How Do Americans React to Mass Violence?
On Wednesday night a gunman entered the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California and began firing into the crowd. The horrifying and senseless attack took twelve lives, including one police officer and a college student. As Americans react to the news of the violence there is a dreadful sense of familiarity. Mass shootings in America are increasing in frequency. Has our reaction begun to follow a script? More at CNN.
…there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to preventing such horror. The problem is, the loudest voices only offer two choices:
It’s either: “You want more gun control.” or “You want to arm everyone.”
We need to escape this prison of two ideas… Religious and political terror has an ideology. Criminal homicide has a payoff — revenge or profit. This is the only terror that exists as an end in itself. We can stop it. But to do that we need to open ourselves up to uncomfortable ideas, ones that take us out our rigid teams.
This old script will continue to play out for days. McConnell and his crowd will get around to saying they’re going to do something, but they won’t. Some gun lobbyist shill will say it’s “inappropriate” to “politicize” the massacre so quickly, as if the next massacre might not be days away. People will marvel that something like this could happen in a place that is so “safe,” as if other sites of mass murders — schools, a movie theater, a synagogue, a Baptist church — were not presumed to be safe. The smartest thing we heard all day, entirely off script, came from a man in London who wondered what in God’s name is wrong with our country.
The script following these shootings is too familiar — flags at half-staff, hollow words of sympathy — but what chills me is the relatively calm eloquence of the survivors speaking to reporters. How they don’t seem particularly surprised to have survived a mass shooting. That they are able, in the immediate aftermath of trauma, to articulate their experiences. They can do this because they have seen it done.