As usual, The Onion got it more right than anybody yesterday. They certainly gave voice to what I was feeling, with greater effect than I could hope to muster.
“Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado Shooting’s Aftermath Will Play Out,” read the headline of the satirical online publication.
Americans across the nation confirmed today that, unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will unfold.
And we do know, don’t we? It is precisely that knowledge that kept me away from news reports for much of yesterday, because I simply could not stomach the unfolding choreography.
We know. We know there will be interviews with shocked bystanders. We know there will be grim police reports and a mad scramble to unearth the shooter’s past.
We know there will be directives to hug our kids, to pray for the families. We will hear references to shock and to tragedy, and we know that we will hear the words “unforeseeable” and “unimaginable” over and over again.
Soon, there will be voices proclaiming that this is why we need an even more armed populace, to defend ourselves in an unpredictable world. We will hear the insistence that this is the act of a single deranged individual, and stern reprimands that his act should not be used for the “political” end of calling to regulate firearms
Not to worry. No one will make that call.
There will be, instead, noble editorials about the need to better identify and treat mental illness (which we should). There will be sad remembrances of Columbine and Jonesboro and Virginia Tech (and we must remember every one of those horrors). There will be trenchant editorial cartoons. We will hug, and pray, and hug some more.
But what there will not be, what I am coming to believe there will never be, is any kind of mass policy-changing outrage about how one citizen, any citizen, can come, in America, to legally purchase four automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. There will be no voice of power asking why this is desirable, or taking the stand: “Enough!”
I assert that our country has come collectively to view these horrifying, hideous massacres of innocents as “acceptable loss,” the price of what enough Americans have staked out as an unassailable right to buy and to bear any weapons they please. Already, we are going on with our business with an alacrity that would have been unthinkable in the days following Columbine.
We go through the motions again and again. We do not change a single damn thing. We will not say: “Enough with the guns.”
I hug my child every day, with joy and with love. But I am tired of hugging him so that I can satisfy myself with the thought, should it come to that, that I indeed gave him every hug I could. Tired of hugging him so that he can know, should the abyss find us, too, that his mother loved him more than life itself.
These losses are not acceptable. We should not have to live lives where the avoidable outcome of craven policy is instead deemed “unforeseeable.” Where we go through the motions of grief, but do not question the frame that has, over time, with deep pockets and repetition, worn us down.
The Onion is right. We know these steps. We have internalized the choreography. I do not think the dance will ever change.