A friend just sent me a link to an article about a man who had been stabbed to death in a park in Florida. I was horrified. For 27 years I owned a house not more than 50 yards from the scene of the crime. If I had still been living there, I could very well have been sitting on my front porch as the murder was taking place, and I’d have had an unobstructed view. That’s a little too close for comfort.
We live in a violent world. All violence is horrifying, but I think most of us have a filter these days. If we reacted in equal measure to all violent acts, we’d be unable to cope. Therefore, we tend to feel much more strongly about brutality when it’s more personal.
Location plays a big part in our filter. If it’s close to home, or to a place we used to frequent, that’s particularly sobering. It’s perfectly natural to think, “That could have been me.”
Familiarity is also a factor. If the victim was someone we know or love, or even feel like we know by dint of them being a public figure, then of course the situation will have extra shock value. There’s a reason why homeless people die every day and it never makes the papers. We don’t know them, so we don’t “have to” care.
And then there’s the relatability issue. We like our wars to be very far away, on foreign soil, where the people don’t look, talk, or act like us. It’s much easier to not have to think of it that way. On some level, it’s so different from our day to day lives that it can almost be considered science fiction. Terrorist attacks on our own soil, on the other hand, are enough to have us all gibbering over our morning coffee.
There really needs to be some sort of happy medium. It’s too much to take on board every violent act that we hear about. But on the other hand, it’s important to realize that every savage act is one savage act too many.
Still, the fact that I have spent countless hours on the park bench where that man bled out, and the very block where I once lived was blocked off by crime scene tape, has me rattled.