A depressing trend is emerging from our collective reaction to mass shootings.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Remember the shooting in Texas?

By the time you read this — a month later? A week later? Perhaps just two days later — what happened in Sutherland Springs will be a fading memory (where is Sutherland Springs, again?). We'll have mostly forgotten those who lost their lives and why they aren't here anymore. We won't remember that the youngest victim was 18 months old. Or that the oldest was 71. Or that an entire family of nine was nearly completely wiped out in the blink of an eye.


It wasn't always this way. In April 1999, when 13 students and teachers were shot and killed at Columbine High School, we didn't forget for months. There were articles, speeches, protests, magazine covers, and calls for legislation. There was even a documentary. It came out three years later. We remembered so well that documentary made over $50 million.

Two years ago, a Washington Post investigation of Google Trends found that our interest in mass shootings now lasts about a month, sometimes even less.

That study was prompted by an attack at a community college in Oregon in October 2015, which of course, almost no one — except those immediately touched by it — really remembers.

We've already moved on from the shooting in Las Vegas. That was a little more than a month ago. Cable news lost most of its interest in 10 days.  

And Columbine? The former fifth-deadliest mass shooting in modern American history is no longer even in the top 10. Five of the ten deadliest gun massacres in American history have occurred in the past five years. Two have occurred in the past two months.

There will be other news to distract us. There will be Election Day drama. There will be frightening violence in the Middle East. Donald Trump will have said something bizarre about samurai warriors.

We will have performed the entire public grief cycle in record time. Thousands will have risen up and demanded stricter gun laws. Gun rights advocates will have argued we should "enforce the gun laws we already have" and asked "are you going to ban knives and fists next?" We will have found out about the shooter's history of domestic violence. Conservative politicians will have blamed the shooting on mental health. Liberal commentators will have accused conservative politicians of hypocrisy on mental health. Responsible gun owners will take umbrage at being lumped in with killers. Chris Murphy will have written a righteously indignant viral tweet. There will have been a rumor that a good guy with a gun raced in to save the day. That rumor will have turned out to be only partially true. The parents and families of people killed in previous mass shootings will have trudged back out to share their stories of the worst days of their entire lives in the hope that maybe something will be different this time.

But that's likely coming to an end, as you read this. Or it's already over. Life is probably going on. We're already worried about something new. And we're bracing ourselves for the next one.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

As the drumbeat of bad news gets faster, we feel our ability to be horrified slipping away. We notice ourselves reluctantly, but inevitably adjusting to a reality where watching two dozen people die in church is normal. We might even hear 10 people are killed at the office, in a park, or a baseball game and think, "That's not that many."

"There are some people who just sort of start to let it in that this is part of the world that we're living in," Sharon Chirban, a Boston-based psychologist who treats patients suffering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress, told me over the phone. "And in some ways, it's probably more adaptive to probably be thinking that way."

It's how we go on with our lives without digging ourselves deeper into a pit of despair with each new mass shooting. In some ways, it's healthier to forget.

"People sort of restore what's called 'functional denial,'" she says. "We need that in order to basically live without acute anxiety."

It's an awful Catch-22. If we allow ourselves to grow a little less surprised each time this happens, we can't be hurt when it inevitably does again. But lose our ability to be shocked and with it goes our drive to fight for change.

And that's the scariest part.

Most of us (around two-thirds of all Americans) don't own a gun. Still fewer of us actually carry one. We'd rather risk random injury or death than live in such a state of fear that we feel the need to tote around a deadly weapon at all times. Yet, there are millions of others for whom owning a firearm or two or 20 is an integral part of who they are. Maybe we can't all agree on exactly how to solve this problem and maybe we never will. But there are a few things an overwhelming number of us want to change. 90% of us want background checks for all gun sales. 79% support banning bump fire stocks that allow semiautomatic rifles to approximate the function of a fully-automatic weapon. Nearly 60% of us want to ban assault weapons, the kind used in nearly every mass shooting of the past decade.

No one knows how we get that done in the face of the inertia born by a cycle of a million "more important" things and the grinding, scorched-Earth opposition that will inevitably follow. But if we shrug and throw up our hands, we never will.

On Monday morning, writer Clint Smith wrote that he can't help think about what the victims were doing the morning before the shooting. Ordinary things. Human things. Having no idea what was about to happen.

It’s a tragic illustration of what can be ripped away in a split second by an asshole with an axe to grind and a semiautomatic rifle on his hip.

Perhaps that’s the only way to shock ourselves back into reality. To remember that this didn’t used to be normal. It's still not normal. And can and should be stopped.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less
via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

Keep Reading Show less