Say the name...and never forget it
Who pulled the trigger at Virginia Tech?
What's the name of the Aurora, Colorado theater gunman? Or the one at Northern Illinois?
Do you even remember Northern Illinois?
My point exactly.
As coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy played on this weekend, more than one or two cable news network anchors/reporters said they were purposely not saying the name of the shooter, claiming they didn't want to give him more notoriety/acknowledgement/fame.
His name is Adam Lanza, and it's as much a part of this awful, gut-wrenching story as anything else, from the list of the dead he leaves behind to the predictable debate about gun control and how our country handles those who don't "fit in".
We've devolved as a society to the point where we've sorely confused the definitions of "famous" and "notorious". There is no shame any more, no lingering consequence for those among us who do the most heinous, terrible, shameful things. Those who pull the trigger are dismissed after the last funeral. The news cycle moves on. Our short attention spans kick in, looking for the next big thing.
Quick: what's the name of the Sikh temple shooter? Who laid waste to all those poor souls at Azana?
There's a school of thought that maintains the name of John Lennon's shooter should never be said aloud--"he who shall be nameless" is how they refer to Mark Chapman. Really? Is that going to bring the slain Beatle back? Does the sticking of fingers ears into collective ears erase what happened that night in 1980? No, obviously. Maybe part of the problem is that we forget too soon, that we don't study those coming out of the same homicidal woodwork in growing, deadly numbers as they bring a bloody end to their otherwise mundane, unremarkable lives, taking scores of innocents with them. If we do that, maybe we become more aware of the next gunman who may be walking among us waiting for the next perceived slight--real or imagined--committed against them before they act out
We are in an age where shame is dead, where someone acting out in the most disgusting, cruel, mean, obnoxious ways is not dismissed as a fool but given a reality show. Spin your cable dial some night and watch bad actors being rewarded hours and hours of prime time. Do you remember who won the first "Survivor"? Maybe not, but you no doubt know Richard Hatch, the guy who was the program's biggest jerk. The squeaking wheel gets the grease.
Honey Boo Boo and her family? The obnoxious beauty pageant mom? The jerk chef? The petulant fashion designer? The list goes on. The problem isn't the notoriety that Adam Lanza and those of his ilk garner in the hours/minutes/days/hours after their hideous crimes. It's a bigger shame that their awful acts are so easily forgotten, that their crimes slide off the radar with no visible resolution. Part of that is on the media. A lot of it is also on us, for not demanding more and better.
This isn't lumping bad TV actors and reality show villains in with the Adam Lanzas or Lee Harvey Oswalds of history, but the point is this: being famous and notorious are two very different things, and the distinction should never be forgotten. Evil shouldn't be rewarded. It should be studied and remedied in hopes of curtailing its frequencies, in hopes of weeding it out of society.
Remember the name. Let the deed sear into your memory. Never forgot. Don't let this predictable template of sorrow be followed by equally predictable amnesia. Let Adam Lanza's name be said, be remembered, become a turning point for honest debate about our society--and not just when it comes to guns.
Say the name. Never forget. And keep it up until the carnage ends.