View from
The Right

We Don’t Value Life Anymore

We as a nation, numb to the sting of death, have lost sight of the wonders of life.

Devastating news swept the nation Wednesday morning as a teenage gunman killed 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida. Reactions ranged from thoughtful prayers to emotional pleas for action.

The tragedy was rapidly sanitized, and the bloodstains of 17 children were promptly forgotten. Like Sandy Hook and Columbine before it, the events of Parkland were radically politicized. Gun control, as always, is once again at the center of the debate. Those on the left push for stricter gun laws, citing their newly updated statistics about gun-related deaths. The right insists that guns have nothing to do with the tragedy and makes sure to mention that more armed security guards would have prevented this tragedy. It all feels routine. It shouldn’t.

Death, it seems, has become an afterthought—a mere cog in political platforms, mentioned only when it conveniently supports one’s stance on a particular issue. Death is okay—it doesn’t matter so long as we do not know the victims personally. It does, however, prove beneficial to use for political purposes.

Take for instance the death of Edwin Jackson, a former linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts who passed away in early February when a drunk driver struck him and his Uber driver. The drunk driver was an illegal immigrant, twice deported, a fact which makes Jackson’s death matter to Republicans. Had the driver been a U.S. citizen, it is unlikely that Jackson’s death would have made as many headlines as it did.

This demonstrates a single truth: we don’t mourn death anymore. We exploit it. Death is viewed as a means of achieving our preferred policy solutions. Loss of life is irrelevant. Rather, we de-emotionalize death in such a way that life is removed from the equation entirely. We use statistics on death to casually support our arguments without grasping the lives that compiled that very number.

We as a nation, numb to the sting of death, have lost sight of the wonders of life.

Exploiting the deaths of children for political means, whether aborted or gunned down, has etched the idea that lives are of no worth in the American conscience. They only matter in death. Politicians clamor for pro-life policies yet fail to enact policies that protect children in schools. The very individuals who call for policies to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees are complicit with regard to abortion. I aim not to take a position, but to point out the hypocrisy of American politics with regards to life. The situation only gets bleaker with every tragedy. How, or better yet, why has this happened?

We have grown numb to death because it has proved a useful asset in argumentation. Citing death statistics and certain tragedies often undermines your opponent’s point, thus elevating your own position. Meanwhile, life possesses no such power. Instead, we disregard the elderly, the poor, the marginalized – and any concerns for their wellbeing until they die. Upon death their lives become political capital to be maneuvered in whatever way we please. In life, we ignore them because they present problems that we do not wish to address. Seeking to improve the quality of their lives is too troublesome. We view death as a route to a solution, and life as a hindrance.

Intentional steps towards valuing human life in all policies are necessary to provide restoration to a nation constantly in the wake of tragedy. Change will only come if we aim not to use death to promote some solution, but actively seek to prevent it by valuing individuals while they are alive. Of course, it is impossible to prevent every loss of life. However, a greater appreciation for the traits that make us human and a collective push to mutually respect the lives of our fellow citizens is the only means to stop the cycle of politicizing the tragedies haunting our country. We desperately need to be reawakened to the beauty that is life.

Joel Gillison is a student the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill studying public policy.