Trauma, numbness and Nigeria

Over a month ago I posted about the hundreds of adolescent girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped. And I haven’t posted since. Mainly because, unfortunately I have to admit, the story hasn’t been on the news as much and so, those girls haven’t been on my mind as much. But I don’t want to forget just because much of the world has.

Because they’re still missing. Nothing, literally, nothing has changed for them and it probably has only gotten worse, both in terms of what’s happening to them and in terms of how it feels emotionally for them as their traumas compound upon themselves. And still, they are there.

It’s not coincidence that they are off our radars and they are not American and not just that but they are also girls of color. And they are off our radars also because of how our news and media functions.

As I am only in my early 30s, I have gotten news for the majority of my life from the 24-hour news cycle. I really don’t know how Internet news compares to prime time TV news because I haven’t gotten much of my news from TV. From the AIM news ticker on my Instant Message account or Google News, I have always learn about what’s happening anywhere in the world at any time of day. Major terrible news stories break. And then they disappear until something gets better… or worse. Like Egypt and Aleppo, those Nigerian girls have fallen to the wayside of our headline links and so the thoughts, attention, petitions and outrage have stopped. Of course this is not to say these girls would definitely be out of that situation if the intense coverage had continued. But the continued collective acknowledgement and awareness of their situation couldn’t hurt. And who knows? It is not that ludicrous to think that they might get home faster with the world watching.

It’s a tricky balance. Because I don’t think it’s healthy to immerse ourselves in the horrors of the world constantly. And yet I also wonder about the impact of hearing about terrible things and then before we completely process the information, we are on to the next terrifying story. What impact does this have on our minds and bodies? And how is our news ADHD at all helpful to the people who are at the center of these stories, being terrorized? What sort of message does it send to the perpetrators of these wretched crimes when the world is all over their actions for a hot minute and then on to the next? Basically they know, okay the world will be upset for awhile but then they’ll move on and we will get away with this. Boko Haram can say, “See girls, no one is coming for you. Nobody cares about you that much.”

And it’s true. We don’t care that much. Or at least we are made to not care that much. Because as their stories are removed from our news links and buried further into the depths of the Internet, we lose sight of them. And of course, their families and friends care and hopefully most of Nigeria cares but it’s not enough. They are still in this awful situation. And there aren’t nearly enough people looking for them.

So these children (because they are only children!) aren’t helped. And we are left stuck in a vacuum of terrible news just catching terrible information momentarily then losing sight of it forever. Some people say we have become desensitized but I don’t think desensitized is the right word. I think we are numb. It’s not that we no longer feel pain over these terrible stories. It’s that we feel too much pain. And so we shut down. The end result is trauma for the people who hear of these stories in a disturbing, pseudo-voyeuristic way and (of course) much more severe and pronounced trauma and physical/emotional harm to/for the direct victims.

Well I’m tired of it. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to cope by being numb. I want to remember and not lose these people and their stories. So I will keep checking in on this. Until they are home and safe. All of them.

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One Response to Trauma, numbness and Nigeria

  1. Pingback: The missing girls in Nigeria are coming back – at least some of them | Izzy In a Tizzy

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