It’s one of the oldest and least-revealing clichés in the book: A picture is worth 1,000 words. I am skeptical of this adage. What are a 1,000 words worth, anyway? That is, I was skeptical, until the spread of that famous photo of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old Syrian boy. This visceral, tangible image of loss woke people out of their foreign affairs slumber and made them care–for a while, at least. Was it enough to solve the refugee crisis? To effect change in how our country accepts victims of war? Not quite. But at least for a week, for the American public, the stakes for these people became real.
Out of respect for families and police procedure, or maybe to dodge charges of sensationalism, the news media never shows us the horrific aftermath of mass shootings. Could it be that this is part of why Americans have yet to come together and actually do anything about them? The thought occurred to me Wednesday morning, when I wrote to my editor and proposed that I draw the scene after a shooting. There are never photos from the scenes of mass shootings, I explained. Next time, as there inevitably will be a next time, and every time thereafter, I’ll draw a scene of the aftermath. Then, with the regularity of clockwork, the San Bernardino shooting happened hours later.
So, here it is. Another normal day at the office becomes inexplicably terrible. A holiday party is upended. A void, where once there were living, breathing, joking people. Even those who will live have had their lives shattered.
Finally, to me, the fact that the shooters are Muslim makes this no more or less an act of terror than any other shooting of innocents. It’s terrorism because they prepared to commit this crime? In matching black costumes, under a mindset just as warped as Robert Dear’s? Or because they were heavily armed, with pipe bombs? So were the Columbine teenagers! The ease with which anyone in the US can prepare for a massacre is the problem.
If you don’t want to see it, now’s the time to click away.