Just Another Mass Shooting? A Look Into the Desensitization to Mass Violence

Sitting in front of the television, only half-listening, I hear the news anchor announce another mass shooting. I do not blink, and I certainly don’t start crying. I feel sorry for what the victims suffered through, yet I still feel an undeniable disconnect from the tragedies.

This is not the case for all of us, as I personally know many people who become completely emotionally paralyzed when they hear of another act of mass violence, yet the opposite feels more prominent. More of my days are spent among my peers acting like these shootings never happen. For instance, the “Thousand Oaks Bar” Shooting was not a topic discussed at all among my easygoing lunch conversations at school, nor was it brought up by the school or in any of my classes.

Above all, the question which keeps me up at night is this: is it my fault that I feel so desensitized to violence (mass shootings in particular)? The answer which I hope to give is that no, it is not our fault; some of us have to choose to detach ourselves in order to stop feeling the weight of the horrific news upon our shoulders when we wake up every morning. However, a problem arises when we decide that these shootings are not our problem. I am a victim to this mentality as well. It is so easy to think, “oh my goodness, that really is awful” and much more difficult to take action against things which are awful.

Here is what we can do: talk more. As uncomfortable as it is to go from talking about a reality TV show at lunch, to talking about the fatal shooting of 12 individuals (referencing the Thousand Oaks Bar Shooting), we must be willing to talk about it. Because if we stop verbalizing our feelings about what is going on in our country, then we stop any potential progress from igniting.

Our school has begun to pay closer attention to issues of mental health, and I think as the news becomes more intense and traumatic, it is important as ever to create spaces where talking about current events, crying about the heinous nature of mass shootings, and or debating about how to prevent them is accepted and normalized.