It’s easy to become numbed to the headlines of the day. The 24-hour nature of the news feeds us with endless horrors of war, terrorism, coups, and the very worse of man’s inhumanity to man writ large whether it’s on the front page in 74 point type on our phone’s news feed or somewhere in between. The media have lived on the raw red meat of tragedy and scandal as long as there has been a media. Is it not more of a horror that so many of us have become so numb not to tragedy on a massive scale, but to the everyday tragedies?
This post is not excusing the perpetrators of these horrors, or looking to rip the lid off the psyche of the type of being who could conceive and execute these crimes against humanity and sanity, but to decry the erasure that such catastrophes visited upon those who are enmeshed in tragedies on a more intimate scale. Here are some tragedies that should bring you to your knees, overlooked, and underreported if they are mentioned at all.
- From New Year’s Day until 7/28, there have been 7,945 deaths due to firearms in the United States. Of those killed, 359 were under 11 years old, and 1,731 were teens, and out of the 30,973 incidents (including 210 mass shootings), there were 16,588 injuries. The numbers go higher every day.
- In January, on one night, over half a million people were homeless, and nationally almost 18 people per 100,000 had no place to sleep. Veterans continue to be disproportionately impacted with roughly 25 veterans out of every 10,000 veterans being homeless. However, these numbers falter in the face of homeless youths and children of school age, with as many as 1.4 million (and possibly more) enrolled in school without a home of their own. This does not count children enrolled in school, or those not yet of school age.
- In some areas of the United States, more than 30 percent of the households are food insecure. Millions more live in “food deserts” where they may not have access to fresh food, and get their meals from dollar stores or convenience stores.
- It’s not just Flint. Lead contaminated water is in multiple communities; even in schools where kids get their water during the day. Despite lead’s well known effects, there is no political will to fix the problem in these communities who are for the most part urban or rural poor.
- One in five adults in the United States will experience a mental illness, with one in 25 experiencing a mental health crisis that interferes with their ability to conduct their daily lives. One third of young people who experience a mental health condition will drop out of school. Sometimes decades pass between the onset of mental illness and diagnosis and treatment.
It is easy to focus on the big tragedies, but do not let the big tragedies and talking heads erase the tragedies that befall millions of Americans every day. Poverty, violence, homelessness, and unsafe living conditions right here where we live are an affront to the dignity and decency of every citizen. Work to solve the big problems, but do not erase the smaller tragedies, lest they sow the seeds of a greater one.