Fort Hood shooting: where has my anger gone?
Amid news of missing airplanes, elections in Afghanistan, and the artwork of President Bush, one story missed me. I admit that I only heard of the massacre at Fort Hood from my Google News Alert for "Iraq": one of my continued efforts to learn more about this country as their first democratic election since the Americans' departure approaches. The headline read, "Fort Hood shooter was Iraq vet being treated for mental health issues". As a rule, I don't watch cable news. I don't get newspapers delivered to my home or inbox. My news sources are carefully chosen, followed, and read on Facebook and Google+. But this was the first I had heard of it in my curated world of current events.
Where was the story? And where was my outrage?
In the wake of tragedies like this one, our tendency is to look to the most recent similar occurrence. It's difficult to imagine something like the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre passing through the blogosphere untouched. The Facebook admonitions of "PRAY FOR THESE FAMILIES" and trite messages like "God has called these children home" became de rigueur -- expected from those of us who don't know how or what to feel, but feel an overwhelming sensation nonetheless. We began talking about guns again. We put the NRA on trial (or tried to). We were sad and outraged; we made speeches and wrote songs; we talked about it, and then we stopped.
When do we start again? Not, it seems, today.
On the day that the Fort Hood story showed up in my inbox, I couldn't even muster the interest to click and read. I couldn't muster any emotions -- not sadness, and certainly not surprise. What was surprising about it? That another person with another gun has killed even more people? That yet another veteran has not received the care and attention needed to acclimate himself to civilian life? That another tragedy was slotted into the news feed?
The facts didn't surprise me. They still don't. Neither do the calls to prayer nor the reliance on divine intervention to explain why some survived (not, of course, why some had to die). The constant blame of mental illness doesn't surprise me, nor does the fact that three men killed in a military post garners much less attention than 28 people killed in an elementary school. Has tragedy come down to algebra? Are we allocating grief in proportion to the number of bodies on the ground? (If so, there are many more tears to be shed.)
I suppose all this is to admit -- and I am ashamed to admit it -- that it is not even the tragedy that matters anymore, but simply the fact that the tragedy exists. I don't know if I have the capacity to learn another name, another location, another number of casualties. I don't have the mental energy anymore; it has been taken by too many of these stories.
I am aware that most of this text consists of questions. I think that's the only thing I can do anymore: keep asking questions. Keep wondering why, and wondering how, and wondering what I or any of us can do anymore. I only hope that one of these days, the questions won't die after the news does. That questions might lead to conversation, and that conversation might lead to action.