Look carefully at the profile
All my life I have worn it. It has been a staple in my wardrobe. I have owned it in nearly every color of the rainbow, with and without embroidery, screen prints, and many, many times with words emblazoned. Mostly I have owned hooded sweatshirts in gray or black. Lots of black.
When last week came, and with it the repeated images of the two suspected bombers in black-hooded sweatshirts, I sighed. Here we go again. The profile of the shooter/terrorist/guy-most-likely-to-commit-harm has been the same for very long time in this country, and though we can, in our minds, conjure up what we think the face might look like, the statistics are always the same. That guy (always a guy) in the hoodie is in his twenties and he is … white. Which can really mess with the stereotypes we have created in our heads.
And I had this strange epiphany when I was looking at a magazine news story last week and saw a photo that fit the profile image of the bad guy perfectly with known sweatshirt wearer Mark Zuckerberg, the twentysomething multibillionaire founder of Facebook. It kinda messed with my head. A college dropout who spent his time messing with the Internet and messing with his friends in an online fashion. And yes, there were clearly layers of societal differences that created the young man who used his enormous intellect for something new and good, but you have to wonder, a least a tiny bit, why? And how? And who are these twentysomething young men who have grown up with all the electronic video games that debase the value of a human life into points earned on a screen? And what makes them snap? And why do they all wear hooded sweatshirts?
On the very tool Zuckerberg created, I have spent too much time in the past two weeks, reading posts and "hearing" conversations from around the world about the horror of the Boston bombings. And I started seeing whispers appearing from other countries. They, to a person, acknowledged the senseless tragedy in Boston and the events surrounding it. But those whispers also pointed out that the drone strikes carried out in the same time frame had killed dozens and dozens of men, women and children who also had families and stories that somehow we missed altogether hearing about in the news.
And it made me so very sad to think about. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation exists to do good all over the world, mostly in the area of health care but also in education. At the core of their work they have the belief that every life is of equal value. It sounds so obvious and simple. Like a kind of Golden Rule, writ large for modern times. Something that surely all religions could agree upon.
But somehow it gets lost in the noise.
And there is another, I think, related story going on that caught my attention back in 2007 when a man spoke a conference I attended and said that more servicemen committed suicide that year than were killed serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. It seemed too fantastic to be true. But now we know it is true and, every day, American serviceman are killing themselves and often loved ones, because of the horrors they saw and committed and cannot live with, anymore.
About the same time I remember seeing a television news story about a group of men in Nevada who operated drones. How they got up in the morning in their homes with their families and ate breakfast and then left "for work." And then all day they would operate the tools that directed the drones to kill people. And then they went home for supper.
I haven’t seen a story since then about those men and how they are doing now. What is damage that happens inside your head when you realize you have spent a bloodless safe day, thousands of miles away from the evidence of your actions, never feeling the impact of your maneuvers on another human, but in fact, you have killed dozens of real people – just like that family you go home to at the end of the day.
How many suicides are there among the men operating the drones?
And where are the projects that teach people that all lives have equal value? All lives. And where are all the stories of the individuals who have been killed. In Sudan. In Iraq. In Burma. In "a skirmish along the border of" anywhere. What if all those faces were a full page in the New York Times each Sunday? Would we be outraged or inured?
The shift taking place on the planet so rapidly right now – with everything from gay rights to caring for our oceans to stopping worldwide abuse of women to most likely wiping out polio in the three years – is exciting and thrilling and breathtaking. Now maybe we should focus on why so many hoodie-wearing, young twentysomething white men, in this country, turn into being weapons of mass destruction.
I don’t have any answers but I’m going to reflect on the questions this very Sunday in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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“We would also agree that the way Hideout is going about its business is not creating harmony within our community,” writes Jeff Sterling in a guest editorial. “There must be a better way. Hideout, the choice is yours.”