The fires, the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the shootings. The calamities have been so repetitive that together they’ve created a numbing rhythm, one reliably following another, like the ticking of a clock.
It’s hard to be shocked these days.
Even the Vegas killings, jarring mainly for their scale, were a horror out of focus. There was simply too much to see at once.
But as I learned this week about the Rohingya slaughters in Myanmar, shock — that instant injection of sorrow, nausea, disgust, and disbelief — finally took hold.
Here’s what happened recently to Rajuma, a Rohingya Muslim:
Rajuma was busy making potato curry. As she sprinkled ginger and chiles into a big pot, she sensed something and stopped.
She crept to the window and peeked out: soldiers, dozens of them, jogging toward Tula Toli.
Rajuma and her family tried to run but were quickly captured and marched to a riverbank where hundreds of other terrified villagers had been taken prisoner.
The soldiers separated the men from the women. The villagers pleaded for their lives and dropped to their knees, hugging the soldiers’ boots. The soldiers kicked them off and methodically killed all the men.
She was standing in a river chest-high, holding her 18-month-old son, her first-born, named Muhammad Sadeque. Then they called out to her:
“You,” the soldiers said, pointing at her.
She squeezed her baby tighter.
In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.
By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes.
The higher our threshold for shock, the worse we’re doing as a human race. Every day, the threshold rises. It’s not good that it took the magnitude of Rajuma’s tortures for me to feel shock again.
When the president won the election I felt shock — again, sorrow, nausea, disgust, disbelief. Since then, my threshold for political shock has shot sky-high. Nothing gets there. I wasn’t even shocked when he insulted the mayor of a city that had just been ripped to shreds by a hurricane, when he all but yawned in response to a riotous Nazi rally in a town square, or when his own Secretary of State called him a moron.
So, if you catch the news and find yourself really shocked — not just angered or saddened, but really shocked — take a second, also, to be relieved.