Yesterday, while sitting on the couch, my toes tucked under Roz, I heard a series of loud pops slice through the sleepy afternoon air. “Did you hear that?” I called to Sam in the office.
“Yeah,” he casually replied, “Sounds like the construction across the street.”
“I think it was gunshots,” I said. Growing up in the doughy, liberal Midwestern suburbs didn’t make me an expert on what gunshots sound like, but being the daughter of a jeweler did. My dad and his employees were always packing heat, practicing at the shooting range and (occasionally) in our small backyards. I know guns…not well, but we’re familiar with each other.
Minutes later I got the Citizen alert on my phone: “Man Shot.” Sam came out of the office staring at his phone, “You were right.” The sirens came next, followed by the hovering helicopters. The shooting happened in the same spot Sam and I discussed pie crust recipes while walking Roz a few hours earlier.
We watched the live streams from down the street, then switched over to KTLA to see the helicopter footage. Our neighborhood looking sprawling and unexceptional from above. We watched the stream where a white sheet went down and a tent went up. The guy was 25.
After Sam went back into the office, I watched more news footage, hoping to feel something; Horror. Fear. Anxiety. Anything. But I felt nothing.
What an odd society we’ve created, huh? Where a neighborhood kid gets shot in the head and instead of doing something about it, we watch from a small electronic box a few hundred feet away. What can I say? I’m so used to nightmares being projected into my eyeballs from my phone, that it’s my instinctual method of ingesting horrific information. What’s the point of going outside to see the devastation when I can freebase it from the comfort of home?
Later that night, Sam walked into a room I’ve labeled my “studio” only to catch me staring off into the distance. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“A man was murdered and I don’t feel anything,” I told him. “It’s like my anxiety is a finite resource and I’ve used it all up.”
“You know, my dissertation was about that,” he told me. I nodded as if I’d actually understood a word of his dissertation, a paper that I’d read four to five times before confirming my suspicions that I am a Grade A dummy.
Sam went on to explain that when your body is exposed to too much stress, your hormones stop working properly. In other words, your body stops responding to fight or flight triggers as you become acclimatized to trauma. Putting a scientific justification to my lack of emotional response made me feel a little better. Maybe I’m not a soulless monster wearing the human skin of a grumpy thirty year old girl*.
Even though I couldn’t muster up any appropriate emotions to the murder down the street, I was able to find some organizations that are fighting the good fight. Ones that focus on de-weaponizing our streets and battling the gun violence epidemic in this country. I donated what I could to two of them and while I still didn’t feel anything, I grew hopeful that one day I would.
Everytown For Gun Safety a coalition that lobbies for gun control legislation on a local and federal level. They also provide a support network for gun violence survivors. I first heard of Everytown after the Parkland shooting and have been impressed ever since. (I also follow Everytown on social media to keep up with ways I can help.) Donate here.
Violence Policy Center VPC has worked on campaigns taking a stand against concealed carry permitting and has challenged the NRA head-on. I donated because apparently the NRA is very scared of the VPC and likes to smear their hard work in the press. Donate here.
*But maybe I am? HISSSSSS.