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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Please excuse my insensitivity today...

Yesterday I made a very bad joke about going on a shooting rampage. In light of the shootings at NIU, it was clearly not in good taste - and the reaction I got clearly validated that. I was thinking afterwards about why I made the joke - am I that insensitive? Am I inured to school shootings? Why did I say what I did?

I don't think I'm insensitive, but I may well be inured to school shootings - there have been so many, and they are horrific - and sometimes it's just too much. I may also have way too much empathy for a grad student who goes on a shooting rampage, given my own experience in grad school.

But, I was also thinking about what I was also mulling over that very morning before my uncalled for joke ...

On my way to work I was getting annoyed at the media coverage of the event. On the local news, they brought in an expert on child psychology who was asked to speak to how to help kids/young adults cope with learning about the school shootings. The idea was that there is some sort of collateral psychological damage to young people who may learn about these shootings, and the newscasters wanted to learn about how to prevent that, I guess.

And I was thinking yesterday morning that we never hear any concerns about collateral psychological damage when there is gang violence - why not ask experts how to help kids in areas where there is neighborhood or gang violence?

I'm going to confess that I don't live in NYC - I live in Chicago. I don't mind regular readers knowing that, but after today I will go back to pretending I live in NYC for greater anonymity and to avoid people searching for chicago and ending up here.

We have a lot of violence in this city - especially in poor neighborhoods, and especially in those that are both poor and are predominantly african-american or hispanic. The only time neighborhood violence gets any real attention is when it is in a rich or white neighborhood. Yet, we lose far more people to gang and neighborhood or interpersonal violence in this city each year than we do to school shootings.

Yet, I never see experts being asked, "How do we help kids who live in Englewood deal with the fact that they likely hear gunshots on a regular basis, likely know someone who has died due to violence, may have witnessed violence themselves, and may even have been victims?"

I can't even imagine that question being posed.

And this makes me think that for too many people, violence is simply a part of the landscape. Over the past year, I have been really pretty overwhelmed by the issue of violence against women in this state (much of which has made national news - like the Peterson case). How many women have gone missing in Illinois in the past 12 months? How many women have been killed by husbands, partners, boyfriends (like all these women who keep getting found dead in the forest preserves)? How many women have been targeted due to the fact that they are simply women (the women killed at the Lane Bryant)?

How many women? I seriously don't even want to try to count.

We have a huge problem in this state (country? world?) - and that is for many of us - perhaps particularly women and african americans, I think, we live with the threat of violence much of the time.* Since moving to chicago, I've personally had to deal with the threat of violence multiple times (I may experience it more than others since i don't drive). Some of this I've blogged about - but on at least a monthly basis, if I don't respond the way a male (stranger male) thinks I ought, I get at the very least called a bitch, and at the worst I get threatened with rape.** This kind of thing wears on a person. And I know that there are places in the city where the threat of violence is far more everpresent and immediate, and there are people who are targeted far more than I am.

And I have to ask - why does this kind of violence not get the attention (and intervention) it needs? Why do I never see anyone in the media making the connections between all of these cases of murdered and missing women in this state? Why is no one asking what is wrong with us that so many people have to live with/like this? Why does no one investigate the sexism and racism that undergirds so much of the violence we see?

Yes, college students deserve to be safe - but so do we all. School shootings are stunning and clearly the are tragic and the victims wholly innocent -- but why can't we muster that same sense of outrage and concern for victims of all kinds of violence?

* and this makes me annoyed that neither of our democratic presidential candidates really ever speak to this.

** the most recent time this occurred was when I was walking to the train after our work holiday party right before christmas. I was in bad shape as I'd just had a tumor removed and biopsied that day (benign), and I was in pain and exhausted. A man came up to me and was offended that I walked away from him and he graphically threatened to rape me in an extremely violent, and painful manner.



At 2:26 PM, Blogger k8 said...

Exactly. As much as this stuff angers me, I get really irate about the callous disregard for child abuse. No one seems to care until a child dies, and even then they forget about it after a day or less. gah.

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Anastasia said...

it's much the same where I live as far as inordinate coverage of crime in rich white areas and near silence about the violence that takes place in predominantly black neighborhoods.

and I too am processing my empathy for the shooter. I'm a little disturbed by it but I'm not denying it's there.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Clio Bluestocking said...

A perfect, impassioned statement. I hear you.

At 10:56 PM, Blogger Clio Bluestocking said...

P.S. I'm also really sad to hear about the tumor, and releived that it was benign. I hope you are feeling better.


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