The 5 Least Helpful Ways People React to Tragedy

#2. "This Only Happened Because ..."

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The fault for the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting lies in one clear cause: video games. At least that's obvious to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and the shrieking harpy that lives inside his brain.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
But then Wayne LaPierre is an enlightened being. One of the immortals, they say.

Mike Huckabee knows that's absurd, of course. He zeroed in on the true cause: Those children and teachers died because God has been removed from our schools. He is of course referring to the verse in Galatians where Paul the Apostle warns Christians that if they don't pray hard enough, God will have their kids shot in the face with a semi-automatic rifle.

I'm sure we all agree that Mr. Huckabee's conclusion seems reasonable, but the poor deluded fool doesn't know the truth: There was no shooting. No one died at Sandy Hook, because it was a false flag operation coordinated by the government. Hundreds of people conspired to create an excuse to seize guns from honest Americans, but their plan was heroically uncovered by totally sound-of-mind patriots on the Internet. And thank God, because I'm sure that a few badly made YouTube videos were all that stopped the government from going ahead and making real victims out of gun owners. Better luck next time, The Man!

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling conspiracy theorists!"

In all seriousness, I think it's safe to say that either you agree that these people are crazy or you only read Cracked to decode the hidden messages we're sending to our Illuminati masters. But a bunch of nuts taking advantage of a tragedy to rant about the evils of the government aren't much different from all the sane people who use tragedies as "proof" that this country needs more gun control, or less gun control, or armed teachers in schools, or armed panserbjorne in schools, or a dozen other pet causes.

When calamity strikes, we absolutely should analyze it to try to prevent similar incidents in the future. But we should do so rationally and objectively, not by wielding news headlines as cudgels to beat in the heads of anyone who disagrees with us. I know it's hard to be rational and objective when the topic of discussion is murdered kids, but if you don't try, you're dragging the discourse down to the level of insane Internet commenters.

Zap Brannigan/YouTube
"I find the most erotic part of a conspiracy theory is the boobs who believe the 'official' story."

For example, I'm in favor of strong gun control legislation because I'm a filthy Canadian socialist, and the only thing we agree on with most Americans is that guns were great for systematically committing the genocides of our respective indigenous populations. But I also recognize that the vast majority of gun owners are normal people who happen to enjoy shooting legal, non-sentient targets during their downtime, and their rights and wants need to be respected.

It's natural to want to express your opinion, but if you see a mass shooting in the news and your first thought is "Finally, I can prove to my pro-gun/anti-gun friends that I'm right and they're a bunch of mouth-breathing morons!" then you need to re-examine your priorities. It's the difference between having a polite conversation and using innocent people's deaths as a point in a game of political tennis where you're the only one keeping score. And if the fact that it makes you look like a terrible person doesn't convince you otherwise, at least keep in mind that nobody wants to be friends with a huge asshole.

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#1. "If I Had Been There ..."

Ana Blazic/iStock/Getty Images

Pick a news article about a random shooting and you'll inevitably spot comments from people claiming that, had they been there, they would have unleashed their inner John McClane and stopped the shooter, kept him subdued until the police arrived, and then fucked all the hot girls they saved.

 Charlotte Allen/National Review
That's right, ladies: In the event of a shooting, stand back and let the 12-year-old boys handle it.

Ignoring the fact that they would probably be the first ones to piss themselves and/or get killed, their reaction is the worst of the bunch, because it's more than a misguided attempt to offer comfort or find an explanation. It's actively shifting the blame from the perpetrator to the victims, as if it's their own fault for getting killed because they were a bunch of pussies who couldn't manage the simple task of disarming a gunman who kicked his way into their classroom.

Szepy/iStock/Getty Images
"Justin, you sit near the door, so you'll take point. You'll get Go-Gurt as danger pay!"

It also shows staggering amounts of condescension and poor logic. Much like everyone knows what Super Bowl winning plays should have been called the day after the game, it's a lot easier to analyze a shooting in the calm comfort of your warm monitor glow and Cheetos-stained sweatpants than it is while you're busy wondering if your math teacher will survive having his lung perforated. Yes, there are lots of people who have the mentality needed to stay calm under pressure, but the problem is that you don't know if you're that kind of person until you're in that scenario. And when you do, you're probably going to need more to go on than the tactical prowess of a CNN commentator.

Their plans reach the summit of Mount Delusional the moment they start to revolve around organizing other people. Again, it's not impossible, because we've seen groups of brave, unarmed people stop violent acts before. But you're not going to get to plan it all out like a Rainbow Six mission while everyone listens quietly and waits for the chance to ask questions at the end. You're going to have people ignoring you, or disagreeing with you, or making fun of your dumb hat (some people have terrible priorities). And then your careful plan falls apart the moment it turns out that the shooter is actually a Predator. There's a reason the Army recommends confronting a shooter only if you can't evacuate or hide: Confrontation will probably get your Ramboing ass killed.

It's an arrogant reaction, but one we can sympathize with. Random acts of mass violence are inexplicable and terrifying, and we'd all like to think that, on the off chance we found ourselves in one, we'd have the skills needed to survive. We're all the heroes in our own stories, and that makes us think we're better than the strangers we pass on the street. But sometimes, innocent people just get shot for no reason, and we should mourn them instead of insulting their memory. I don't want to end this on a down note, so here's a cat nursing some hedgehogs.

You can read more from Mark, including the story of his tragic upbringing, at his website.

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