So I understand from the twitter scolds that we are not supposed to talk about this mass murder except to share clinical details about what happened and express condolences to the victims. The shutting down any discussion of the social, cultural and political implications of yet another horrific act of deadly gun violence is becoming more and more successful after each event.
Some people are talking anyway, although I’m sure they’ll be excoriated for their bad manners and divisive conduct:
The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life. That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place. Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again.
The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue. Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?
But nothing changes: the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed. (Jill Lepore wrote about the history of the Second Amendment in The New Yorker recently.) Make sure that guns designed for no reason save to kill people are freely available to anyone who wants one—and that is, and remains, the essential American condition—and then be shocked when children are killed.
I agree except for that last sentence. We aren’t shocked anymore when children are killed. It’s become a normal part of American life. The taboo has shifted from horror at the shootings to horror at talking about shooting. This is called “politicizing tragedy” as if these mass murders are an act of nature rather than an act of human evil or madness (or both) enabled by easy access to the tools of mass murder.
But let’s not go there. We will mourn the casualties the way we mourn the deaths of those in hurricanes and tornadoes. Gun violence is now a “natural” event in America, as unpredictable as the weather, and there’s nothing we can do about it except gather together in the aftermath to help the victims. Indeed, the only enduring threat these events foretell is from those who would question a culture that deifies the gun as if it were a religious symbol rather than a lethal weapon.