How about an annual list of victims?

December 28, 2018

 

 

By Steve Klinger

 

Every year around this time, when the media do their annual tally and reckoning of lists both vital and trivial, we are treated with an elaborate, sentimental slide show of celebrities we lost in the preceding 12 months. I suppose these are the most important and noteworthy passings of each planetary trip around the sun, because the list is accompanied by a variety of photos, video clips and musical snippets, meant to evoke sad smiles, tears and general nostalgia. It is mildly captivating to watch this roll call on television, most of the names belonging to actors, musicians and others associated with the entertainment industry and (unless it’s the Oscars version) a few other prominent Americans such as sports stars and elected officials, including elder statesmen and former presidents, if any.

 

We have become accustomed to this ritual and probably think little of it, except to remark to a spouse, friend, relative or spousal equivalent that we had forgotten so-and-so died this year, or thought he/she was still alive, or there are just so many this year, especially musicians, etc.

 

Does it even occur to us what a vapid commentary this is on our society? Virtually everyone on the list was a millionaire many times over, and few among the dozens, beloved though they might have been by their fans, changed the world in a significant way. It’s not that we shouldn’t remember them, but we do so with such habitual complacence.

 

What we don’t witness, because no one would bother to compile it, and the broadcast and cable networks would almost certainly decline to disseminate it if they did, is a list of individuals who were victims of one sort or another in the previous 12 months. Why don’t we have a review that includes the names of Jackelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, the Guatemalan children who died in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody as byproducts of a cruel and inhumane immigration policy? What about the Michael Browns and the Eric Garners, unarmed victims who were murdered by police for the principal offense of being black in the wrong place and time? Why don’t we list the names of gunshot victims from mass shootings or domestic violence (aside from the fact that it would take far longer than a two-minute news segment could accommodate)?

 

As a footnote, I should mention that we do read one such roll call of victims, but only on anniversaries of 9-11, when we can blame foreign terrorists for those untimely deaths and don’t need to deal with the messy and controversial circumstances that led to the demise of most victims of mass violence in America. Of course we have monuments with the names of military war dead, but mostly they are etched on walls in parks and not read aloud on year-end television retrospectives.

 

Maybe I’m reading too much into comfortable year-end routines that keep junior media personnel busy filling the news hole during a holiday week while senior staffers are soaking up sun in the Caribbean. I just wondered.

 

I couldn’t find a list for 2018, which in any case isn’t officially over, but here are the names of 20 unarmed men, women and children of color killed by police since 2012: Ramarley Graham, Yvette Smith, Darrien Hunt, Malissa Williams, Wendell Allen, Michael Brown, Jonathan Ferrell, Akai Gurley, Kendrec McDade, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Eric Garner, Manuel Loggins, Jr., John Crawford, Timothy Russell, Stephen Watts, Rekia Boyd, Ezell Ford, Larry Jackson, Jr., Gary Hatcher.

May we remember them too, and may their deaths, if not their lives, change the world.

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