A Damaging Adjustment

As terrorist acts targeted against the U.S. become less unthinkable and more believable, how does this tragic violence affect the American public? A commentary by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

Be honest and ask yourself a question:

Were you shocked when you heard about the bombings that left thousands wounded and dead at the American embassies in Africa, or were you like me?

I was upset, I was saddened, I was angry, but I can't honestly say I was shocked. When it struck me that I wasn't, I wondered why.

On reflection, I think I know why, because I have seen pictures just as terrible from closer to home not so long ago from Oklahoma City.

That's what violence does to us. It's like pornography. It shocks us the first time around, but after a while we get used to it. We adjust.

People of my generation still remember every detail of where we were and what we were doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

Those horrible moments are burned into our psyche, but so many of our leaders have been shot at since, that we have to pause for a moment to remember where we were when Ronald Reagan was hit by a would-be assassin's bullet -- and that is the insidious part about violence. Every time one of these awful events happen, it makes the next one a little less shocking.

We rightly grieve for the bombers, innocent victims and their families, but only when we recognize the desensitizing impact of these violent events on the rest of us do we fully comprehend the breadth of the damage that's being done.

By Bob Schieffer