I understand why the videos of the Virginia shooting were taken down yesterday. Nobody wants to go along with a deranged man’s desire for infamy. Nobody wants to make the grief of the family members and friends of the victims worse. And the videos themselves - they’re appalling, grotesque, horrifying - and that’s precisely why we should watch them. I agree with this:
I sympathize with the view that says that to watch the shooter’s footage is to abet his fantasies of infamy. And I absolutely sympathize with the loved ones and colleagues of Parker and Ward and local chamber of commerce boss Vicki Gardner, whom the journalists were there to interview for a feel-good story on the 50th anniversary of a popular reservoir ringed by the Blue Ridge Mountains. They should not have this footage replaying in their minds, clawing itself a place amid happy memories. But for the rest of us, a case can be made for sitting through the videos — and, yes, especially the second, even more awful one. Gun-lovers, gun-haters, those of us in between — maybe we should not be so quick to look away from this rare time when the gun violence that we all condemn can be so directly observed. Maybe we even had an obligation to watch, just once, and then do our own mental recording.
Gun violence is rarely something seen so directly. We talk about it in abstract terms, neutering it and sanitizing it. That in and of itself is a political act, one that reduces the horror and the outrage and the passion to do something about it.
I’ve seen things in my life I wish I hadn’t. Horrible, terrible, awful things I couldn’t do anything about. I don’t like to think about them. But if I push them away too far, it’s as if they didn’t happen - and that’s more unsatisfying and unacceptable than facing the reality of what did happen, remembering it and honoring it and never forgetting it, excruciatingly painful as it may be.
I think it’s about time we start doing that as a society when it comes to a whole lot of things, from gun violence to sexual assault to racial violence by police. Stop looking away. Stare the horror and the awfulness in the face and see it for what it really is. Maybe then we can start to make progress in doing something about these terrible things.