It’s another morning in America and, likely as not, you are waking up to the early morning news announcing a mass killing in a place previously thought to be safe: a church, a movie theater, a school, a military recruiting site, or a military base. If you are as old as I am, you may remember the Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Kileen, TX in 1991. Certainly you remember the spate of school shootings in the last two decade, most notably Columbine High School in Littleton, CO and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Do you also remember the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin? The Overland Park, KS shooting at a Jewish Community Center and home for the aged? Most recently, of course, was the murders of nine Bible study class attendees in an historically black church in South Carolina. The point I am making is that the murderers are not religiously exclusively. As Taylor Swift famously said, “Haters gonna hate” (and I never thought I’d be quoting a Taylor Swift lyric). Gabby Gifford, a member of Congress narrowly missed death and was permanently disabled in a Tucson Safeway parking lot while, several feet from her, a child who aspired to a political career was killed by the same gunman.
You and I may not agree on politics. We may not agree on gun policy. We may not agree on whether to watch (and believe) Fox News or MSNBC. There is, however, one thing I hope we can agree on.
I never again want to hear the names of the perpetrators of these murders.
You see, mass murder is a self-perpetuating crime. A shooting occurs and the person holding the gun is immediately elevated to infamy. His name – and it is universally a male perpetrator and almost always a Caucasian – is instantly on everyone’s lips, especially the Talking Heads who present us with our daily news. We quickly learn the person’s name, his political affiliations, the websites he has visited, and his mental health history. These descriptors are repeated over and over for days, weeks even, in our twenty four hour news cycle that thirsts for bloody stories to fill time slots. “If it bleeds, it leads.” In the case of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, it has taken three years for the crime to come to trial, a jury to be selected, the perpetrator’s mental health to be assessed, a verdict to be delivered and the penalty to be handed down. We are spared this long drawn out process (the words “speedy trial” are relative, I guess) only if the shooter takes his own life at the scene of the crime.
I am tired of glorifying murder. A few weeks ago, I learned of a website and Facebook page through the posting of one of the daughters of Dave Sanders, the heroic teacher who bled to death on the floor of a Columbine High School classroom, comforted by the terrified students he tried to protect. The site is called “No Notoriety.” This is a call to action to all of us to remember the victims of these shootings but never again to mention the shooters.
May they fall into the ground.
May they be erased from our memories.
May their very names turn to ash and scatter to the winds.
Praise the heroes, the men and women who physically protect their friends or total strangers with their own bodies at the cost of injury or loss of life. Praise the first responders who routinely risk their lives to protect the public. Remember the victims. We should never forget innocents who lose their lives because they have the audacity to believe that a theater, a religious hall, or a supermarket parking lot is a safe place to gather in 21st century America.
Just do not utter the names of the shooters because, while we can’t forget their crimes, we do not want to give other future aspirants a reason to think that their lives will be enriched, that their names will be glorified, that they will be remembered if they pull out a gun a fire and fire and fire and fire until they have snuffed out lives and created a veritable sea of blood and carnage.
Remember, no names. No identifying features. Turn your back and shun them because they have violated the very canons of our society that say people are entitled to gather, to worship, to speak without being gunned down.
No fame for criminals. No endless recitations of their lives. No notoriety for anyone who, with malice aforethought, destroys the lives of innocents and shreds the tapestry of civilized conduct to which we, as humans, are allegedly entitled to.