President Trump ordered flags to be raised half-staff after a school shooting in Texas left 10 dead, 10 wounded, and countless traumatized. Not only are the victims left in horror by the act of one lone individual, but the entire nation is beginning to digest his heinous crime. In his wake of terror, many are left asking “Why? Why does this keep happening?”
Analyze the words I just used: “traumatized, horror, lone individual, heinous crime, wake of terror“. I lyrically painted a picture of one individual traumatizing an entire nation. It’s as if I want to scare you. Look at other news outlets. Many are already delving into the personal life of the shooter, showing his name and face across America. Here’s a New York Times’ article containing pictures of the mourning families and the all too common testimonial that always accompanies these events: “I didn’t think it could ever happen in this town”.
But, it did. One small town. One lone individual and the country springs to life. One lone individual and the President of the United States now delivers an impassioned speech to which his political opponents aggressively analyze and retort only to receive a Newtonian equal and opposite reaction. One lone individual and family dinners across the country turn into mock political debates and the once warm and appetizing plate of food is now left bitter and unfinished. One lone individual and the screens of CNN will flood with furious debates filled with malicious remarks whose only purpose are to destroy. One lone individual acts and his name will permeate onto the congressional floor for years to come. One lone individual acts and, hell, people like me go to their computers and write full-length essays about it.
One Lone Individual.
Gavrilo Princip. I bet you don’t recognize his name. He’s the man who assassinated the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand. Why is this relevant?
Humans crave order in the chaos of the world. Our nervous systems recognize order, and if it sees something it doesn’t recognize? Something truly chaotic? It freezes in a predatorial response to whatever potential danger stands before us. There is no other feeling in existence that emulates this petrifying process.
We like to think that the world runs on gears like clockwork, everything predetermined. But here have one lone individual, Gavrilo Princip, who, in a statistical improbability of the Archduke’s driver making an incorrect turn, sent the world into thirty-one years of war, leaving millions dead. I find it impossible not to feel uneasy thinking that one person could possibly have that magnitude of effect on the vast system of complexities that is the world.
This is precisely why so many Americans in the 60’s rejected the notion that one lone individual, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States. Could one person assert their will and pervade the consciousness of every individual in America?
As the population grows, individual agency diminishes. “The world is too large to be changed”, many think. This notion allows depressive thoughts to enter one’s mind. Feeling powerless. Feeling meaningless. But here we have a man Gavrilo Princip, who thrust mankind into two world wars by the constriction of his index finger on a trigger.
It completely betrays our perception of reality’s clockwork; in a world of ungrindable gears, we see a man who ground those gears.
Now, look at the modern school shooter. They’re angry at existence. One may be inclined to simply call them insane and move on. But consider Princip. The creation of two world wars is no insignificant feat. That is a lot of power. Now, look at what the school shooters typically say. People call them monsters. To which they respond “Yes, I am”. They’re obsessed with asserting their power on the world.
Humans naturally seek power and significance, no matter your rejection of the feeling; it’s in our biology. Sometimes these feelings of insignificance and feebleness envelop and corrupt these individuals who find themselves at the bottom of society. And they find themselves looking to those who malevolently orchestrated crimes such as Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Douglass, and now Sante Fe. They see these individuals faces plastered over every type of media. They see their actions causing intense and vicious debates over gun reform from households to Congress. They feel the power of their infamy. They feel the anxiety among their peers; they feel and feed off of their fear. This feeling power is an incredible motivator for the heinous acts against the arguably innocent. One day they’re nobody. The next they’re on every news outlet in America. They feel this power, even if only momentarily. They would love to be demonized because to be demonized is to be feared – a force to be reckoned with. They control who lives, becoming the equalizer that is death. These are not the thoughts of irrational individuals. They are seeing their chance to be seen by the world, to scream in resentment at everybody “above” them in society. To become a Gavrilo Princip or a Lee Harvey Oswald is their envious feat.
So when the latest school falls prey to these individuals, deprive them of their goal. Stop the videos of the traumatized teens whose life-long bonds were ripped away mere minutes ago. Don’t show clips of the mournful parents who will have forever lost their essential extension of themselves. Don’t use aerial shots of the teens fleeing the building like a herd of sheep amongst a wolf. Certainly don’t plaster every American T.V. with these malevolent individuals’ faces giving them exactly what they want. Until we stop, they won’t. We’re creating false idols for far too lost young men to romanticize and empathize with. We create a self-fulfilling prophecy for these individuals.
During the height of the depression at Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. It’s become cliche, but it’s the antidote to our problem. If we have nothing to fear, they lose all leverage. This is the basis of Islamic terrorist strategy. Scare white America, polarize the country, and indoctrinate those rejected by the Islamophobia. Without fear, they have nothing.
Sensationalism Journalism is killing Americans. The 24-hour news feed is killing Americans. The guns aren’t killing Americans, the media is the mercenary at work. And the politicians continue to abuse the current fragility of America by endless feeding and reinforcing their parties ideologies, polarizing the nation for re-election.
Don’t incentivize future shooters by showing pictures of the families whose homes now contain an extra bed. How does this keep us informed? Displaying fear and misery so bright that they become burned and forever transposed onto our retinas? Does this make us safer?
Don’t give these individuals power. They have none; spare them and the rest of the country the allusion.