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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The modern reaction to violence: Have you seen this?

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Growing up in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, I was never concerned about violence in my neighborhood or school. Looking back on my childhood, I can only remember two distinct and unrelated instances of serious, threatening criminal activity that happened close to my home. But even in those moments of brief fear, my core being still knew that I was safe. I must acknowledge my privilege; I was extremely fortunate to feel safe in my school, when so many other people don’t feel that same security. There were bullies, but no one ever got very violent. And I realize that’s not a common experience.

Perhaps because of this overall lack of violence in my school, when a fight broke out unexpectedly in my junior year, the first true fight I had heard of happening in recent memory at my high school, it was a big deal. And not just because it was the first fight to happen in a while; it was the way in which people reacted to this fight was what shocked and enraged me, even more than the fact that a fight had happened.

I had no knowledge that a fight had happened in my school until my friend and I were on our way back to class after lunch, and one of my friends asked me if I had seen the video. Her younger brother, who was in seventh grade at the time, had sent it to her asking if we witnessed the fight.

She opened up the text and showed me a video of two students grappling each other, throwing punches, and one student ultimately throwing the other on the ground and punching the other in the face, repeatedly. I knew exactly where the fight had happened; I had passed that hallway just minutes before watching this video.

The content of the video was shocking enough, but so was the fact that it existed. The video wasn’t more than two or three minutes long, yet that’s plenty of time to intervene or go get help. Whose first instinct when they see two people about to get into a fight is to take out their iPhone and start recording? Have we become so addicted to social media that we see any event, good or bad, and immediately think that it would make for a great Snapchat story? Life is not about recording what happens in the moment if you don’t get to actually experience it. And in this case, someone was too cowardly to step in, to step up and say something, to run five feet into the nearest classroom to ask for help to prevent this fight, and this video, from existing. Taking a photograph or a video of violence is too passive an act, one that allows for violence to continue instead of taking stepping in to change the situation at hand.

Even more disturbing was the fact that the video had circulated to the middle schools, and that students in grades six through eight were viewing this video before high schoolers had even heard of it. I wonder if our culture has become too numb to violence to fully appreciate the gravity of what it means to watch two people beat each other up. No, this wasn’t just another animated video sequence of Halo or GTA where people harm each other with no consequence. These were real people, and that day they went home bruised and battered because nobody had stepped in before the fight went too far. Instead, someone had prized capturing the moment above these two people so they could get likes on YouTube and get people talking about the fight rather than pausing to comprehend what it meant to take a video of this event.

The video became such a hot topic of debate that my teacher brought it up as a point of discussion in one of my classes. One student tried to justify the videotaping of the fight by saying that she heard that the fight was over drug money and this video could maybe be used if there were to be criminal proceedings to follow. Yet her argument was completely insensitive and lacked logic. Our school has security cameras; if anything suspect or criminal happens, there will be video evidence available from these cameras already. And, even if the fight was about drug money, what difference should that make to the bystanders? How can you tell that if a fight is about drug money when it’s happening in front of you and you just happened upon it—relying on and interpreting the rumors and stereotypes of the aftermath are not an excuse to justify the fact that no one took action to prevent this fight. Furthermore, just because a fight occurs over something like drugs, does that mean it doesn’t deserve to be broken up? Do the participants not deserve to be safe?

As a culture, we need to stop desensitizing ourselves to violence and remind each other that we are all human, not replaceable. Your Snapchat story may last for a few days, wherever you post evidence of violence or disaster may get you likes and shares, but the way we treat each other and interact with each other has a much greater impact. Do not be afraid to get out from behind the screen and become an active participant in life. We can’t let our desire for the most popular video, for the most views, to compromise our humanity and the dignity of others.

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