I consider myself to have some facility with words but I’m struggling today to find a term that will describe a political debate that has progressed to the point where the most perspicuous contributions to it are made by satirists, cartoonists and professional humorists. (Should all political debates be so blessed? I wonder.) The ‘debate’–for reasons of accuracy, I must enclose that term in quotes before proceeding–that I refer to is the so-called ‘relationship between gun control laws and mass murder in the US debate.’ The Onion is first out of the blocks in responding to the Aurora shootings, quickly taking the lead, and it is closely followed by Tom Tomorrow (that link is the response to the Tucson shootings last year, in which fact one might find some resonance with the content of this post today). Having read those two, one is done.
For yes, the endlessly repetitive discussion is upon us again, its numerical parameters tweaked to accommodate its toll of the dead and wounded, with its inevitable grief counseling, Presidential consolations, NRA push-backs and hyperventilating television anchors to follow. And all too soon, we will settle back into our seats, waiting for the next time the New York Times will break out the 18-point font to let us know ammunition manufacturer stock prices have gone up again. As the penguin says, putting up with these mass killings–in one form or another, sometimes as audience, sometimes as participant–is the price we have to pay for living in this nation of ours. It’s a tax, one that won’t be up for repeal any time soon.
The mass murderers come from everywhere and anywhere; their backgrounds straddle ethnic and class divides; sometimes they ‘go postal’, sometimes they ‘go academic’; sometimes they are black, sometimes white, sometimes Asian; they are young, and they are old; sometimes they did badly in school, sometimes they were academic overachievers; they kill when they are laid-off and they kill when they are employed; they kill in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas, Chicago, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, California, Alabama, North Carolina, Washington, North Illinois, Nebraska (from sea to shining sea?); they kill rich, poor, student, mother, father, daughter, son, all alike; they use all kinds of guns, ranging from simple hunting rifles to high-powered assault gear suitable for invading oil-rich emirates; they kill in shopping centers, university campuses, movie houses, prayer services, high schools; they kill strangers, they kill family members, they kill fellow-workers and students, they kill the young and they kill the old; sometimes they turn themselves in, sometimes they kill themselves, sometimes they get shot. It’s a melting pot, if there ever was one.
In years to come, perhaps it will become a true American rite of passage: you’ve either carried out a massacre yourself, been a survivor of one, or know someone who is a victim or survivor of one. Perhaps in these so-called divisive times, the murderous violence of the gun-toting mass killer will bring us all together, united in blood-soaked gunpowder and attendance at a memorial service.
As American as apple pie? How passé. As American as a loaded ammo belt and a rifle with a scope.