Thursday, September 26, 2013

Last Week Taught Us That Some Americans' Lives Are Cheap

Remember last week?  In our 24-hour news cycle world events of great import are quickly forgotten.  Our nation keeps lurching forward, like a stumbling amnesiac easily distracted by bright, shiny baubles and incapable of recalling the recent past.  Horrors and tragedies occur, but are quickly assigned to oblivion with all deliberate speed.

In our quest to forget we enable the same horrific crimes to be repeated.  Last week brought three truly awful examples of how certain people's lives are cheap: the Navy Yard shooting, the police shooting of Jonathan Ferrell for the crime of being black, and the lonesome death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, adjunct professor.

In the aftermath of the Navy Yard shooting, where a mentally deranged man with an inexplicable access to firearms and security clearance killed twelve people, we did not even bother having a real conversation about gun control.  A pile of dead first graders in Newtown didn't do the trick, so nothing will.  We will continue stumbling along until the next mass killing, and afterwards the same usual suspects will spout their same usual platitudes, and nothing will get changed and more slaughters will follow.

In the case of Jonathan Ferrell, he was unarmed, yet shot dead by the police for the crime of seeking help after an accident while black.  Evidently running to get assistance was some kind of threat to the officer who pulled the trigger.  Funny, I don't seem to recall this ever happening to white people.

Last but not least, the plight of adjuncts briefly entered the national conversation after the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, a longtime Duquesne University adjunct who died penniless, buried in a cardboard box.  Heaven knows how many other people like her have or will soon suffer similar fates.  While plenty of people in the academic world have been using her case to argue against the current adjunct system, I fear that the wider world has already stopped caring.

All of these stories affected me, not least because I know in my heart that more adjuncts will die penniless, more unarmed black men will be killed by the police, and more mass shootings will happen.  What kind of society do we live in that human lives are so cheap, and that their loss barely even registers?

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