Monday, July 23, 2012

A Tolerable Level of Senseless Death


I have stopped being shocked.  Breaking news reports that a gunman has killed an unthinkable number of people in a movie theatre, a shopping mall, at youth camp, a family gathering, a university campus, a military base, a high school, an elementary school – and those are just the event I’ve pulled from the top of my head.  I read this morning that one victim of the most recent 'incident', just emerged from a coma to discover that she had been shot in the stomach and neck, that she will be paralyzed for life, and that her six year old daughter was shot dead next to her.  Oh, and the woman is pregnant and somehow the unborn baby has survived.  What can anyone say to this woman and her husband in the face of such horror?  Switch to scenes of little groups of shocked and bereaved residents, makeshift memorials with the obligatory balloons and teddy bears and flowers and candles, the endless eye-witness accounts on cable of those moments of terror.

I have some very bad news.  This is a scene that is going to replay itself again and again and again.  Our Western societies are producing no shortage of (almost always) men who feel someone has not treated them well or who carry long festering grudges against this or that element of society, or who are simply deranged .  Combine these men with access to all sorts of weapons, not always but including the whole spectrum of firearms, as well as the immediate media celebrity/notoriety of the perpetrators of these massacres receive, and it simply is a recipe for one incident after another.  In fact, for as far back as I can remember, it has been one incident after another.

What interests me is that both the American political class and the media are completely hamstrung in the face of this epidemic of bloody massacres (we could add the less sexy homicides-by-gun and the run-of-the-mill ordinary crime-by-gun, and while that might make my case stronger, it would also distract from the horror of the day).  I have already seen editorials saying guns have nothing to do with the Aurora theatre massacre (never mind the perpetrator walked in with an arsenal of a Smith and Wesson M & P assault rifle, a Remington shotgun and a Glock 40 caliber hand gun, along with a tear gas canister, all purchased legally) and that any attempt to tie what happened there to the need for gun control is cynical opportunistic politics.  I have seen other editorials wringing their hands about the need to do something in the face such carnage.  And I’ve seen other articles discussing the fact that the number of gun-related deaths in the US is more than 20 times that of Canada or the UK or France or Germany, and several times greater than the Western democracies put together.

However, these statistics are meaningless to most Americans.  The NRA has done a terrific job of pushing its anti-gun control agenda, and of tying any attempt to control weapons in the US as a mortal threat to our constitutional right to bear arms.  In many districts and states, it is political suicide to disagree with the NRA.  Never mind that the advocates of gun control have morality and reason on their side, this is not a rational debate.  And that is why, in my opinion, things will simply continue as they have, and will, in fact, get worse.  Angry men, spurred on by the examples of too many others, will march armed to the teeth (with guns mostly) to some crowded venue, like a theatre or a college campus or a daycare center or a sports stadium or a hospital or a school and then open up and take out as many people as they possibly can before someone stops them.  And then we will see the sickening Breaking News headline of yet another massacre.  The only way this will ever stop is when the level of violence and killing is such that we as a society simply cannot take it anymore.  Only then will our politicians become more frightened of us the voters than they are of the NRA and other like-minded lobbying groups.

I have two daughters.  I cannot imagine losing one to a f***ing moron who equips himself with an arsenal and then goes and shoots up a movie theatre full of people.  But what’s even worse is to be told by the politicians and society around me that, though we are sorry for your loss, nothing, really, is going to be done about this.  In fact, your loss will be repeated again and again. For you see, we are still well within the tolerable level of senseless violent death, for Americans at least.