Here we are again. Once more, we witness the epitome of human evil rear itself onto its victims. Once more, we observe tragedy and colossal loss. Once more, we try and feel the searing pain of the ones affected, attempting to sympathize with them. Once more, we find ourselves at the tail end of a heinous killing spree, frantically trying to analyze and frankly just make sense of the situation.
And yet, while these familiarized and patterned behaviors seem jaded to us, there is another added certainty to the situation: that we will move on. We will move on from this man’s abominable actions and we will forge forward. Yet, is this really so encouraging? Certainly, we will carry on, and cement Sunday night’s history in place by commemorating it. And yes, we will attempt to honor those killed and wounded in the event, offering our moments of silence, our sincerest sympathies, and any bit of hope we can find. But at what point do our pleading cries, our prayers, our condolences, assume ceremony? In other words, when will we have witnessed enough of death and evil, that it becomes routine? When will it be sufficient? We are already locked in a pattern of response and reaction: tweet this picture, share this post, argue this person, politicize this death, write this article—and then the most important one: stop after that.
This is not just repetition now; our collective passive reaction after witnessing this evil is just a cycle, unconsciously replayed. And acknowledging this, I entreat again, when will our responses to these situations just turn into lazy-minded action?
Perhaps all of you echo my answer to these questions I pose because our reactions already have. We are in a state of mindless rerun, of mechanized repeat. Though some have tried to initiate change, as a whole we go from one horrendous mass murder to the next, then back to our complacent, limbo state, until our “sympathetic” side is ready to emerge again at the turn of a switch when the next one occurs. Are we not tired of it all? Darkly, I do not think we are. To be tired would be to suggest most of us put in real, engaging effort. That many put up a fight and gave it our all to change this. That we put forth our hardest work, but to no avail. Perhaps we have. But, more than likely, we have not.
I wish to tread carefully here. Though I acknowledge my tone as angry and antagonistic, I do not wish to blame the events in Las Vegas as a collective American fault (though many would say otherwise). Rather, I wish to resist pointing any fingers, avoid any political maneuvers, and instead offer us a slight wake-up call.
While we will inevitably convene in some way to collectively show support for the victims in Las Vegas (be it through a platform such as the Internet, a charity, or a march), we must first realize that what we need is a shift in values. We approach these nationwide events thinking that they require a response that is nationwide in scale. Yet, realistically a change this large of a scale cannot easily precipitate. Take, for example, the temporary Facebook profile picture. We assume that because social media has such an extensive reach, visually alerting as many people as possible with a templated profile picture will bring the sufficient amount of attention to enact change. Yet, we have all seen where it really leads. Rather than encouraging any action, our desire to expose our ideas of change to as large a group as possible actually emboldens our laziness. We see, we click, and we “change” (the words on the site are indeed “Change Profile Picture”), doing our designated part. Ironically, it almost appears that the more people are exposed to such a movement, the more it dies down. Have these photos had any actual effect? There are no studies, but probably not. Rather than show solidarity across one collective and large-scaled platform, perhaps we can work to manage our personal circles first, focusing on the possible opportunities present. No, I am not suggesting that the person next to you is a potential mass murderer. And I am not therefore suggesting that we should all be kind to those we interact with, so that the next mass murderer doesn’t have “social recluse” in their criminal profile anymore.
Alternatively, I suggest that we personify and embody the change we call for. When we change our profile picture, we are calling for a change in attention, hoping to shake up the news feed of another person. But we do this whilst in our beds, chairs, and couches, swiping a maximum of three moves with our thumbs. Can we really expect to produce an active response, when the callers for this response do it passively? I asked earlier if we as a whole were tired of the nation’s tragedy. We appear to be tired, but not about the change we should be enacting. Yes, we might be tired of the stalemate that is our government. And we also might be tired of the endless debate that seems to linger over us. But we do not exhaust ourselves from the labors of progress. I posit, however, that instead of being fatigued at the lack of effort shown in change, we should exasperatedly work to enable that change and make it possible. And still, I wish to emphasize while it is true that we can show more effort and more courage, it is perhaps even more feasible to understand that there is only so much we can do. Is this what is stopping us? Are we afraid of the discouragement, the disappointment, the blow of fruitless labors, of an endless of victory-less battle? Maybe we are. And these are legitimate fears. But we will never know the outcome, until we try it first.