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Forgetting the unforgettable: The lifespan of the world’s tragedies shortened among teens

Posted By Hattie Gawande On March 23, 2011 @ 1:49 am In Editorials and Opinions | Comments Disabled

We live in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to care about death. Our brains have become so saturated with news of bloody crackdowns in Libya, bombings in Afghanistan, and nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, that we are no longer moved by extreme violence or widespread death.
On the contrary, we tend to treat death like a trivial, everyday occurrence.
This is not to say that death isn’t something that happens every day, because it does. But it is always essentially to remember that loss of life is terrible, common or not, and becoming desensitized to it is a serious problem.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what has been happening.
Throughout Newton South, discussion about the tragedies that happen each day is nearly impossible to find. Most would rather complain about teachers or talk about classes. The result? An almost callous lack of concern for the horrifying.
It’s not as though we couldn’t see this coming. Newton South has a long track record of forgetting—even ignoring—terrible events seemingly as they happen.
Exhibit A: The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. A little over two months ago Representative Giffords was, in broad daylight, shot in the head at point-blank range by apparently anti-authoritarian madman Jared Lee Loughner. A nine-year-old girl and a federal judge were also murdered in the killing spree.
The following Monday Newton South had a moment of silence at precisely 10:45 AM.
It was a nice idea, and intended to be moving. Why wasn’t it? Because of what happened after the moment of silence.
Or rather, what didn’t happen after the moment.
There was no further discussion of the incident in the class I was in after the moment of silence. Speaking with friends later I learned their teachers had also returned to their lessons without a word about the killings. For the rest of the day I listened to see what students’ opinions were on the matter, but no one seemed to think it was worth discussion.
No one found the shooting spree disturbing, or shocking, or even sad.
No one found it curious that the shooting was of a House Democrat whom Sarah Palin had put on a “target list” of twenty politicians she wanted ousted in the midterm elections (reportedly tweeting the phrase, “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”). No one found it appalling Sarah Palin’s aide blamed Democrats because the gunman, Loughner, professed to be liberal.
No one deigned to offer so much as a “that sucks”.
Exhibit B: The 2010 Haiti earthquake. The disaster that killed somewhere between 100,000 to 300,000, leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince, and left 300 million in need of emergency aid happened just over a year ago, which most would argue is a sufficient amount of time before we can forget about the disaster without feeling bad about it.
However, according to an Oxfam report, only 5% of the rubble from destroyed buildings has been cleared away at this point. No major reconstruction has been started. According to UNICEF, one million are still displaced, and according to Amnesty International, the displacement camps are crowded, dangerous breeding grounds for disease—rapes are common and deaths frequent.
The U.S. government, as well as other donor countries, preoccupied with other concerns, are indecisive over how much aid should be given. As a result, the flow of aid to Haiti is a mere trickle in a situation that requires an ocean.
Initially so ardently moved in participation or aid, the population’s interest has fallen off. Clearly, in this case, our society’s lack of sympathy has had a deadly effect.
Exhibit C: Japan. The Sendai earthquake hit Japan less than a week ago. It hasn’t been quite enough time for us to forget, but, alarmingly, indifference has already started.
In my physics and math classes we discussed the earthquake at length.
That is, we discussed the science and mathematics of it—the ten thousand left dead and 450,000-plus displaced were, somehow, forgotten. Some talk about the disaster in the halls, but they are very few in number. Japan, it seems, is going to be the next Haiti.
The difference? It has been several days, not four hundred. It’s too soon, even for we the embarrassingly short attention spans of we teenagers.
I leave you with this: In a world in which death is rampant, we can only save ourselves if we care. Don’t succumb to the apathy of everyone else—save the sensitive.

We live in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to care about death. Our brains have become so saturated with news of bloody crackdowns in Libya, bombings in Afghanistan, and nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, that we are no longer moved by extreme violence or widespread death. On the contrary, we tend to treat death like a trivial, everyday occurrence.This is not to say that death isn’t something that happens every day, because it does. But it is always essentially to remember that loss of life is terrible, common or not, and becoming desensitized to it is a serious problem.Unfortunately, that is exactly what has been happening. Throughout Newton South, discussion about the tragedies that happen each day is nearly impossible to find. Most would rather complain about teachers or talk about classes. The result? An almost callous lack of concern for the horrifying.It’s not as though we couldn’t see this coming. Newton South has a long track record of forgetting—even ignoring—terrible events seemingly as they happen.Exhibit A: The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. A little over two months ago Representative Giffords was, in broad daylight, shot in the head at point-blank range by apparently anti-authoritarian madman Jared Lee Loughner. A nine-year-old girl and a federal judge were also murdered in the killing spree. The following Monday Newton South had a moment of silence at precisely 10:45 AM.It was a nice idea, and intended to be moving. Why wasn’t it? Because of what happened after the moment of silence.Or rather, what didn’t happen after the moment.There was no further discussion of the incident in the class I was in after the moment of silence. Speaking with friends later I learned their teachers had also returned to their lessons without a word about the killings. For the rest of the day I listened to see what students’ opinions were on the matter, but no one seemed to think it was worth discussion. No one found the shooting spree disturbing, or shocking, or even sad. No one found it curious that the shooting was of a House Democrat whom Sarah Palin had put on a “target list” of twenty politicians she wanted ousted in the midterm elections (reportedly tweeting the phrase, “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”). No one found it appalling Sarah Palin’s aide blamed Democrats because the gunman, Loughner, professed to be liberal. No one deigned to offer so much as a “that sucks”. Exhibit B: The 2010 Haiti earthquake. The disaster that killed somewhere between 100,000 to 300,000, leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince, and left 300 million in need of emergency aid happened just over a year ago, which most would argue is a sufficient amount of time before we can forget about the disaster without feeling bad about it.However, according to an Oxfam report, only 5% of the rubble from destroyed buildings has been cleared away at this point. No major reconstruction has been started. According to UNICEF, one million are still displaced, and according to Amnesty International, the displacement camps are crowded, dangerous breeding grounds for disease—rapes are common and deaths frequent. The U.S. government, as well as other donor countries, preoccupied with other concerns, are indecisive over how much aid should be given. As a result, the flow of aid to Haiti is a mere trickle in a situation that requires an ocean. Initially so ardently moved in participation or aid, the population’s interest has fallen off. Clearly, in this case, our society’s lack of sympathy has had a deadly effect.Exhibit C: Japan. The Sendai earthquake hit Japan less than a week ago. It hasn’t been quite enough time for us to forget, but, alarmingly, indifference has already started. In my physics and math classes we discussed the earthquake at length. That is, we discussed the science and mathematics of it—the ten thousand left dead and 450,000-plus displaced were, somehow, forgotten. Some talk about the disaster in the halls, but they are very few in number. Japan, it seems, is going to be the next Haiti.The difference? It has been several days, not four hundred. It’s too soon, even for we the embarrassingly short attention spans of we teenagers.I leave you with this: In a world in which death is rampant, we can only save ourselves if we care. Don’t succumb to the apathy of everyone else—save the sensitive.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/forgetting-the-unforgettable-the-lifespan-of-the-world%e2%80%99s-tragedies-shortened-among-teens/

URLs in this post:

[1] Haiti survivor Imen Khozouee joins South community: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/haiti-survivor-imen-khozouee-joins-south-community/

[2] Community Initiates Response for Haiti: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/01/28/community-initiates-response-for-haiti/

[3] Responding to Haiti: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/responding-to-haiti/

[4] What to do when your country tears apart: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/03/24/what-to-do-when-your-country-tears-apart/

[5] South athletes raise money for quake victims: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/south-athletes-raise-money-for-quake-victims/

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