Too many calamities to keep up with: Nice, France and other sorrows
This Wikipedia photo shows the celebrated Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France on a good day. Today is not that day.
Today, we mourn more dead and injured. Today, amid reports that police allowed the driver of the truck to park on “The Prom” for nine hours before the attack because he said he was delivering ice cream, we talk about how and why it happened.
When new details are not available, news sites play and replay the video footage of the crime scene while experts and others endlessly debate the issues surrounding these attacks: national policy, ISIS, terrorism, religion, race, and future security measures. Most of this coverage brings little comfort or wisdom. It doesn’t bring back the dead or ensure there won’t be more dead somewhere else tomorrow or next week with more headlines like this:
Today we hear the reactions of national leaders and other famous people. Such words are expected and perhaps in some cases they show the true feelings of the individuals rather than a speech writer’s well-crafted sound bite. We hear these words with the same more-of-the-same reactions we’re starting to have as we view the daily carnage and the daily onslaught of politicized opinions.
Last year, I maintained a WordPress blog called “Calamities of the Heart” because I felt a need to say something about the insane events that flow like rivers of fire through the news. I couldn’t keep up. Like many others, I had no words because all the words of shock about angry people killing co-workers, school shootings, racially motivated violence, and terrorism attacks had already been used up. One might say that 9/11 used up every word we had. If I were a national leader forced by duty and/or compassion to comment on the carnage created by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, I’m afraid I would remain mute because the used-up words from previous atrocities have become so cliche that they almost discount the horror and grief of the dead and injured on the scene.
I’m not the first one to ask if the news is desensitizing us to the news. If so, then that may be the greatest calamity. Our struggle here is perhaps not in finding new words or perfect answers, but in realizing that we’re all part of these events whether we live close up to them or far away. The human condition today is often an ugly mess that requires compassionate empathy from all of us even though we don’t really know what to say. We need to stop playing Pokemon Go and look at it, feel it, hear it and take it in before our remaining humanity deserts us. We owe that do both the dead and ourselves.