From the other side of the globe I watched the tragedy of the Denver shootings unfold on an Indian version of CNN. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to the families and friends of the innocent victims that have been impacted through this incident. However, As the media around the world begins to cover this atrocity, I believe this is a perfect moment to think about death– critically. Specifically the reality of how some tragedies are highlighted and others remain hidden.
Is one person’s death more or less important than another’s? Do our hearts only cry and go out to those people who die in privileged countries and communities? If people of color die will they be given just as much attention? More people have died in Mumbai Slums from poverty, capitalism, and greed just today than the people that were killed by the hands of an armed man in Denver, does this make one situation more or less worthy of the news? Innocent Black Youth are murdered in cold blood daily on the South and West sides of Chicago. Are these deaths important enough to have any national or international attention? OR– have we become desensitized to the deaths of people who are of color?
Oscar, a good friend of mine says, “it really upsets me that there’s so much public outcry over the Colorado shootings. Here’s why: Chicago, in just the past couple of months, have had multiple occassions in which a similar number of people were murdered and even dozens more injured.”
His words reign true.
So the question remains, who is of worth? There are so many lives taken too soon from this earth and yet even in death, the very politics of respect, power, and identity still pervade the lives those who were lost.
The society we live in has an infatuation with dramatics and fireworks. And if this is true we must go further than just criticizing the media. Each individual must look into the mirror and analyze what they care about, what makes them turn or stay at a particular channel, and what ignites the difference between participating in movement for justice and disregarding that movement all together.
This fireworks culture is only going to perpetuate systemic oppressions that become more subtle yet ever growing mechanisms for the death, misery, and poverty of millions of poor people across the world.
What is a fireworks culture? It is an obsession for quick, simple and easily understood discourses. This could be anything from over simplifying issues of race to only paying attention to news stories that seem to be just as twisted as the latest summer blockbuster. Fireworks culture, similar to fireworks themselves, gravitates to pretty lights, like flies being mesmerized into the hallucination of its own death, American culture would rather look at sparkles then deal with the realities, nuances, and difficulties faced in everyday interactions, politics, communities that often lead to the death of the poor.
Until we forfeit individualistic values, and adopt solidarity across poor people’s movements around the world, this fireworks culture is bound to explode in all of our faces.
Hopefully one day, the deaths of poor people in Chicago hoods, Mumbai slums, and other marginalized areas in the country, will be just as important as Friday night shooting sprees in movie theatres. I only ask that equality be given, even in death.