Our world doesn't treat all life equally. Not even close.
It's not surprising that so much media attention has been paid to the horrible massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The gunning down of small children in their classroom is shocking and tragic.
But we're conditioned to feel that some tragedies matter quite a bit more than others.
When I heard the news about Newtown, I thought of previous mass shootings in the U.S. Perhaps that's a natural reaction.
But then I also thought about the case of U.S. Army Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year, nine of them children. It's not the only atrocity of the Afghan war, but accounts of the attack are particularly horrifying.
U.S. media reported it, but the tone of the coverage placed considerable weight on the damage Bales's alleged rampage would do to the war effort.
Interpreting the killings in this way prioritizes issues like national security and obscures the fact that children were shot in their sleep. This particular incident was in some ways just a more horrifying version of many other U.S. attacks that have killed children in Afghanistan, and the drone attacks that have killed hundreds in Pakistan.
It's understandable on some level that those deaths will not affect most North Americans the same way as the Newtown massacre. They're deaths in a poor, violent country most of us will never see. But that should not prevent us from asking ourselves - and our media - why we are less disturbed by them and wondering what our politics and our culture might look like if media decision-makers felt that stories like this deserved more attention.
Imagine how different our world would be if we treated every tragic death as if it mattered. What would a healthier media look like? It wouldn't tell us not to grieve over Newtown. It would tell us that violence against innocent people is deplorable no matter where it happens, or who inflicts it - and that there are things we can do to stop it, both close to home and many miles away.
Peter Hart is the activism director at the New York City-based Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.