In just the 48 hours since I published a blogpost and a podcast on the idea of narrative as it relates to danger on the streets versus danger on the roads, i.e. urban violence versus automobile related carnage, two incidents have occurred in the greater Springfield area which perfectly illustrate the point. In one an 18 year old girl was shot to death only a handful of blocks from where I live, and in the other an 88 year old woman was run down by a car as she walked across the street.
The homicide (*notice later the assignation of the vehicular slaughter to a lesser category of life-taking) was the third in the city this year, the first to involve a gun, the first to take place “on the street”, and took place on a date where last year the city had experienced 8 homicides. Some of these details (and many others I have omitted) connecting this incident to a list of others going back months and even years were written into the story about this unfortunate young woman’s death.
The *accident took place on a road in Enfield. That’s it. Apart from the age of the victim and the location of the tragedy there is no broader context given. That 4 other people have died in less than a week on the metropolitan area’s suburban and rural roads in particular is not mentioned at all.
Here is the entire report from The Republican found online at masslive.com:
Now here is information found in just one section of the story on the shooting death from the same publication, by the same reporter on the same day:
Notice all of the assumed connections in the report on the urban death: gang activity, drugs, other murders which have occurred in the city whether this year or last, whether in similar circumstances or not. It contains all of the broader elements which tell the reader to associate this event with all of the others and to weave them into one coherent narrative. One shooting, one death, and a connection to every other murder is invoked.
The message of the report on the elderly woman’s death on the roadway should in no way be considered part of a broader narrative. Over 30,000 deaths and millions of injuries suffered yearly. None of them connected in any way, none of them to be understood in the context of an infrastructure for everyday life which has been built to give primacy to the automobile.
That some places kill at 10 times the rate of others does not constitute a coherent narrative.