“This Isn’t Supposed To Happen Here…”…So Where Is It Supposed To Happen?

Those of you who read my last post know that I asked you to listen to how the mass killing in Connecticut was going to be portrayed and then to imagine how this same mass killing would be portrayed if it had happened on the South- or West- side of Chicago.

Then my favorite line that is always spoken in the light of these tragedies started being said. “This isn’t supposed to happen here.”

117 children have been killed in Chicago this year (so far–let’s not forget that there are two weeks left in the year) through gun violence. If 20 children aren’t supposed to die at a school in Connecticut, were those 117 children in Chicago supposed to die? Is violence only supposed to happen to “those people” and not “people like us”?

I am not saying that the deaths of these 28 people don’t merit attention. I am asking why the almost 500 people who have died in Chicago through violence don’t deserve the same  attention.

9 thoughts on ““This Isn’t Supposed To Happen Here…”…So Where Is It Supposed To Happen?

  1. In one sense you’re right. It shouldn’t happen here means in a nice, safe suburban area where we moved because of a low crime rate.

    In another sense, I think that when people say “It’s not supposed to happen here” they actually mean that they never imagined something like this happening in the real world they inhabit as opposed to on TV. It is like fiction imposing on real life. There was a shooting outside my niece and nephew’s elementary school earlier this year, and my family commented on the police tape outside the school “just like on TV.”

    I do think that “it” happening in this case, a mass event, is different than the slow unfolding tragedy of one person shot and another a few days after and that. They are both violent tragedies, but they are different types of events that need different approaches to try to curtail.

    “It isn’t supposed to happen here” to some extent means “I saw stuff like this on the news, but I never really understood it to be fully real.”

    • If this were the first time (or even second or third) that “this isn’t supposed to happen here…” was said, then I might be able to give it the benefit of the doubt. But this isn’t even the first (or second or third) time THIS YEAR that this has been said, so something other than not imagining something like this happening in the “real world” is going on.

  2. I agree with you, although I also think that “you never expect something like this to happen in your town” is a natural reaction, and that many of the people who say “it’s not supposed to happen here” are expressing something along those lines. “I didn’t think this kind of thing could happen to someone I know, in a place that I live, only on television.” So the fact that it is repeated frequently doesn’t negate that. No one thinks it will happen to them, if we did, we couldn’t go on with our lives.

    • I’ll have to heartily disagree with you on part of this. You say, “No one thinks it will happen to them, if we did, we couldn’t go on with our lives.” There are many places in this country where people KNOW it might very well happen to them–it happens multiple times a week in their neighborhood. Some of us have to have conversations with our children because of this very real possibility. Some of us have to worry about our family and friends (primarily male friends and relatives).

      To say that “No one thinks it will happen to them, if we did, we couldn’t go on with our lives,” displays a certain bias (to me at least). In a lot of ways, it sounds like the “who is deserving”/”who is undeserving” argument that comes up when talking about certain social issues.

      • I think everyone is entitled to believe that there won’t have a shooting at their elementary school. When it happened at my niece and nephew’s school my family was surprised and shocked. Perhaps that means we had an unfair sense of entitlement to feel our children were safe. Perhaps the idea that any of us is safe is foolishness and perhaps thinking that we can expect not to face this is some kind of racism. I would prefer to think that it is a problem we can solve so that people like the males you mention should feel as safe. Should feel as shocked at the idea of school yard shootings. All I am saying is that context matters. And that there are many aspects, not only one, to all of these statements and events. It should not happen anywhere. When people say “It shouldn’t happen here” I still think may be just privilage but “it” also does refer to the grand dramatic violent event which is why many shootings over a longer period do not make the same impact. Blame that on our indifference. Do not assume that I am indifferent to people who do not say “it can’t happen here” just because I try to understand those who do. It should not happen at all.

      • When I said we assume tragedies won’t happen and that’s how we get up I meant that even though we each understand we may die today we have to go forward as though we will have a tomorrow.

  3. Kim, thanks for articulating this — it’s a thought I’ve been having, but when I tried to write it down, I sounded angry. You got it just right.

    • oh Dan…don’t let these halfway calm words fool you…I’m angry…have been for a number of hours now. But I’m holding off on writing the anger because it will sound like I don’t have empathy for what went on in Newtown, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I did my internship not too far away (in Central Massachusetts), so I can imagine what’s going on all over New England.

      After I read the Chicago Sun Times in the morning, that might change.

      How did you handle the situation in church today with the RE kids?

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