Shootings, imitation, and media responsibility

Editor’s note: It is with great sadness I address, in today’s blog, the recent mass shootings in the United States. I think most of us are speechless and unable to really come up with words to describe how we feel about these events. I know I find myself at a complete loss for words. Eventually, I’ll write something on why a lot of these horrible events happen in the first place, but for now, here’s something relatively small and I think achievable, that we can do abut it.

The most shocking thing to me, regarding the news of two mass shootings out of the United States, is how little it seemed to affect me. Dozens. Dozens of corpses, strewn across a parking lot, live on CNN.

I finished  my coffee and sneaked an extra piece of bacon.

This would be the story of the day. Live! Delivered straight to my door. The regular C-list Sunday content was quickly scrapped out of the way, and before you knew it, faces more typically seen on a Tuesday night at prime time were popping up on my screen.

Man, the bacon was good today.

Before lunch, I knew everything about Texas. The weapon, the number of casualties, the broken social policies responsible for the slaughter before my eyes, how much Trump was responsible. I was eating it up, my brain piecing it together, piece by piece.

I wonder if the orange juice has pulp?

By dinner, it was slowing down. Every detail that could seemingly be milked from the day was in the public arena, for Republican and Democrat to fight over like two wild dogs. And then it happened. The second shooting. This time, I did have some shock. This was, even to me, the most faithful detached news-connoisseur.

I found myself wondering, was this a coincidence? And of course I already knew the answer. Of course this was no coincidence. Coincidences don’t exist in this universe of mind and want and lust and need.

What I was seeing, in collective horror with much of the continent I am sure, was unquestionably in part a result of imitation. We see it all the time. Terrorist attacks in clusters, mass shootings in clusters, suicides in clusters. We know this phenomenon exists yet we do nothing to stop it.

Columbine is where this began – the reasons on why these young men have turned so violent aside, had you ever heard of a school shooting in such detail before that tragedy? Every excruciating detail, parading word for word out of the mouth of children for our viewing pleasure, on live television. It was simultaneously awful, incomprehensible, and world-changing. For Columbine would usher in the age of school shootings, each one more gruesome than the next, and each time we would ask why, while the news coverage has only grown greater.

The pictures from the Ohio shooting were scrolling before me. The body count continued to climb. I found myself wondering if this day would finally move the powers-that-be in the United States Congress to do something material on gun control. I was also dreaming of living in isolation in the pacific on my imaginary private yacht.

There was pulp. Love it.

The news media were on their feet today, and presumably using the vigour gained through covering the Texas massacre, the details on the Ohio case were public before everyone knew it. They began spitting demographic details out about him, though I did notice one thing missing.

His name.

I took some solace in this. Maybe they’re finally beginning to get it. Maybe they realize that prime time production level, all-day coverage of terrorism and mass murder, inspires some other troubled young men that this is their chance. Maybe there was some appreciation that these young, troubled men need a voice, and that the media has given  them one?

There are blueberry muffins in the freezer, I remember.

I will not give CNN too much credit. It was Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern who stood in front of the world and announced she would not utter the name of the person responsible from her own mass tragedy in New Zealand.

Though we have come a long way. I you ever want to be disturbed, Google “CNN Iraq war coverage,” and try not to throw up. No, you’re not watching a sequel to “Top Gun.”

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on

Dr. Travis Barron is a resident physician in Toronto, Canada.

Pride for the fallen

I waited hungry-eyed in the line at McDonald’s. The ambient beeping of God-knows-what machine and the occasional interruption of a screaming child. Above the fray, I hear a call.

“Order 421?”

“That’s me!”

Finally. My chicken nuggets had arrived. I settled down to eat them and thought, today is a good day.

It’s pride week in Toronto and many of the patrons of the establishment were garbed in a variety of rainbow outfits. Beside me sat a small boy and his parents.

“Mom, why does that guys shirt say remember?” he asked, as he pointed towards a large-bearded gentleman with a tye-die rainbow shirt with #remember printed on the chest.

“What do you think?” asked mom.

“They’re remembering people I think!”

“Good job, what people?”

“Maybe the war? Like world war 2?”

“Close! They’re celebrating gay pride and they’re remembering the people who came before them. It’s not that long ago you could be beaten to death for being gay.”

The boy looked appropriately surprised as his mother continued; “you know, there’s parts of America where you can’t get married if you’re gay.”

The boy responded,”what?! That doesn’t make any sense!”

I had to stop myself from getting up and hugging this mother, for thanking her on raising such a gentle, open-minded child. He was surprised to hear being gay was something people considered bad. It didn’t make sense to him that there are jurisdictions where gay marriage remains illegal. It was a breath of fresh air among increasingly suffocating calls for “straight pride.” They aren’t discriminated against any more and if we are about equal rights, we should have a parade too! being among the most common complaints solicited on the average Facebook newsfeed.

I got up and left the table, thinking about the family as I left. The moment I had just witnessed, I thought to myself, was the perfect example of why gay pride is important.

Homosexuality has been various degrees of criminal in the modern memory of the Western world. LGBTQ2+ members of our society have been jailed, beaten, tortured, and forced into hiding, because of our collective intolerance of their own sexuality.

If you ever find yourself wishing for a straight pride parade, think for a minute if you want what came before it. And while you waste your time contemplating such a frivolous question, I’ll be celebrating gay pride.

Dr. Travis Barron is a resident physician in Toronto, Canada.