Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a journalist and political analyst. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University, and is a co-host of ESPN’s SportsNation and ESPN LA 710’s Mornings with Keyshawn, Jorge and LZ. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @lzgranderson. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.
There will be a temptation not to watch the graphic videos from Sunday’s shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, that are playing across your TV screen and news feeds. The Madden NFL e-games tournament held at Jacksonville Landing was supposed to be filled with laughter and cheers, not screams. There will be a temptation not to listen to those screams.
The shots and then the human sounds of grave injury and misery — three people killed and nine people with wounds from gunshots – that are captured on audio recordings from an everyday competition held in a society in which no victim is too young, no place too sacred, no event too far from the death grip of gun violence.
Our reluctance to hear what happened is not an indication that we don’t want to know about the tragedy. We want to know, we just don’t want to feel. We prefer to tweet prayers and not hear the horror in real time, as fear washes over that riverside park.
No, some would rather blame the media for posting such graphic videos. They will call it tasteless. Classless. Unnecessary. Maybe if the video is deemed inappropriate, one can be absolved of the moral obligation to watch it, to listen.
We want, at all costs, to protect guns — our “rights” to them. We don’t want to be reminded of what they can do. Perhaps anticipating criticism, some news executives will recommend editing out bad language or limiting the sound of cries that come from a person when a bullet rips a hole through his flesh.
After all, we don’t want to turn viewers off. Much in the way that graphic images from our overseas wars have struggled to find airing on our televisions since we were last immersed in them, to our shocked horror, during the Vietnam War. We want to be spared. Report the body count is what we want now; don’t show it.
Yes, like so many shootings of this nature, we would rather not hear the terror. Because the less time we spend crying over more senseless violence, the more time we have for circular debates about gun laws, or pointing our finger at mental health, or demonizing video games/rap music/the NRA.
Oh, yes: We need to discuss the nuances of the issue of guns, but we efficiently compartmentalize the emotions connected to the discussion.
Even now as I type the words “gun law,” I instinctively know someone is saying “What about Chicago?” — a place of strict gun laws and rampant gun violence. This person is not really asking about Chicago’s well-being with respect to gun violence. Such a query would suggest that this person cared about the answer.
They are saying it because it’s a knee-jerk rebuttal to a challenge about guns. But it is void of concern – an invocation of a place struggling with violence for a raft of complex reasons. But such a response is used as way to fend off any real discussion of the problem of guns in our country. Do we want to find an answer?
Sadly this is America: comfortably numb.
If more of us were willing to listen to the people scream in Jacksonville as a beautiful Sunday afternoon turns into the worst day of their lives, maybe we would be reminded of the importance of empathy.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: The sounds on the videos are horrible. No one going to a park to play video games should have to endure such violence. Just as no one going to school should. Or church. A movie theater. A clinic. The mall.
It just keeps happening. Maybe the answer isn’t in sanitizing the suffering but in embracing it. Hearing it — all of us. And knowing what we have to do.