On Halloween, fittingly enough, USA Today reporte don a tragic anomaly—four mass killings in the United States over a span of four days, the first time that had happened, the paper noted, in more than seven years. Turns out, it wasn’t much of an anomaly.
The story came to mind again this morning with news that a musician in New York City apparently shot and killed three other people—two of them fellow rockers – and then himself, only a few days after two people were wounded at a New York City ice rink during a robbery allegedly by a teen trying to steal a coat. And then there was the gunman who opened fire at the Los Angeles International Airport, killing a TSA employee and wounding a dozen other people before he was shot (he survived). And the house party in Houston …
Really, there have been so many of these killings that they blur together. We get a few hours—maybe a couple of days—of shock, and then we move on. Remember Sandy Hook Elementary School?
The Detroit Free Press ran an opinion piece the other day by a former journalist and current political figure there named Kim Trent (we remain friends from the days when we worked together at the Detroit News in the 1980s, when the crack epidemic left that already violent city soaked in blood). The piece is titled, “Where is the outrage over Detroit violence?” And it’s a fair question for all of us, not just murder-weary Detroiters:
I don’t pretend to have the answers. The causes of violence are multidimensional and the cures are difficult and expensive. A friend of mine suggested that folks are tired of talking about the pain they feel about Detroit’s violent crime because our hand wringing hasn’t led to meaningful change. But I’m worried that when we stop expressing our outrage and horror, we tacitly resign ourselves to the idea that exposure to violent crime is the price we pay for living here instead of the moral abomination and life-shattering experience that it is.
For many years, I consoled myself with statistics that suggested that the majority of victims of violent crime either knew their assailant or were engaged in dark deeds. To use street lingo, you do dirt, you get dirt. I felt secure in the belief that as long as my loved ones and I stayed on the straight and narrow path and associated with good people, we would be inoculated from the chaos that surrounds us. But things got real for me when first my husband then my father—the two men who matter most to me—became victims of street robberies in recent years. One nervous twitch and all could have been lost.
It’s terrifying to face the reality that a thug’s callous disregard for human life could rob me of someone I love. But it is even scarier to imagine that it could happen and no one would give a damn.