On January 21, 2014, a student at Purdue University was killed in a school shooting. Four days later, another shooting took place in a Maryland mall, leaving three dead. Just a month earlier, a high school student was killed at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. I can list more, but should I need to? Surely, we can all understand the pain of those affected. But do we treat every tragedy with the same amount of grief and sympathy? And should we?
Think about it. Do you remember any names from the recent Maryland shooting? Did you even know there was one? It’s uncomfortable and unsettling, but we pay more attention to those tragedies that have more casualties. And, in the case of shootings, the number of victims simply ends up being a number that the mainstream media uses to bring in more and more viewers. Yes, it’s pessimistic, but let’s be real. If we compare the amount of media coverage that the Maryland shooting has acquired in the last few days to the amount of coverage the Sandy Hook shooting acquired, there would be jarring differences.
This brings up another point: we pay more attention to shootings in certain contexts. Let’s just focus on some of the “bigger” shootings of the past few years. Everyone remembers Sandy Hook from 2012, and a substantial amount of people remember the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the Columbine shooting in 1999, and some even remember the Jonesboro shooing of 1998.
What do these all have in common? They all happened at educational institutions. Can you name some other “big” shootings that have occurred in the past ten years, without looking at Wikipedia? Other than the Aurora Movie Theater shooting, most people can’t name one (and I believe the reason people remember the Aurora shooting is because it was one of the first at a movie theater). A good amount of people remember the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, but the number is still nowhere near how many remember Sandy Hook. Yes, it could be that Sandy Hook was the more recent shooting, so that’s why people remember that one more, but do you remember the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin that happened the same year as Sandy Hook? Six dead and four injured. It could be the media’s fault that we don’t remember the victims, but then isn’t the media a product of our own society (I won’t get into that; that’s an entirely different argument).
Now, I’m not trying to downplay the tragedy of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, or any other shooting for that matter. They’re all horrible tragedies and should never be forgotten. I merely want the other shootings to be remembered as well. It shouldn’t be the case that the number of deaths dictate how well people remember the shootings. For all those affected by any shootings – shootings with any motivation and within any context – this is for you. I might not remember every single shooting from the past few years, but I won’t let the type of shooting or its death toll impair me from giving my sympathy and respect.
Usmani is a member of
the class of 2017.