It’s happened again.
A young (sometimes) man (always) killed many innocent people (in this case, mostly high school students) and the politicians feigned sadness and called for prayer, the news stations garnered enough footage to run the story for a full day, and (you can bet on this because this is America) nothing will change because at the root of this carnage is money (as it is at the root of so much carnage in our “great again” country).
The Parkland shooting happened on Wednesday.
On Friday, less than 48 hours after 17 people were shot dead in Parkland, Florida, this brutally ironic juxtaposition of news story/advertisement appeared on CNN.com:
News Story: You can feel the horror unfold in these texts.
Paid Content: Top 4 Vegas buffets you can get for playing this free app.
I’m sure the editors at CNN didn’t intentionally line these two headlines up one after the other. But if this were a novel, and the novelist were shooting to convey a theme, I’d pan the writer’s choice for being too obvious.
Grief is followed by gluttony.
Gun deaths are followed by greed.
A small-city high school is the site of a mass shooting. A city of excess is the hook for an ad to separate you from your money, and the featured city is not just any city but Las Vegas where less than four months ago a shooter (male) with an automatic weapon (again) killed 58 innocent (always) people.
The perpetrators of mass shootings are worthless. They are men venting hate and seeking fame and righting self-perceived wrongs in the most cowardly way.
Like all clichés, the one that says “Guns don’t kill people, people do” is obviously true. More true is that the fundamental purpose of government is to pass and uphold laws that protect its people. And most true is this fundamental truth, a truth that not only inspires law but also religion (that opiate of the masses): Man has a heart of darkness.
It’s a pretty easy syllogism: If Man is Violent. Then Man with a Gun can be more Violent. Therefore, get rid of Guns.
But in the United States, money trumps logic.
Mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting occurs and nothing is done. The proof: a 19-year-old with a checklist of mass-murder warning signs (enough to alert the FBI that he could pose a dangerous threat) found easy access to a semi-automatic weapon and walked into a school and started shooting.
We’ve become so accustomed to news stories about angry, discontent, hateful, often racist men who kill multiple people that these incidents no longer impact us. Habit is the great deadener and the American public has become deadened. We watch the news. We listen to the canned responses. We see the stock footage (people running, people walking with their hands up, teams of police holding their own automatic weapons, vigils with singing and flowers, and, a day or so later, photographs of the dead, a collage of faces that blend together, features lost, a palatable way to generalize grief and help us put it away quickly). Our deadened response (like our dark hearts) is human nature too, existentialism at its most basic — we go on.
But we shouldn’t go on as is. And I recognize this call (my call) is as tepid and ineffectual as most calls after a mass shooting. The calls that could have real effects need to come from lawmakers, from our elected officials who ideally run for the good of the people and who are paid, with tax-payer money, to protect our safety.
While the vast majority of Americans want stricter gun laws, and while the vast majority of Americans understand that the right to bear arms is a ridiculously antiquated notion written up when muskets were the order of the day (and a notion open to great misinterpretation), the gun lobby is so powerful, the money the NRA spreads to political campaigns is so rampant, that nothing will be done.
Donald Trump tweeted this after the Parkland shooting: "My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher, or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school."
For all it’s worth, an advertisement for Las Vegas buffets could follow this generic, non-response.
Donald Trump is a man who adopted religion for campaign purposes only. He knows nothing about scripture, he lies, he commits adultery, and he’s broken most of the other Ten Commandments. His prayers mean nothing.
Donald Trump is a man who has reportedly received over 31 million from the NRA. To think he will actually make us feel safe with real, hard-nosed legislation is a pipedream. Our president is a money-first capitalist. Our president wants to keep the gun-toting faction of his base happy. Our president is regressive, not progressive. His tweeted words of assurance mean nothing.
King Lear, who starts his play as a prideful, selfish, flawed, and elderly king (draw your comparisons), says during an especially greedy moment in the play’s first scene, "Nothing will come of nothing."
Nothing will come of nothing.
That’s the habitual truth that follows the habitual outrage that follows America’s habitual mass shootings.
Adam Berlin is the author of "Both Members of the Club" (winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), "The Number of Missing,” "Belmondo Style" (winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award), and “Headlock." He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-edits "J Journal: New Writing on Justice" (AdamBerlin.com). For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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