Interpersonal Violence and Statistics

Its strange how the relationship we have with death caused by interpersonal violence is so different from deaths caused other ways – I think it has to do with a feeling helplessness. If there is something we care about, we have to refuse to give in to helplessness, we have to dare mightily and refuse to quit. 

I went to middle, high school and college in boulder, Colorado 

Available as a video

The recent shooting attack at in Boulder CO  Table Mesa shopping center, in which ten people were murdered, was at the grocery store where I shopped regularly in my senior year of undergrad in Boulder CO – blocks from my house 

Lots of people are commenting about it nationally, and yet 986 people died from COVID-19 yesterday too. The total now topping 590,000 – greater than any war – almost nearly double the combat deaths of WWII. Why does that not feel as impactful? 

I never got into a gunfight in that grocery store, though I did shop there 15 years ago, and I dont personally know anyone who was hurt or killed, I checked in with friends and family that still live in the area.

I did get into gun fights a few years later in Afghanistan, with much nearer calls than any imaginary same place separated by decades, and with friends that died 3 that i was fairly close with, the anniversary for one was this week,  but that was all kind of rolled into one big experience that America sees as “the war” that endures at a lower scale of attention and a longer duration (20 years) 

I work to have empathy for people feeling distraught by this, while trying to emphasize that just because it isnt as splashy – the big problems we encounter that are chronic in our lives

  • COVID-19s enduring threat
  • Voter suppression
  • Economic insecurity
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Drug-wars

That have massive costs that are often under-attended. a death is always a tragedy to a persons loved ones. No matter how splashy or media and attention gaining it is. And the chronic, quiet enduring causes of it merit our remembrance and our efforts to protect people from them

I think its because we are genetically pre disposed to see it as a threat in ways we dont see other threats. To expect agency in some way. We get angry about these in a different way because it feels more visceral and more real. 

Stalin supposedly said  “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”  whether or not he said that there is a disturbing truth to it. 

The feeling that I think I’m fighting, that others are fighting, that we are all experiencing is helplessness. When our problems grow so large and of such scale it would be terrifying to feel them as viscerally as we do a murderous rampage in a grocery store we may or may not have shopped at a decade ago. So we numb ourselves to it to survive and move on. To take our kids to the park. To flip some bits in a spreadsheet and earn a living. Some of us get fired up and stay fired up trying to change the world around it. Most of us cant. 

But I urge you to think about which of the biggest problems you are willing to embrace in your personal, in your professional life. Which are the big issues and problems where you and your team will be courageous and try mightily and refuse to accept helplessness. 

Where will you dare mightily and refuse to quit?