THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 9 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 1 9
Being assured by police and media after the latest violent act in
our community that there is “no risk to the public”, that it was
a “targeted shooting” or that the victim was “known to police”
often makes us feel some relief and thereafter lose interest. We
were not the intended victims, most of us are not in the category of likely
future targets and we need not concern ourselves any further.
But wait. Really?
When unpacked, surely there is something quite misleading in this messaging
(however well intentioned), and something quite morally corrosive
in the complacency with which we greet it. That is so even where the stock
phrases are applied to the most stereotypical of scenarios: a scenario in
which one gangster (Gangster A) kills another gangster (Gangster B), without
killing or wounding anyone else, and perhaps even without coming
close to doing so.
Let us start even from the most self-centred, though perhaps most understandable,
of perspectives: our physical safety and the physical safety of
other members of social or occupational categories to which we could plausibly
belong, such as bystander, first responder or family member. Of
course, the fact no one else was actually shot this time around does not
mean no one else was actually hurt. Immense harm may be inflicted on a
witness to the event, on a first responder who comes to an ugly scene or on
Gangster B’s parent, sibling, partner or child.
Looking to the future, unless Gangster A is promptly arrested and
detained, Gangster A remains free to target someone else. Why would we
assume that, next time, Gangster A will be as “successful” as this time in
killing the intended target without injuring someone else—maybe even
us—in the vicinity? We are shocked when a child or other bystander gets
hurt during gangland violence, and a daylight hour or public setting may
lead to the shooting being described as “brazen”. But is an event of that
nature such a stretch beyond the incidents we have come to tolerate?