It’s easier said than done.
A shooting happens, the news breaks and inevitably the masses (myself included) head, well, somewhere.
Some go to social media.
Others (I fall into this crowd) hop from news outlet to outlet as breaking stories are updated
Then there’s Reddit.
Livestreamed YouTube commentary.
The list goes on, but we all have our digital loitering zones, so to speak.
And while these mediums and digital spaces vary widely with regards to their accuracy, audience maturity and level of productive discourse, they do have one thing in common: they overwhelmingly focus on perpetrators while glossing over the lives of the victims.
While the act of mass shootings is a growing epidemic, another is the tendency of the public and media (yes, we have to hold ourselves accountable) to focus obsessively on the perpetrators — everything from their motives and mental state to what their third cousin thinks about some obscure comments they made on Facebook five years ago.
We dissect the lives of those who are undeserving of such attention while largely ignoring the lives of those whose lives ended through no fault of their own.
Don’t get me wrong, we have to run perpetrators’ names.
When a shooting breaks, that’s always the big question on everyone’s minds. We’re an inquisitive species and it’s completely natural for us to want to know the who, what, where and when of an event in its immediate aftermath.
However it’s the focus on why in the days, weeks and months following these tragedies that I think we often get bogged down with.
Look at the individual who perpetrated the Las Vegas shooting. Just last week I saw yet another article (it must have been the tenth or so since the shooting) about how “we may never know” his true motives.
I can tell you in no uncertain terms: I don’t care about why he did it.
He did — and it was a disgusting, selfish act, as all mass shootings are.
That’s all there is to it. I don’t care about where he spent his vacations.
I don’t care what his wife thought of him.
I don’t care that he lived a reclusive lifestyle or that his neighbours were shocked by his actions.
In short — I don’t care about him, period.
You know who I do care about?
People like John Phippen, the Californian home remodeler, who died in his son’s arms after he was shot shielding another stranger from the gunfire.
Or Chris Hazencomb, whose mother had to make the heartbreaking decision to disconnect the ventilator keeping her son alive after he was shot shielding his best friend’s wife.
How about Jack Beaton, who had just enough time to tell his wife Laurie — who he was at the concert with celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary — that he loved her, to which she responded that she would see him in heaven.
Heartbreaking stuff, but it goes to show that each one of those individuals — scratch that, every individual who was ever been killed through no fault of their own — has a story.
Likewise for the recent tragic deaths of Chynna Deese, Leonard Dyck and Lucas Fowler in our own very northern backyard.
Yet in the aftermath of these tragedies we tend to focus so much on the people who selfishly took the lives of others, and not the individuals whose lives were cut short because of said selfish actions.
To end on a bit of a positive note, I do think it’s getting better.
In the aftermath of the New Zealand shooting, which was horrendous in its own unique, never-before-seen way due to the livestreamed nature of the act, the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern famously stated that she wouldn’t speak the perpetrator’s name
Many media outlets followed suit (in fact, when I google “New Zealand mosque shooting” only two of the first page’s 10 links contain the shooter’s name) to the degree that I’m confident the media culture surrounding these tragedies is shifting in this direction.
Look, you can disagree, but I don’t think mass murderers don’t deserve to be remembered.
They don’t deserve a digital eternity plastered throughout the pages of Wikipedia, where their views and beliefs can be put on display for all to read and be influenced by.
They should be largely forgotten, relegated to the esoteric inner circles of whatever misguided set of beliefs led them to commit their crimes in the first place.
In short: let the killers fade into obscurity — it’s the victims who deserve to live on.