Humanity, and the loss thereof

Sometimes I’m grateful I don’t watch television.

Life is usually better on the days I don’t listen to the radio, chat about the latest news, or accidentally overhear someone running their mouth about politics.

And when I say ‘sometimes,‘ I’m referring to always. I avoid the media like the plague. Because let’s face it; the 5 ‘o clock news doesn’t make anyone happy. No matter how many splashy stories about puppies and charities they run, CNN, Fox, and all the other outlets are little more than a mushy stew of sadness, conflict, and death. Every day. Every night. Always.

I don’t know why anyone watches it.

So…the Orlando shooting just happened, and it’s about as bad as it gets.

People keep asking me what I think about it. I guess I really don’t know. I’m speechless, sort of. For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve never really been tempted to talk about any specific world event. People get enough misery already, I figure. When something awful happens, like yet another mass shooting, what can little me add to the dialogue? Another opinion? Opinions are pretty much the weakest ventilation of human dialogue. And odds are, whatever crappy thing just happened probably took place because of…you know…opinions.


But tonight I have an observation:

When something bad like this happens, as in really bad, here’s how it goes: At some point early in the discussion, someone will ask, “Why? Why did this have to happen? What could we have done to stop it?”

And meanwhile, another question, infinitely more insidious, will creep up behind us and ask, “When will it happen again?”




No one has the answers. No. One. I certainly have none. I want to, but I don’t. A crap-ton of people on the internet (with the aforementioned opinions) will tell you they have the answers, but they don’t, either. Everyone starts screaming when dark stuff happens. They’ll talk about more guns, fewer guns, walls, immigrants, religion, hate, tolerance, and everything in-between. It’s the same conversation every time. We ask why, and even though deep down none of us know the answer, we talk like we do.

And it sucks.

Truth is: it’s a treacherous place outside our doors (and often inside them, too.) Having answers to the question of ‘why do assholes kill people’ won’t make our lives any safer. It won’t. I’m sorry. And that’s not to say we should all be afraid all the time or limit our excursions into the wide-wide world. But just that we should expect, at some point, for reality to burn us. Because apparently the world is full of crazy people. It feels like they’re everywhere. And maybe they are.

So with all that said, I guess I have one lonely little piece of advice to give everyone:

Stop trying to make sense of horrific things.

It’s an almost automatic response, right? Mass murder happens, people die, buildings explode, and we all want to know why. We ask the question a million times. Our Facebook feeds erupt with countless sentiments, most of them followed up by the admission that we don’t have any clue how something so terrible could happen.

Everyone wants answers.

Almost no one will ever find them.

And even if we did understand why someone did something horrible, so what?

Unless it stops the next horrible thing from happening, it doesn’t matter. Does it?

Now let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting inaction. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to get to the root of this deadly problem and wipe it out. Of course we should. And while maybe the cynic within me says we’ll never, ever stop the pattern of mass murders and dangerous ideologies, we still have to give it a go. Right?

It’s just that, having seen and heard about all these horrible things happening over and over again, I’m not sure asking why is the right question anymore. I’m not sure there’s a real, tangible reason why some people choose to do awful things. I’m not convinced a mass murderer’s thought process is something we’ll ever really be able to understand. We call these people crazy for a reason. The definition of crazy – mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way. You see what I’m saying? Killers, fanatics, and psychopaths can’t be reasoned with. They’re like little Terminators. Somehow, someway, they’ve been reprogrammed (or they reprogrammed themselves) to cause the rest of us pain and suffering…and enjoy it.

Why do they do it?

I don’t think we’ll ever know. And even if we did, I’m not sure we could use that information to stop them.

How do we stop this from ever happening again?

I don’t know that we can.  I’m eager to try. But for the moment, I have no answers. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to try something else other than asking questions. Trouble is, I don’t know what that something else is.

I guess what I’m saying is…

It’s hard sometimes being human.

Often, to find some small contentment in this world also means the acceptance of our own powerlessness.

Which sucks sometimes. A lot. Especially on days like this.


J Edward Neill

Author of the Coffee Table Philosophy series



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