The United States’ faceless massacre

The victims of the Tucson shootings, both living and dead, have become nationally recognizable in a way no one should — through a violent act. Because of the repeated showing of their photographs in the media, we now instantly recognize the faces of Gabrielle Giffords, the U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona who miraculously survived the assassination attempt; little Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old student council member whose loss breaks every parent’s heart; and even Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter with the unsettling smirk on his police mug shot.

Before Jan. 8, few of us had heard of Giffords. Now she and the other victims and their families are in the prayers of an entire nation.

But would we feel as deeply, more than 1,200 miles away, were we not able to put faces with the lives that were shattered? Hopefully so, but there is no question that images are powerful tools that have stopped wars, advanced civil rights and changed the course of history.

Isn’t it strange, then, that there was no image of victims accompanying another story of unimaginable violence that ran on the inside pages of most newspapers three days after the Tuscson shooting? There was just the following cold report from the Associated Press that most Americans probably skimmed over with no feeling at all:

“The Guttmacher Institute, which periodically surveys U.S. abortion providers, reported today that there were 1.21 million abortions in 2008 and a rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Both figures were up slightly?.”

1,210,000 young, dead victims of violence in our own nation in one year. And probably twice as many scarred, living victims. And it happened again in 2009. And in 2010.

Yet not one photograph.

How long do you suspect abortion would be legal in the U.S. if it weren’t so hidden? If every victim were given a name, and even just sonograms of a few of their violent ends were shown every hour on the 24-hour news channels? How would the heightened awareness of what’s really happening affect our national conscience?

The annual observance of the Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion in the United States is under way this week. The victims of our nation’s faceless massacre can’t speak or be seen. Let’s lend them our voices, our faces (and hands and feet), and our prayers not only in the coming days, but until we awaken the conscience of our nation. — Thomas J. Dermody

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