SHANNON WILLIAMS President and General Manager, Indianapolis Recorder

Easter weekend was fun for many people, whether they enjoyed dinner with family, activities for the kids or special church services.

Sadly, however, the weekend also presented its fair share of tragedy, from the shooting of four people in downtown Indianapolis to the senseless murder of Robert Godwin Sr. in Cleveland.

Godwin, 74, was walking home from a family Easter gathering when he was randomly shot to death by Steve Stephens, allegedly as a result of Stephen’s frustration over problems with his girlfriend. That incident alone would have been horrific enough.

However, in what was likely a twisted attempt to distress his girlfriend, Stephens, who admitted that he had “snapped,” posted video of the shooting on Facebook, opening the door for millions of people around the world to see the murder.

This week there has been a renewed debate as to whether Facebook should have or even could have immediately blocked Stephens from posting the shooting in the first place.

Although it took a few hours, Facebook did the right thing in the end by taking the video down, saying in a statement, “This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook.”

However, what is equally disturbing about all of this is the fact that so many people chose to watch the depressing footage before it was removed. There have been other violent acts posted on Facebook and various social media forums recently, also attracting millions of viewers.

When you combine the real life evil of those postings and what we see on the news, along with the endless parade of fictional violence that can be found in movies, television shows and video games, viewers are getting a steady dose of destruction every day.

This has probably led many of us to become desensitized to violence. The common dictionary definition of desensitize is “to make (someone) less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty, violence, or suffering by overexposure to such images.”

Understanding this is so important, because it might partially explain why there is so much violence in our communities and why not enough is being done to stop it. So many people have become desensitized, including many of our children, especially when they play video games or watch movies where characters can blow someone’s head off without consequences.

Maybe it is why some of us actually seek out violent content on social media if we know it is available.

Maybe it is why Indianapolis had its highest-ever recorded homicide rate in 2016 and folks are not shocked and outraged.

Maybe it is why there are people who can so easily kill another person for the slightest reason with little or no remorse.

Maybe it is why people who know the truth behind horrific crimes stay silent, leaving many homicide cases unsolved and families without closure.

Maybe it is why we see local police, pastors and community leaders make repeated calls to the community for help in preventing violent crime, yet it continues to rise.

Maybe it is why we can see news reports of kids killing each other in the streets and not immediately embrace the young people around us with love and guidance.

Recently I was blessed to see another birthday, but I’m not old enough to remember the era of President John F. Kennedy. However, I have heard people who are old enough to remember talk about the day of his assassination.

Although many of us have seen footage of the tragedy at this point, it was not shown on television immediately after it happened in 1963.

Just knowing that the president was dead was enough for children to be so upset that they had to be let out of school for the day.

Can you imagine how upset they would have been if Walter Cronkite and other news anchors had shown footage of the sad and bloody incident?

If something like that were to happen in 2017, you better believe it would be shown on television after a flimsy “graphic content warning,” and that there would be many people downloading it on social media with negative comments about the deceased.

Of course, Godwin was not a president, but he was held in high esteem by those who knew him and loved him. Anyone who clamored to see Stephens murder him should think about how they would feel if it was the death of their grandfather, father, uncle, brother, husband or friend being showcased.

Have we become so used to seeing violence that we have accepted it as part of life?

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to accept that groups of people being shot downtown in front of the Indiana Statehouse or in a parking garage is normal. I refuse to believe we have to settle for random people, Black and white, getting killed across the country by disturbed individuals going on murderous rampages.
It is not too late for us to honor and uphold life. In every way possible, we must remind each other how precious the gift of life is. It is, after all, something that cannot be returned once it is taken.

It is not too late to reach out to our troubled youth and even adults who have been battered by the waves of life, and remind them that they do have something to live for and hat they have plenty of reasons to value their own life and the lives of others.

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