Maybe it’s the times we live in. Maybe it is information overload. Maybe it’s just an inability today to focus on one thing in a world on fire.

But, one thing is clear, our minds cannot retain focus on a single event for more than a couple of days – sometimes for more than a couple of hours. And that’s true not only of the price of tea in China or a local team trumping world champions.

As Americans, we can’t stay focused on, nor do we allow ourselves to remember the details of, some of the most horrific things that happened in the last thirty days. We just don’t seem to be able to process and to dwell on all that is going on around us.

Imagine, if you will, what you would have expected on October 1, after a single gunman opened fire on 22,000 concert goers in Las Vegas, killing 58 innocent people and maiming another 546 others. Forget the fact that it was the worst such tragedy brought about by a single gunman in U.S. history. Forget too that we were all glued to our screens watching reports of this mind-boggling tragedy. Surely such an event should stick with us for months if not years. Yet, I wager that few Americans today could remember the name of the killer, the number of people killed, even the month that the event happened.

Okay, here’s another one, less than a month later. An Uzbeki immigrant with a wife and children rented a Home Depot truck and drove down a bike lane in Tribeca New York, killing eight and injuring 11 others. And, this was the first time since 9/11 that New York had suffered killings by terrorists. Ask someone, even in New York, when this happened, how many were killed, and other details and most, if not all, would be hard pressed to recall.

And, how long will we remember, some 5 days after New York was traumatized, how 26 people (men, women and lots of children—even an unborn child) were killed by a maniac in Texas during a Sunday church service?

Perhaps, it’s just too much. Perhaps, we are learning to forget even faster than to remember. I think, today, we are living in a world where we have no time, and perhaps inclination, to weigh, to understand, to put in context all that is happening – even the most horrific events. One could blame all this, in America, on Trump. But, he isn’t the reason. If anything can help to understand why we are skidding along on the surface, and refusing to delve deeply as a people, it could well be that our brains are simply unable to process the truly newsworthy – human suffering, tragedies, humiliation of women, North Korea, Russia and so on and so on. We are not computers. We are humans unable to understand - to absorb - all that is happening and coming at us in this unsettling time.

Daniel Socolow
Daniel Socolow: President, Socolow Group. Former Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program, President of the American University of Paris, Vice President of Spelman College. BA, MA, Ph.D.

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