In Arizona on 8th January 2011 Jared Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords at close range in the head whilst meeting constituents. He then turned on the crowd and killed six people.
We have all read the news articles and been saddened by the personal stories of the people who suffered: 9 year old Christina Green, who had been born on the day of the 9/11 attacks and wanted a career in politics; Judge John Roll who is survived by his wife Maureen and their 3 sons; Congresswoman Giffords’ aide Gabriel Zimmerman, an ‘ideal fit for his job as director of community outreach’; Dorwin Stoddard who had been a construction worker and who used his skills to help his church, described as the ‘lifeblood’ of their congregation and who died protecting his wife Mary like a human shield; Dorothy Morris, a mother, homemaker and secretary; and Phyllis Schneck, ‘an ace with fabric’, ‘a dedicated christian’ who lived ‘serving all of those around her’.
The deaths of these 6 people will not be forgotten. Forever immortalised in American history, they may in death even help the US address its’ inadequate firearms laws and stop the political far right from using shooting language which clearly affects deeply disturbed people. Americans will try to learn from this episode and prevent it from happening again.
In Afghanistan on 4th May 2009 American troops made fatal errors during an air assault on Taliban fighters, which killed dozens of Afghan civilians in the Farah province. A quick internet search does not even give you the final number of dead civilians. Nor is it the only tragedy that occurred on that day. A suicide bomber killed ‘at least 20 people’. A sad, unconfirmed statistic is all that remains in the virtual world of these people. I wonder how many 9 year old girls with political aspirations died that day, or whether the dead included a construction worker who devoted his spare time to helping the community? We will never know. But we must question as to why we will never know. The disproportionate representation of news coverage only reinforces our own sense of self-importance. If ‘dozens’ of Americans died thanks to errors made by the Afghan military there would be uproar. But the fact that it happens to these others, these people we don’t know and don’t understand makes it OK. Shouldn’t we all be asking ourselves what about the others?