Posted by: mydarkestplaces | May 3, 2013

Capitalizing on tragedy

I must admit to being uncomfortable when, after a major tragedy, I see and hear advertisements everywhere for products promoting solidarity. Facebook and Twitter – and I’m sure MySpace and any other social networking site – are rife with posts saying, “Buy this T-Shirt to show your support for X,Y,Z Place/Victims.” In most cases, some or all of the profits are going to charities/scholarships/memorial funds set up in the victims’ memory. I think that’s a byproduct. I think it’s a salve for the feelings of those who realize they are taking advantage of a tragedy to get face time/free marketing with consumers.

I don’t know how to go about not having this happen. When a tragedy (like Boston, 9/11, Sandy Hook) happens it is something that hits us all. But what about Aurora, Colorado? The West, Texas, explosion? The Madison, Wisconsin, shooting? Far more people perished in those events than in Boston. But it’s not so sexy when it’s white on white violence*. And CERTAINLY fertilizer and organic chemistry don’t resonate deeply with the majority of Americans.

Because there aren’t people jumping up and down to buy t-shirts that say, “I stand with the Sikhs,” does that make the violation of their holy place less traumatic?

What about the 100 people who have been killed in Chicago this year? Trayvon Martin? The UCLA basketball coach and her boyfriend?

These aren’t mass shootings, but Chicagoans have to feel like they’re living in a world dominated by terrorists. Trayvon Martin was killed by a vigilante who evidently dislikes skittles. LA was certainly under siege by a man who, at one point, had sworn to serve and protect.

Do we stand strong with Gabbi Giffords and the other victims of that shooting? Would we stand so strong with her if she wasn’t a (now former) Congresswoman? Do we only stand strong when the victims are white or children?

I’m reminded of a post from well over a year ago during the whole Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood kerfluffle. What can fight violence? What can really show support for victims of terrorist acts? What can show that we appreciate our First Responders? Is it really buying a cheap t-shirt just because it says, “Be Strong,” or, “Never Forget”? Or is donating directly to the Red Cross or First Responder funds the way to go? Is a simple (yet profoundly powerful) thank you more effective? I have a sneaking suspicion that the scores of law enforcement officers that captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were more gratified by the cheers, applause, and almost parade-like reception following his capture than the hundreds (thousands?) of people walking the streets wearing Boston Strong t-shirts.

I understand that there are a lot of people who, following tragedy, wring their hands wondering what they can do to support the victims. Often times I am one of those people. I don’t disparage people’s efforts to do something, anything. What I do disparage is this capitalization on tragedy. It makes me think of the Thernardiers scouring the sewers after the battle at the barricades:

“Well someone’s got to clean them up my friends
Bodies on the highway
Law and order upside down
Someone’s got to collect their odds and ends
As a service to the town”
– Les Miserables

*Ironically, despite the evident desire of many people and many news outlets, the perpetrators of the Boston bombings were white. Yes, they were (one, presumably, still is) Muslim. But not all Muslims are brown, not all browns are Muslim and not even close to a majority of either are terrorists.

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