The Navy Yard Shooting: Are We Desensitized?

Last Monday, there was shooting in Washington DC that left 13, including the shooter, dead. On Saturday, a hostage situation in Kenya killed dozens, with the death toll still rising. Last Wednesday, there was a bomb threat on our own campus, a mysterious package within feet of where most freshmen live.  But no one has been talking about any of it.  Any time any of the situations are brought up, there are shaking heads, and quietly murmured responses. “How scary.” “What a tragedy.”  And then the topic of conversation is changed almost immediately.  Do we not care?  Are we becoming desensitized to violence?

A particularly violent screen grab from the new video game Grand Theft Auto V.

We’re living in violent times.  Last year was marked by shootings, and this year has had its own share of ferocity. These instances of violence are nothing really new, but how we react to them has drastically changed. When there’s an instance of gun violence, there is a quick mourning period, and then the debate swells up once again about gun control.  The NRA and conservative media immediately begin with the “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” routine, and then the liberal media spends airtime arguing with them.  Speeches have quick moments of silence, followed by spewing propaganda and opposing party views. When did death become so political?

The news isn’t the only source for violence, though.  TV shows and video games are becoming increasingly intense.  You can’t turn on a TV without finding a shootout, an explosion, or any other terrible thing that is now used for entertainment.  Video games are all about shooting things, stealing cars, or beating drug dealers.  When we see these images of hate and violence everywhere, acted out by beautiful actors or life-like animated characters, what happens when these images aren’t staged?  How do we feel when there is no script—that the images of crying victims are real?  It has almost become commonplace.  When we see fake images everywhere, the real thing becomes a lot less real.  Of course we don’t empathize; we almost don’t believe it’s really happening.  It feels like just another cop show, with a much sadder ending.

I do believe that the government needs to do something about these mass shootings, but I don’t believe that the victims and their families should be used as political pawns  to make one party win over the other.  I do know that violence will always be there—that’s just the world we live in.  But I also believe that it is too prevalent in our lives.  We are bombarded with violence every time we turn on the television, and so when we do see an actual tragedy, we don’t know what to feel.  So we don’t feel anything.  Does this mean that empathy has become a thing of the past?


Photo Credit: Google Images