If Michael Brown had listened to the cops, he wouldn’t be dead.
If the girl in the Rolling Stone article hand’t lied, no one would have doxxed her.
If Mayor DiBlasio hadn’t said those things about being afraid cops would profile his son, those cops in Brooklyn would be alive.
If those Pakistani parents hadn’t sent their kids to a military school, no one would have killed them.
I’ve read variations on all of those statement this week. Every week you could read variations on things like that. You can read about why women deserve to be assaulted, why people of color deserve to be brutalized, why protestors deserve to be tear-gassed, why anybody deserves anything.
There is a second part of those statements that goes unspoken. It would sound like this:
If Michael Brown had listened to the cops, he wouldn’t be dead; I will always obey cops so they won’t kill me. I am safe.
If the girl in the Rolling Stone article hand’t lied, no one would have doxxed her; I will never falsify a story to a reporter so no one will invade my privacy. I am safe.
If Mayor DiBlasio hadn’t said those things about being afraid cops would profile his son, those cops in Brooklyn would be alive; I will never vote for a man like DiBlasio so that cops will stay safe.
If those Pakistani parents hadn’t sent their kids to a military school, no one would have killed them. I would never put my kids in that kind of danger. They will be safe.
Blame as shield. If we can find a way the victims are not like us, we can believe it will never be us.
It can be us. It can always be us. You’ve only to look at the families in Newtown facing their second Christmas without their children. It can be any one of us and blaming all the victims in the world will never lessen our risk.
Being alive is a wonderful and terrible thing, fraught with joy and fear and sorrow and exultation. We cling to each day, each heartbeat, because that is what all creatures do. We fight to live on. But we will all lose and we will all die and that knowledge taints every breath we take because we know that each breath is one closer to our last. We hate knowing that and we do everything we can not to know it too well.
These words of blame for victims is a cruel way of denying the knowledge of our own mortality. Saying that another person brought their own death upon them will not stop our deaths. We will not survive our lives, they will only be longer or shorter and nothing we say about another person’s death can change it. Blame may feel like a shield against the inevitable but it is as flimsy as paper.
When you see a human fallen, before you speak, think. Will your words bring comfort to their family? Will you words bring hope to their friends? If they won’t, if the words are only meant to shield you from the horror of your own inevitable end and will serve nothing more than bolstering the illusion that you may cheat death, stay silent. Stay silent and remember, you will die someday and it will not be your fault.