Monday, November 24, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 37
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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on August 5th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 22

All the world's a stage?

Quick, tell me what happened to those girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this year. Do you know how that situation resolved? Do you know if it resolved?

Off the top of your head, can you tell me where they ultimately found Malaysian Airlines’ mysteriously missing MH370? Or if it was ever found at all?

Keep in mind, this is separate from the Malaysian plane shot down over the Ukraine. Who was responsible for that, again?

I don’t mean to put you on the spot. Actually, I do. But don’t worry. This isn’t a test—at least not one that will result in a grade.

Back in May, when a rampaging man wounded and killed numerous people in Isla Vista, prompting a national discussion and debate on guns—gun violence, gun registration, gun ownership, gun rights, gun safety—I remember hearing people all around me talking about the tragedy, punctuating their sentences with, “And now, finally, something will change.”

I didn’t buy it, though.

I wanted to. But I didn’t.

Because these stories—the mass killings, the plane crashes, the children rounded up and disappeared—are just that: stories.

Now, I’m not going to deliver some “pop culture in mass media is desensitizing us to violence” homily. That’s not my point.

My point is: For whatever reason, the general public today—at least in my estimation—does little to distinguish the reality of the world from a fictional narrative consumed for entertainment. And I use the term “entertainment” loosely. I mean that each story is an unfolding drama that captures an audience’s attention … until the next story starts.

Yes, there are still people talking about that horrific day in Isla Vista. And yes, there’s an Assembly bill currently pushing through Sacramento that would act as a sort of “gun restraining order.” But I’m also betting that this column is the first place you’ve heard that. Most of you, anyway.

Because a lot has happened since that shooting. A lot has happened that requires attention. There are children fleeing Central America to come illegally into the United States. These are unaccompanied children who now, I’ve heard, are just sitting and waiting to be arrested once they cross the border. Because whatever fate awaits them at the hands of the justice system that operates in that heavily scrutinized and warred over stretch of map between Mexico and the United States is apparently better than whatever they’re leaving behind.

Why are they coming here? What’s bringing them in?

In my experience, the average person sees a story about something like this, reacts somehow—maybe viscerally, emotionally. Heart strings are tugged. The topic becomes part of daily conversations for a while: “Have you heard about what’s going on in Gaza? It’s just terrible!”

And then a few months or weeks or even days later, something new happens, because something new always happens.

But here’s the thing: The world events aren’t a TV series that you can drop out of for a while and then catch up on during a marathon weekend viewing session on Netflix. These children cramming shelters in Texas, blowing up as suicide bombers in Nigeria, dying under rubble in Palestine are not actors who will show up as different characters in a new pilot next season. Those explosions are not special effects. That blood is not makeup.

These stories continue to unfold no matter which story you are paying attention to. And these stories are true.

How’d you do on the quiz?