I’ve struggled with what to say/think in the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting, referring, of course, to the events that unfolded Sunday night in Las Vegas. I’m sure I’m not alone in my growing frustration with the vacuous choruses of “thoughts and prayers” that seem to ripple through social media. While it’s useful on some level to participate in the collective mourning, “thoughts and prayers” really only beget more “thoughts and prayers,” or maybe worse just a crying/angry emoticon. Fortunately I am not the only one to experience this burgeoning awareness; as I was sitting here pecking this out, my phone burped a news alert at me from Slate with the headline “Guns vs. Thoughts and Prayers.”
Likewise, Bitch published something last night I would have wanted to write myself about gun violence as a masculine violence problem—”What Keeps Happening? White Men with Guns,” that includes a list of very worthwhile reading, especially Everytown’s “Analysis of Mass Shootings.” Spoiler alert: shooters are typically domestically violent men. Can you think of a single shooting that was perpetrated by a woman? I can’t, though to be clear I’m not suggesting women start trying to level the playing field. The general rhetoric surrounding Stephen Paddock and all the mass murderers who came before him is to paint them as deranged individuals, and while I don’t think any of us would disagree that they are, indeed, deranged people, largely pinning these acts on individual consciousness is merely treating a host of symptoms while ignoring the disease. You can’t take Advil for a headache and hope the tumor goes away.
We refuse to push legislation that would really make a difference in both who owns guns and what types of weapons are available to be owned, maybe because we also seem to still want guns to be fun. A quick scan of this year’s most popular video games provides a predictable mix of guns, zombies, and pornography (though the vegetarian snake is a hopeful addition). I’m not so naive as to think that video games are the real cause of this incomprehensible violence; I simply wanted to point out a larger ambivalence about shooting things. If we were to really start to talk about why no one will really do anything about gun violence it would be a similar conversation as to why no one is really willing to do anything about climate change. There are people making way too much money on guns and ecologically-annihilating industries to give a shit about anything else, and to keep the rest of us squabbling at each other over the second amendment as a distraction to the hedonistic wealth that can snuff out real attempts at social justice under the guise of rights, choice, freedom (i.e. money).
At some point we hit our saturation point, or we just become desensitized to it all. Were you shocked to see the cover image of this recent tragedy in which a young woman’s bare, bloody legs were splayed lifelessly on the ground? Or was the horror numbingly familiar in a way that didn’t even make your stomach turn the slightest bit? The problem with the legs is that they belong to a faceless person that was gunned down, and they’re attached to an article that gives us a false sense of comfort in learning the details of this latest mass murderer’s life, as if the answer to it all lies in what he hid under his bed. Well, maybe it does…as he was able to purchase an arsenal of military-grade weapons. But, it’s not over just because he’s dead and we feel like we know how to better be on the look-out for more crazies.
*Photo credit: Ben Townsend