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HILLIS: Media desensitizes public to mass shootings

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When at least 12 people were shot and killed in Washington D.C. Monday, I didn’t stop to think about it. Instead of focusing on the lives of the victims and their families, I commented that I used to run by the Navy Yard while living in D.C. It didn’t strike me as out of the ordinary that someone would violently take the lives of 12 innocent people. I didn’t focus on the way the worlds of  12 families had just come to a screeching halt. It was just another bit of information for the day.

Later that day as I sat in the Tribune’s newsroom watching CNN’s coverage of the scene, it was too easy to tune out reporter Wolf Blitzer. It wasn’t until the camera zoomed in on the familiar intersection of Parson and N street SE, an intersection in the Washington Navy Yard, that I finally took notice. In the summer of 2012, I accompanied my cousin to that exact location to pick up her husband from his office; he is a civilian working for the Navy. Suddenly, the shootings mattered to me.

Thankfully, my cousin’s husband was unharmed. However, the fact that I made it nearly eight hours without thinking twice about the incident, mostly because no one was talking about it, shows how little we notice these events anymore.

When James Holmes trapped and shot 70 movie patrons in Aurora, Colorado last July, I was horrified. For months, sitting in a movie theater brought me a sense of uneasiness.

I was at the corner of St. Paul Avenue and 13th Street when I learned that Adam Lanza stole the futures of 20 young children and six educators. My heart sank, tears came to my eyes and I got angry. Frustrated, I wondered why these events kept happening. My friends and I shared our concerns for the victims and their families. My church in Saint Louis made a donation to Sandy Hook Elementary.

A shooter at a mall outside of Portland made national headlines last December. Campus buzzed for days last August when Wade Page entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek with a semi-automatic pistol.

It’s disheartening that the media has successfully convinced me that these things are common place. It says something about our society because I have heard very few people discussing the events since Monday. The media continues to cover these events, as they should, yet they’ve done so in a way that has made us indifferent. Not even a year ago, when tragedy struck Newtown, people were terrified. Yet ten months later, we barely seem to notice the most recent tragedy.

In a reader comment on the New York Times article “Gunman and 12 Victims Killed in Shooting at D.C. Navy Yard,” Chris McMorrow of Walthman, Mass. expresses her concern for the desensitization of our nation, “I fear when we turn on our TVs, we see an unfolding horror, and say to ourselves, oh Lord, another one, then yawn and flip the channel.” She closes with the concern that events such as this are causing us to lose our common sense.

I can’t blame the media for reporting the news, nor can I blame myself for the violent acts of other people. I can’t even blame the Marquette community for not talking about it, because I am perfectly capable of starting those conversations myself. We each have the individual responsibility to start and continue these conversations.

The moment when it clicked for me, when I realized my family could have been personally affected by the Navy Yard shooting, shouldn’t have to happen. The moment we see something on the news that involves one selfish person threatening or claiming the lives of others, our attention should be grabbed instantaneously. An event such as Monday’s shooting shouldn’t go unnoticed, but instead spark a series of important conversations across campus.

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