Thank God no one died

It seems we are remarkably desensitized to these kinds of horrific events.

Kelsey Kudak

As I walked from the midday sun last Friday afternoon into the journalism building for class, I stopped short. CNN was flashing a breaking story of yet another campus shooting. This time, as the station reported, the victims were only two: one mildly, one severely wounded. Images of the geometrically patterned sidewalks of the university flashed above the red lines of the streaming story. The walk’s pattern of triangles was similar to our knoll area here at the University.

Watching the story for a brief moment before class, the information was repeated: two shot, gunman at large, campus under lockdown, police comb the area for suspects, etc. However, I became anxious when the station, for several minutes, failed to mention the location of the incident. I cared little for the details of the victims, but was desperate for the “where.” I couldn’t walk away until I knew the location.

Then, after Dover, Del., had finally made its name legible across the screen, I continued nonchalantly to class. Somewhere in the stairwell between the first and second floors, I realized my actions. In the few minutes previous, I had held no regard for those involved and even less was my consideration of contextual experience.

It seems this news event was as incommunicable to me as a conversation in Swahili. As I’d never been to Delaware, it was out of both my context and my world. I therefore had cared only that the situation was not three blocks away from my apartment, as the bridge collapse had been in August. Additionally, my subconscious noted the victims were “only” injured and no one had really died. This new violence at Delaware State was a supposedly minor event when compared to the execution-style deaths of three students from the same school a month prior.

Why wasn’t my reaction to say, “Thank God, no one died!”? Because the event didn’t affect me directly, I turned from the TV and went to class like any other day.

It seems we are remarkably desensitized to these kinds of horrific events. Seventeen-year-old kids are shooting each other, but our attention requires something more. Perhaps the death of 32 lives, in the stead of two injured ones is required for impact, as in the case of the Virginia Tech tragedy last spring. At the time, I was living out of the country, and learned the details of the events through a Guatemalan newspaper. An event that large is worth mentioning, even in Guatemala. But what is the difference between two and 32? The violence of the act is equivalent.

So why, then, had I nearly forgotten the event by the end of my 50-minute class?

This is not solely a question of my detachment from the city of Dover. After a small bit of research, I found the International Speedway a mile removed from the school had sent a response to the events of Friday. Their Saturday NASCAR races would not be affected by the early morning shootings. By Sept. 24, a suspect had been apprehended and the entire story may well be closed and archived. Aside from chronicled court dates and cases, we in Minnesota will hear little more.

So if acts of violence lack inclusion in our everyday lives, why then, are we unfazed by such incidents? Rather, one should expect the opposite of impartiality. We do not worry that our government might enter a rampage creating civilian casualties. We are rarely encountered with starvation and epidemic. Our opportunity to live in a place free from physical war is more than a blessing. Most days, I am able to walk down the street without hearing vulgar comments from men. Compared to stories read of Kenya and personally witnessed in

Guatemala, we have little to fear. Most law-abiding citizens do not see real physical violence like these shootings at any point in their lives. Therefore, it seems these events should have a vividly significant effect. We should be able to consider how grave it is when another human decides to load a weapon against someone they do not know. We should not merely flip the channel to censor ourselves from news that is disturbing.

Instead, we must translate this into an applicable context and simply open our eyes to what is real. This means looking homeless individuals in the face as we pass by their signage and daily perches on Nicollet Mall. We are taught not to stare, but their dignity is removed when we look past them. It is also in speaking Spanish at the coffee shop in which I work, instead of making an individual stumble with broken English when they wish for whipped cream on their drink. It is

in a more human response than my own toward places like Delaware State University, toward a group of peers. When we open ourselves to this, we allow our nature to exist in the simplest manner as our thought has finally traveled outside ourselves. Though perhaps an uncomfortable place, it is in looking past the confinement of the every day that we begin to look into the faces of those who ordinarily pass us by.

Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]