2020-02-14 21:47:22 UTC
I have to say, I've NEVER understood why victims or bystanders are so often described as having been "in the wrong place at the wrong time." What sense does that make?
By Gregory Gibson
Two years ago Friday, 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., by a man who should not have had a gun. When a friend reminded me of this “anniversary” a couple of weeks ago, I asked him if he believed that was an appropriate word for the occasion. “I hadn’t thought about it,” he said.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that our gun violence problem is also a language problem — euphemisms, distortions, misdirections. But it turns out the Parkland students are addressing this problem in their own unique way.
My anniversary is July 7, the day my wife, Anne Marie, and I were married. It was one of the happiest days of my life. She was pregnant with Galen, who was born on Sept. 27, 1974, another happiest day. Eighteen years later, on Dec. 14, 1992, Galen was killed in a school shooting. It always felt obscene to associate that event with an “anniversary.”
It gets worse. Our son wasn’t “taken,” as common parlance has it. He was shot and killed by a man who should not have had a gun. People sometimes tell me how tragic it was that Galen happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is intended as consolation, but it’s no help to me. It was Galen’s killer who was in the wrong place — in every sense.
But is that even what people mean? Doesn’t “wrong” imply some kind of fault? Galen’s entire life brought him to that last fatal place at the last fatal moment. Are people implying that he’d lived it in error?
Galen had never been in “the wrong place.” He was murdered, not “lost,” another way of misstating this hideous circumstance. And who, as well-meaning people sometimes do, would issue a “trigger warning” to survivors of gun violence? Or advise me to give “my best shot” at telling Galen’s story? Or even ask me if I’d be willing to “share” it? I’m always happy to help, but that kindly locution gives me pause. If someone put a bowl of vomit in front of you, would that be considered “sharing?”
And what about the scripted manner in which the news media portrays mass shootings? The 911 call transcript, Humvees disgorging SWAT teams, witnesses hugging and weeping, ambulances rolling away, candles lit at “memorials.” We never see a body. We never see what a .223 round of ammunition can actually do to a human. It has all been sanitized. When I hear a congressman call for a “moment of silence,” I hear him saying, “I don’t want to talk about this.”
We respond to gun violence in such a manner because the thing of which we speak is so hideous that we need to normalize it. Our word choices conceal the true nature of gun violence in an effort to make it go away. And that’s precisely the problem...