It’s been longer than I’d like since my last post. Partly because I’ve been busy with the beginning of the lacrosse season, and partly because though I have some ideas, I haven’t felt particularly inspired to write about a specific subject. I just saw something that did inspire me though. It brought up some thoughts I’ve considered before, but only briefly and probably not as critically as I should have.
Everyone has heard about the tragedy in Orlando. 49 people were killed simply because of their sexual preference. Though I strongly believe in equal rights for all, that isn’t what this post is about. This is about how we treat the people who carry out these acts.
What I watched was Anderson Cooper’s live report from Orlando done Monday night. It stood out to me and many other people because it was a different report. Any time something like this happens “tragedy” and words synonymous with it are thrown around. The numbers of people hurt and killed are stated, but the focus is always on the perpetrator. They become famous over night and every person across the country recognizes their name and face in an instant. Anderson approached this differently though. Refusing to use the killer’s name or picture at all, he not only took the time to read off the name of every victim, but displayed pictures of those he could and even found out a bit about them. They went from being a statistic to being people.
This is how any killing should be handled. No one should receive notoriety for harming others. But those good people, who were loved and never get any recognition for it deserve more than to fade into another number. Most of what we see on TV is understandably simply about making money. But the news, while yes it needs to make money to continue, should be about the people affected by it. It should bring us together as a global community, to reach out and share both the joy and grief felt by others. But instead it simply panders to the lowest denominator and feeds us fear and hatred. Someone to blame instead of someone to care for.
It’s now closed, but there used to be a wax museum in Niagara Falls called the Criminal Hall of Fame. That always bugged me. A hall of fame is something people strive for. It’s an honor to get into it and something to be proud of. To idolize killers, rapists and more like that always seemed to me to it’s self be criminal. Why do we live in a society that puts more importance on acts of violence than furthering knowledge and compassion for each other? Why do we let these people become martyrs? In an episode of Cosmos, Neil DeGrasse Tyson stated exactly this in what I found to be a very powerful quote.
“Does the fact that most of us know the names of mass murderers, but have never head of Jan Oort say anything about us?”
Do you know who Jan Oort is? A lot of us know the names of a few notable scientists. Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, Stephen Hawking…but most people couldn’t name many past that, and when they can it’s often because of something named after them (The Hubble Telescope) or a single contribution they made, while having others ignored (Hale’s Comet). I’m not going to pretend I can name every scientist in history, but I can tell you that I’ve learned about many more who did groundbreaking work on my own, outside of science or history class. Why did I never learn about Michael Faraday, Edwin Hubble or Jan Oort in school, but year after year I was reminded of the names of those who carried out the Montreal Massacre, the Columbine shootings or the Holocaust?
We need to stop putting criminals in the lime light. If someone carries out a mass murder or tries to spread hatred, let history forget who they are. Stop plastering their name and face across our screens and replace it with positive messages. Tell us about the victims, teach us about people who have done good and inspire us all to strive for a better world through knowledge, acceptance and hope.