BY ELENA VALDEZ
It isn’t news that people die every day. Murder, mass shootings and other modes of massacre are covered and repeated on a relatively regular basis. A life is taken unlawfully and all one does is glance over a screen. There is a harsh drop in humanity; gun violence has rid us of empathy.
Shootings are a daily occurrence in the 21st century and have become a story told so frequently that nothing is felt in its reappearance in headlines. The families and friends behind the victims of gun violence come to mean nothing to those who would have– in a time before the repeated occurrence of fatal gun violence– empathize and held sympathy toward them, as there are too many families that have suffered from this plight, so much so that it seems to be as prominent as the common cold.
Since Sandy Hook in 2012, there have been over 400 school shootings. Predominantly in upper-middle-class suburban communities, these events have taught students to expect the worst and to act accordingly. Fear is pumped through students’ veins to the point of complete numbness toward that which would have previously terrified and shocked them.
Death tolls rise and nothing is being done. The world has learned to adapt to the constant violence that plagues many communities. Many do not even realize that they are desensitized to gun violence. The more we expect a madman with a gun to come dancing in the halls, the less surprised society is when it happens.
The desensitized, safety-first environment the youth is being raised in has created a self-perpetuating cycle of nothing being done, because nothing is being felt. Enforcing IDs and single-point entries does not ease the anxieties of students and parents alike. These policies add to the lack of emotion in handling tragedy.
Becoming accustomed to a constant threat of death is a dangerous mindset to stay in. Studies show that students introduced to violence over an extended period of time do, in fact, become desensitized to it. Emotional sensitivity decreases and the likelihood to commit acts of violence increases. Empathy often comes in limited quantities. When one shooting drains the bank of caring, there is simply no care left to give.
Overall responsiveness to a situation decreases when it has been seen many times before. Students are less responsive to shootings and show lower levels of empathy as it has happened so many times before.
In the attempts to lessen the pain or ignore the repulsiveness of something such as a mass shooting, however, we are simply surviving. It is a defensive mechanism to disregard emotion and repress pain when faced with such a horrible reality.
Surviving has led us to accept that shootings are simply characteristic of life. People will continue to die; survivors will continue to turn their heads and move on to the next name in the weekly obituary.
One person dies and they’re forgotten in place of the next.
Gun violence is more than a matter of policy. A school shooting is no longer shocking. In order to end the violence imposed by firearms and other deadly machinery, society must come together to feel something. Surviving will not end the violence already placed upon us.
Photo by Lynne Carpenter