When I was 12, I watched as ABC News covered Sandy Hook, questions forming in my bewildered mind. Why did this happen? Will this happen again? What are we going to do to stop this?
When I was 15, I pored over a New York Times article detailing how Omar Saddiqui Mateen opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49. By then, I recognized that mass shootings were not rare phenomena; they were a standardized part of life in the twenty-first century.
On Saturday, at age 18, a push notification drew my attention away from the football game in front of me. Once again, another city name was added to the list. Beginning with a cacophony of buzzing news notifications and ending with 29 charges being filed, the “darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history” was simply another iteration of our horrific routine.
We exist in an endless cycle of death. Violence is no longer call-to-action or a short collection of abominable acts; it is a pattern we as Americans are altogether too familiar with.
After Parkland earlier this year, the words “never again” graced our headlines and captured the attention of a nation. But the problem was that it did so for only a few weeks — two months at most — and we shifted back to the Winter Olympics, Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians and the return of Mitt Romney to the political arena, among other things.
Granted, some continued to demand action, but the March for Our Lives and the National School Walkout were follow-ups more than catalysts for change. Local ordinances were selectively adopted and few states enacted meaningful legislation. The federal government remained largely silent.
Accordingly, the cycle continued to turn. In total, there have been 296 mass shootings in the United States so far this year. After Parkland, 267 more occured. How many can you name? How many notifications did you glance over when walking to class, promptly forgetting?
We live in a time when information is at our fingertips. We can Google our way to a working knowledge of astrophysics. We can communicate with people oceans away. We can watch cat video after cat video. Yet, at the same time, we constantly find ourselves bombarded with an endless stream of headlines.
Attack on a music festival in Vegas. Mass shooting in Florida. Two dead in Chicago. This is the peril of living in an age where every instance of violence is not just available; it is right in front of us every waking moment of every day.
It hasn’t been a rough year, it has been a rough decade.
We keep saying that this time is the time we will actually do something — this is the straw that will break the camel’s back, but at this point, the camel in question is already buried in straws.
Change occurs when people care enough to actually do something about the problem. However, the problem we face today is that although we feel sorrow towards the most recent occurence of violence, we shift from issue to issue far too easily, desensitizing ourselves in the process.
This constant ricochet of attention diminishes our care to the point where it no longer retains its value. In the wake of Pittsburgh, how many are thinking of Las Vegas from last year or Santa Fe from this past May? When shootings are devalued, the opportunity to make change is lost.
We need a paradigm shift. Conquering the hurdles preventing the United States from developing concrete effective gun control necessitates us to recognize that our pile of back-breaking straws is not normal. Mass shootings should not, and cannot, simply be part of our everyday lives.
In order for change to be initiated, headlines should not read “Eleven lives claimed by Pittsburgh shooting,” they should boldly state “294th shooting of the year.” Instead of shifting from topic to topic, we need to conquer the overarching American theme of mass shootings and make it stand out in the 24-hour news cycle.
By adding all our straws together, we conceptualize a problem that cannot be ignored.
Catherine Buchaniec is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at email@example.com. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.