I’ve fallen asleep on a party boat, during a firework show, and in the middle of a Disney on Ice! performance, yet last Tuesday, I couldn’t manage to fall asleep while wrapped in my fluffy down blanket; I had a nightmare. It wasn’t the show-up-to-school-in-nothing-but-my-rainboots kind of nightmare—it was a distressed, life-or-death kind of nightmare. It felt so real.
The dream started out normal enough; I was eating tacos with my Latin America class on a cruise ship, reggae music was blasting from the ship’s speakers, and my teacher was showing some of the other students how to play the tambourine. This ridiculously blissful scene grossly juxtaposed what happened next. The reggae turned into gunshots and silence and the shipdeck transformed into a cramped closet. Asleep, I was a victim, but abruptly awoken, I was pissed. A ragged high school senior, I don’t get enough sleep as is, but to wake up at 3:00 a.m. after being shot was definitely not ideal.
I hadn’t thought too much about any hidden meanings from this nightmare. I had read too many news articles and sat through too many class discussions on gun violence in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks that this dream was bound to happen at some point. My 3:15 a.m. crisis was whether or not to let the outpour of sobering statistics and my imagined incident of gun violence affect me.
I’ve noticed that dozens of articles have come out since the California shooting, attempting to take a stance on whether or not the average American is likely to be killed in a mass shooting. Two of the most noteworthy were entitled “You’re not about to die in a mass shooting,” published by USA Today and another more implicit article, “Fear in the Air, Americans Look Over Their Shoulders,” published by The New York Times.
The former appeals to readers’ senses of reason, discrediting many of the outlandish hypotheticals that shooting statistics have helped to fabricate among the public. The latter appeals to readers’ senses of fear and emotion, showing a sample of testimonials gathered from a Times online forum for Americans to respond about their fear of a mass shooting. What the first achieves in breaking down American’s fears, the second makes up for by building them back up again.
It is not the media’s place to tell me whether or not I’m going to die. Anderson Cooper, despite his charming demeanor and wonderfully silver locks, is not God. A fatality caused by a mass shooting is about as probable as winning the lottery, both of which the media cannot predict.
Skewed statistics create a heightened sense of alarm which, other than providing stimulus for policy change, does not equate to protection from these types of arbitrary attacks.
Yes, people are scared, and understandably, but there is no reason to let it at all stifle our lives. News outlets depict the extraordinary, which these attacks are, but they are not mundane. Mass shootings are not a norm for the average American.
I’ll leave you with some refreshingly blunt words from a Gawker columnist: “You will not die in a tragic mass shooting. You will die of heart disease in your late 70s. Unless you keep worrying about being murdered all the time. Stress is a killer.”