I woke at 6 am on Friday. I had only been up about 5 minutes or so, just enough time to put on a pot of coffee and log on to the computer, when I read about the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. Every news outlet was reporting about the shooting; there were 14 confirmed dead, 10 at the scene, and another 4 who had died in hospital. I read some of the coverage. I drove my wife to work for her 7 am shift.
When I arrived home, I turned on Canada AM. It wasn’t quite the same as it usually is. All the other segments were given short shrift; the only subject that seemed of any interest was the shooting. I heard the same speculation and the same eyewitness accounts, and saw the same jumpy, blurry, smartphone video over and over and over again for about 20 minutes. There was nothing new to report, but, rather than talk about anything else, the just repeated themselves. Just like all the other times that this has happened. I turned off the TV and took a nap.
I found things to keep me busy. I did dishes, read a book, puttered around, anything to keep me away from the computer and the TV. I went to pick my wife up for lunch at around 11:30.
We watched TV at lunch. The “numbers” had been revised to 12 dead and 59 injured. So much for the 14 dead confirmed earlier; so much for accuracy. Meanwhile, ABC news was apologizing for an earlier report stating that the shooter was a member of the Colorado Tea Party, as if that mattered at all. What does truth mean, when you have to beat the competition? Just get it out quickly, don’t worry whether it’s right. If it’s wrong, if it hurts someone, just forget it and move on. Just like every other time.
The rest of the next two days played out pretty much as expected, because we’ve all been here before, haven’t we?
Opportunism, as always, is the name of the game when it comes to business of news these days. Networks, politicians, pundits, everyone is clamouring for attention, to score political points, generate hits to their websites, or just keep you from changing the channel by putting their own spin on things.
Some of the responses to the tragedy were thoughtful. Roger Ebert wrote a post for his blog, as well as an editorial for the New York Times. On his blog, he linked to a document, from a website named for James Brady (“Does anyone in the US remember James Brady?” I wondered), listing the mass shootings in the US since 2005. The list is 62 pages long. I couldn’t help wondering how this list could get so long. Then I saw where one columnist had written that the Aurora shooting was “inevitable,” as if he was some sort of Nostradamus predicting some unprecedented event instead of just waiting for the next one to come along.
Of course, the politicians came out in full force, uttering nonsense, empty platitudes, or just grandstanding. A congressman wondered why no one in the theatre shot back (Colorado is a carry-conceal state), and characterized the shooting as an “attack(s) on Judeo-Christian beliefs.” Mitt Romney said that it was, “time for each of us to look into our hearts,” or in other words, do nothing. President Obama said even less, calling it, “a day for prayer and reflection,” instead of a day for reasoned thought and action. New York’s chief fascist and soda-pop-hater Michael Bloomberg got off his high-horse just long enough to climb upon an even higher pedestal to chide both presidential candidates for not taking action, while knowing full well that for either to do so would incur the wrath of the National Rifle Association and about half of the American populace mere months before the election. And speaking of the good old NRA, as far as it was concerned, things were just fine.
The Canadian networks were looking for their piece of the action as well. Practically every time I turned on CBC or CTV, they were trying to compare the Aurora shootings with what had been happening in Toronto. I couldn’t make up my mind whether they were being wilfully ignorant, or if they really could not grasp the difference, that what has been happening in Toronto (and Halifax, and a lot of other places in Canada) is as a result of criminals using illegally obtained firearms, whereas in the good old US of A, when these types of incidents happen, time and time again it is with guns which were bought legally.
When something like this happens, I am saddened by the loss of life, but that sadness quickly gets overcome by anger. It angers me that the United States refuses to learn from the mistakes of the past, despite the fact that these shootings keep happening at an alarming rate. It angers me that genuine human suffering can be cheapened by so much opportunism, that a death can be reduced to a sound bite, or a “human interest story.” It angers me that all those people who died in all of those other shootings seemingly died for nothing, that their families suffer their losses for nothing, and that the families of the many shooters had their lives shattered for nothing. And I fear that the death and suffering from yet another tragedy, this time in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012, will mean nothing.
Is it too much to hope that this time, things will be different?