tell a quantitative story and, while such numbers might be disturbing, they are, in fact, just numbers and eventually we become desensitized to them. There's just no felt difference between nine here and seventeen there.

 

When the Uvalde, Texas school shootings occurred our attention was repeatedly drawn not to the slaughter of little children going on, but to the almost cartoonish scenes of officers wandering aimlessly in the hallway near the children's' school room. I don't think I'll ever forget the one officer walking over to a sanitizer unit and spritzing some lotion on his hands. Children were being murdered and he was worried about germs on his hands. It was a scene right out of a Coen brothers movie.

 

The censoring of wrenching images is understandable, if misguided. What we need is a better way of humanizing those inhuman events, to move away from all those numbers so that we are better able to see that real human beings – children, concert goers, parade watchers – are having life itself or life as they knew it ripped away from them.

 

My concern here is that, for as much as these events always prompt great outpourings of demands to regulate this or ban that, nothing ever happens because so few people have any realistic idea of what it is we're trying to stop. It's all just numbers or, if they've seen such scenes in the movies, well, in the movies it all works out.

 

In life it doesn't always work out.

 

We need to see those classrooms with the shattered bodies – nothing blurred – but we don't need to linger there voyeuristically. We don't need close-ups of battered body parts. But we do need to take in the horror, viscerally, that the gunslingers have brought us. Certainly, our vaunted technologies can take us where we need to be without numbing us into inaction.

 

Essentially, this is an educational problem. We need an educated populace to advance the conversation into meaningful proposals concerning firearm use and possession. Above all, we need something beyond the insidious, "Well, I guess that's just the price we have to pay for the Second Amendment."

 

Right now that price is just way too high.

 

G.K. Wuori ©2022

Photoillustration by the author