The Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy that killed 16 hockey team members has a profound impact on the Canadians, touching the heart of each and everyone of us. Facing the devastation left by the accident, people around the country try to offer any help they can – from providing comfort to the victim families to generously opening their wallet. As high as $10 million dollars have poured into GoFundMe, creating unprecedented donation frenzy that has spread from the small town in Sask to south of the boarder and 65 countries worldwide.
Pain empathy in the aftermath of the tragedy plays a big role in the massive public support. While many of us don’t know the victims or their families, we resonate with them emotionally, and feel the inconsolable loss.
“It’s a bunch of young people so that makes us feel it’s more tragic,” Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough told the Global News. “But what is more of a factor, is that in some way everyone has or knows someone who has a kid in soccer, hockey etc. A lot of people around the world can identify with that and can feel what a kick in the stomach it would be,” he said.
The tragedy affects us in many different ways. The victims could have been our kids. Every year, thousands of teenage athletes travel millions of miles by bus in search of their dreams. Every day, there would be many parents sending their children on a bus trip to attend a competition to win awards. Only by the moment when our kids safely arrive home, with sweat soaked shirt on the back and a fatigue look on their face, can we put our worries to an end and be grateful that the worst didn’t happen.
When I broke the news to my daughter, who had been on several bus trips for competitions across North America, she was visibly distraught by the catastrophe, and we stayed up into very late at night to keep checking on updates.
We feel the pain because traffic accident imposes life threatening risks every time we hit the road. While it happened in a remote part of Sask, it could happen as close as the road we use everyday to get to work, the street in our neighbourhood, or the stop sign beside our convent store.
We feel the loss, because hockey is more than a game to Canadians. It is a unifying force in a country of 33 million people with different races and languages. The death of 16 hockey players has not only left the hockey world reeling, but also made all Canadian’s heart ached together.
And people resonate with the pains suffered by those who are similar to us. Race plays a role in this overwhelming empathy, particularly in this white dominated country. Race does matter when it comes to sharing pain with victims. According to study, empathy gap exists in a way that allows white people to be more identify with the suffering when the victims are from their own race.
“I'm trying to not get cynical about what is a totally devastating tragedy but the maleness, the youthfulness and the whiteness of the victims are, of course, playing a significant role.” Tweeted freelance journalist Nora Loreto, whose comments have sparked racism outrage from the media and landed her in hot water. But her tweet contains element of truth, if we don’t look at it through a racism lens.
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