Last week, a madman walked into an elementary school and changed everything — or maybe he changed nothing. I don’t know. This has happened before, right?
Columbine. Batman at midnight. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords.
These are crimes so ingrained in our consciousness that you know what I’m talking about after one or two words. Maybe you can’t recall the number of victims in each massacre anymore, but you remember the setting. A school. A movie theater. Outside a grocery store. And you remember the mugshots of the killers; young white guys with evil grins.
But here’s something I don’t remember: What did we change to make sure we didn’t end up with another dozen people dead a few months later?
As each news story broke, like most people, I was glued to the television. I waited for some reporter to discover the evidence that explained why this was happening, and then why it was happening again, and again. It never comes. We know that it never comes. Something breaks in these killers that makes them something other. Something that cannot be understood. After a half-dozen or so of these massacres, we realize that.
And maybe that’s why this time, coupled with the fact that it’s more difficult to watch the coverage due to the youth of the victims, that more people than ever are ready to act.
For example, the #OSCeasefire movement on social networks was born out of the desire for gamers to show that they care. Gamers want to act (or not act as they normally would) to show that they are sensitive. For those who don’t know, website Gamer Fit Nation proposed that gamers refuse to turn on their violent online shooters on today, Friday, December 21 — the one-week anniversary of the Newtown killings — in an act of consolidation with the families that this crime affected.
While I feel that their heart is in the right place, I have to ask a tough question: What does this do for the affected families?
I propose that if you are filled with the urge to help make a change in the world around you, don’t make that action something as pointless as not playing a video game. Not playing a violent online shooter helps no one. It’s an empty gesture that may make you feel better, but it fixes nothing. It may make you feel like you did something, but you haven’t changed a thing.
I’m over empty gestures.
Instead, if you’re overcome with a desire to stand with the affected families, make sure their children didn’t die in vain. Get involved by calling your congressional representative and ask them what they’re doing to shore up mental health in their district. Ask them what they’re doing to make sure civilians don’t get their hands on military-grade weapons. Donate your time and your money to mental-health organizations. Live in a city? Ask your mayor to hold a gun buy-back program to help get weapons off the streets.
Refusing to play Call of Duty fixes nothing, and I would hate it if you felt like you were making a difference by partaking in OSCeaseFire. Because you’re not.
The good news is it’s never too late to actually start making a difference. You can. I bet you can think of a ton of things that actually will make a difference, but just think about your actions critically. And don’t pat yourself on the back for empty gestures.