As the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Two more mass shootings within days of each other present an opportunity to finally do something – anything, for crying out loud about the pathetic and useless gun laws that make the United States a laughingstock in the civilized world.
The anger we’re seeing right now, from politicians to sports celebrities and most of our fellow American citizens, is palpable. It’s not as if we haven’t seen this level of anger before. We certainly have. But this time feels different. I hope it’s different.
Time will tell, of course, because the attention span of folks in this country continues to get shorter and shorter. And that is why we must go where we have not gone before. It’s time for the American people to see the vile and horrific photos from mass shootings like the one experienced at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
It’s not a novel idea, as we’ve seen the topic discussed before in various media outlets. Up until now, we’ve seen resistance to such measures. I realize it’s a delicate balance for our media. We must always consider the sensitivity of the families involved.
But folks, what the hell are we doing? You and I know this will soon fade into history along with the last shooting and the one before that. We always move on with nothing to show for it. Perhaps the shock of the photos would spur such public outrage that even our spineless Republican politicians would finally get something done. Historically speaking, it’s not without precedence.
In 1955, Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi by a white store clerk’s husband and half-brother. They took it upon themselves to avenge Till’s supposed flirtation with the clerk when exiting the store. They ran into Till’s home, dragged him from his bed, and beat him to the point of disfigurement. They then shot him and tossed his body into the Tallahatchie River with a cotton-gin fan attached with a barbed-wire laced to his neck to weigh him down. Till was 14 years old.
An all-white, all-male jury eventually acquitted the two men. The disgusting crime became a rallying cry for African-Americans, who had experienced decades’ worth of violence at the hands of white supremacists in the Deep South. While the supremacists celebrated the acquittal, civil rights organizations, Till’s family, and national newspapers shed light on the injustice and became a catalyst for the growing civil rights movement.
And it was the bravery of Till’s mother, who insisted on an open casket at his funeral service, which proved to be a defining moment. Nearly 50,000 people attended the funeral, which was chronicled by Jet magazine. An earlier photo of Till with his mother alongside Jet’s photo of his mutilated corpse shocked and horrified the nation.
We can also point to the graphic photos and coverage by the media during the Vietnam War that most certainly played a significant role in the massive protests that became common in the 1960s and early 70s. I remember as a young child seeing our injured soldiers evacuated from the battlefield – many of them bleeding from their wounds. I’ve never forgotten them.
Of course, we’ve seen countless videos of black men being beaten or killed by police in recent years, something most of us had only heard about. But thanks to cell phones, the public has seen it for themselves. And now we’re having an honest discussion about police reform because of it.
Look, I realize the media is reluctant. There’s a risk that showing graphic photos might trigger even more evil from mentally deranged people. It’s hard to believe, but we can’t discount it. And there would always be those on the right who’d criticize the media for sensationalizing the photos.
But doesn’t the right engage in such behavior when they show photos of aborted fetuses while protesting outside clinics? Isn’t that meant to shock people to prevent women from terminating their pregnancy?
Unfortunately, the hypocrisy from today’s GOP never ceases to amaze, however. They will defend the unborn and call themselves the pro-life party. Pro-life, my ass. Their continued glorification of these weapons of war, weapons that obliterate the organs of human beings in a split second, make them accomplices to the carnage we see on our American streets every day.
It’s time to show the American people what these weapons do, especially when used against our youngest citizens. Of course, we have an idea because we can read detailed accounts. But we haven’t seen it, at least not on a national scale.
Frankly, nothing else has worked – not even the horror of the Sandy Hook massacre, which was over ten years ago. Twenty precious babies were brutally and tragically murdered on that day. Many of us thought it would be a turning point. It was not.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder saw the carnage of Sandy Hook. He saw it firsthand, one of the highest government officials to see the crime scene. He said it was the worst day of his time as Attorney General. People have asked him what his best day was, and he has a hard time coming up with an answer. Not so when the question was what his worst day was.
Holder is a proponent of Americans seeing the crime scene photos of these mass shootings. In his view, the American people would demand action if they did. And he also said the same of members of Congress. I want to think that Eric Holder is right.
The thing is, it’s a slippery slope for the media to get the coverage right when it comes to mass shootings. We mostly see images of law enforcement during an attack or in the immediate aftermath, images of injured victims at the scene, and family and friends in the community grieving.
But what we have not seen are the photos of the deceased individuals themselves or the actual scene of carnage that law enforcement witnesses. I can only imagine what it looks like, and realize the first reaction might be to turn away.
But damn it, the balancing act we demand from our media in how they cover mass shootings has reached a tipping point. It’s time to show the public what an AR15 can do to the human body. And yes, that means even showing what it does to a child. Perhaps an autopsy photo would be enough, and you’d have to get parental permission, of course. But we should be able to find some who’d be willing to do so.
If presented thoughtfully and carefully, these images could have an enormous impact on the public’s understanding of what it’s like to experience gun violence, especially those that occur at schools. Again, as in the Emmett Till situation, it may only take one powerful image to make a difference.
I, for one, need answers to this uniquely American tragedy that keeps occurring far too often in our society. We know what we’ve done in the past has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.
We can simply no longer engage in the type of sanitized coverage commonly seen in the aftermath of these tragic mass shootings. Let’s show the American people what it looks like to be slaughtered by an AR15.
And then let the GOP and NRA explain why such a weapon should be readily available for an 18-year-old troubled young man to purchase whenever he sees fit. As a matter of fact, why should any human being in a so-called civilized society be allowed to own one?