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More American Values

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More American Values

I had planned on using this morning’s post to conclude my silly holiday special. Since I took time last week to make a mixtape of rappers covering Christmas songs, I figured I’d spend this morning telling you all about this new, mythical black Christmas figure I had invented. Since Kwanzaa is insufficient and the idea of a cherubic white guy being pulled through the sky by reindeer giving gifts to a bunch of black kids seems hella played, I thought I’d come up with something more black and capitalistic for the holiday season. Something asinine and satirical. Think Tavis and Professor West having a black Christmas agenda. Or something.

But then, I returned from out of town and everything on my television is about the shooting in Connecticut. And the American people are sad and trying to figure out why this latest school shooting occurred–video games? movies? war. And some people are calling for gun control and others for more guns and big G god in school. And others are chastising the media for interviewing children and invoking ghosts of Columbine and Batman movies. And of course there is the requisite let’s figure out the psyche of this one young white male we refuse to call a terrorist. Because no one cares about the interiority of alleged terrorists. Instead, we ponder about his mental health options. Because surely he must be disturbed. And that makes some sense. After all if you’re a white male in this society feeling so angry about something that you’re going to go shoot up a school, then I guess you do need mental health care. Membership has its privileges, and if you don’t know how to access them, I suppose it is everyone else’s fault. (Stan, why are you so mad?)

Yet I’m also just irked by the response, by the fact that every news channel saw fit to schlep their way to Connecticut to help us, as a people, come to terms with this latest tragedy. I’m irked that the POTUS can issue support for Israel one week and provide a pep talk to the American people the next. I want to know if he sheds a tear when his drones miss and hit children that are just as innocent, except their geographies are less white and thus less safe. Then again, Trayvon and so many countless others remind us that there are no presumably safe geographies for black and brown bodies.

In some ways, I’m repeating myself. But I just want us to be aware of the value that something as small as the word “tragic” places on bodies even in death. I want us to remember that the way in which we frame these stories reiterates who we value and who we don’t. That the idea of the “lone gunman” buttressed by a picture of the perpetrator wide- and crazy-eyed disallows any attempt to interrogate the real sources of the violence. That our sustained focus on this sad event means that we have turned our heads, yet again, to a similar kind of violence happening every single day in other parts of the world. That what happened in Connecticut is for so many–both domestically and abroad–a day in the life, and those wielding such violence often do so in the name of the United States. So, yes, we should be sad, hurt, upset by what happened in Connecticut and support prudent efforts to end these acts. But perhaps part of the real lesson is to extend our collective empathy across borders and beyond whiteness so that such violence is not the reality to schools, towns, countries, and children whose names are unknown.