What ever happened to humankind?
As I’m driving to work this morning, I hear NPR’s Rachel Martin delivering the day’s news — there’s a story on the Midterm election results then something about scientists in Angola who uncovered ancient sea monsters. Oh, and then there’s our weekly mass shooting.
Last night, it was 12 people at a country music bar in Ventura County, California.
Two weeks ago, it was 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
The segment continues as normal, the radio hosts not even stopping to acknowledge the tragedy.
A car behind me honks. I hadn’t realized the stoplight had turned green — I was stuck in a moment of anger, sadness and confusion. How do we continue to let this happen? How many people are going to die because of a man with a gun?
Last April, CNN published an article titled, ”19 years ago, Columbine shook America to its core. Now, it’s not even among the 10 deadliest shootings in modern US history.” Let that sink in. In 1999 the idea of a mass shooting, let alone a mass shooting in a school, was shocking, disturbing and it made people pause to process the news.
In the last decade, the rate at which public mass shootings occur has nearly tripled. We are so used to hearing about mass shootings that we don’t even react anymore. You see the news alert on your phone, maybe sigh and roll your eyes, then go on with your day.
We are desensitized to mass shootings.
Recently I was listening to an episode of my favorite podcast, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. Brené Brown was the guest and at one point in the episode they discuss her research on dehumanization for her book “Braving the Wilderness.”
Brown explains how dehumanization makes it easier for a person, or a group of people, to hate another group. Ultimately, it’s also what fuels acts of violence. By stripping away a person’s humanity, it becomes easier to ignore their human rights.
Psychologist Albert Bandura describes dehumanization as a form of moral disengagement.
Right now, I feel as though we are living in a country that celebrates moral disengagement. Our current president has thrived off of the dehumanization narrative, and his supporters rally around the “us versus them” mentality.
I’m scared we’re becoming desensitized to that too.
On some level, I get it — it’s easier to hate the other side when we don’t see them as real people.
It’s easier to not pay attention to bad news — because the bad news is constant. We cope with mass shootings by ignoring them, not letting ourselves feel the pain because if we did, every day would be unbearable.
But if we adopt the de- approach, what will change? Will we ever see gun reform? Will we recognize the human rights of every person, regardless of identity?
When we concede to desensitization or dehumanization, we lose what drives progress forward — we lose our basic sense of humanity.