Let Us Only Remember The Names Of Those Worthy of Memory

We always want to know why murderers and terrorists commit the crimes they do. We can't believe someone would show such a casual disregard for human life. We ask questions in order to find some solace in knowing the answers. But in our zeal to make sense of the incomprehensible, we give too much attention to the perpetrators of the acts. We find out their life stories, books and movies are made about their lives and why they did what they did, and, when similar crimes are committed, theirs are the stories the media retells.

The people who find themselves victims have stories of their own and theirs are the stories we should be hearing.

But for some reason, after society grieves, it forgets about the victims of a murderer. Being a victim isn't anywhere near as sexy as being a perpetrator. Who was the most fascinating character in The Silence of the Lambs?

We think we know what the victims lives were like, so after we mourn, we start to forget (these are, after all, people we do not know personally, people who we cannot miss because they were never a part of our lives to begin with). But every individual life is fascinating. Every single one of us has failures and successes which make us who we are. Yes, it may be that the stories are not as strange and as far outside our realm of experience as that of the killer, but so what? Why should we give these creatures any more power and attention than what they already stole for themselves? Why are we rewarding the criminals when we should be honoring their victims?

I don't know what makes people view others as disposable. Maybe if we stopped glamorizing violence, maybe if we ceased conferring celebrity (albeit often posthumous) upon those who commit atrocities, maybe if we remembered the names of the innocent, the sociopaths wouldn't find it so easy to disregard the humanity in others. Maybe we, as a society, should say (through our actions), "These acts and the losses are significant, but you who have committed the acts are not. We will never say your name again and no one will mourn your memory." Maybe if we only honored the humanity in others, it wouldn't be so hard for some to see.


Judy said…
Well said. It is so sad that we remember these names, could repeat many of them easily, the faces stick in our minds, but the victims too quickly fade.

Here there has been too much talk of the 1966 shooting at the UT Austin campus, too, with that shooter's name being all over the news and papers. Why must we bring it all back up? This is probably exactly what they wanted.
Anonymous said…

I think part of what motivates things like this is an extreme sense of narcissism. How many mass murderers would have carried out their heinous acts if they were assured that their names would be consigned to obscurity, and not infamy?

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