Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spiritually Sick By the Afternoon

Yesterday morning I woke up and turned on the radio, and immediately it was about the shootings in Colorado.

It's always sickening, but the truth is it's not really shocking anymore. Mass shootings in America are now like the seasons -- you know there will always be another one. The only mystery is the number -- how many this time?

By now everyone knows the game: it's ax-grinding time. Pundits rush to their computers to get their name in the game: Roger Ebert in the New York Times. Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Lots of bloggers everywhere, which other bloggers roll up into summaries.

They all have it figured out, or at least their piece of it, seemingly before noon.

It's all predictable. Someone will tie the shooter to the Tea Party. Someone else will tie him to Occupy Wall Street. He will be quickly be identified as a loner, or an atheist, or someone who played video games. Reporters will flock like lemmings around his mother, or father, or whoever they can find who might utter a sentence in the most shocking moment of their life.

The presidential campaigns will immediately delve deep into their playbook on how to appear concerned without alienating their base. How to show they care, but without committing to anything. Say something, but not too much. Their aides will start clocks, ticking until the moment fades away.

“It is an act that defies description," said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Not good enough, Governor, except maybe for the dozen epitaphs that now need to be written.

Everything said was completely predicable.

There are too many guns in America.
There aren't enough guns.
What ordinary person needs all those weapons?
If everyone in the theatre had a weapon this wouldn't have happened.
The shooter was a brilliant mastermind.
He couldn't find a job in this economy.
He was mentally ill.
There are always going to be insane people among us.
Hollywood glorifies violence.
He wanted to be a superhero.

Everyone has it all figured out.

I swear, by the afternoon I felt so spiritually sick I shut everything off and pulled down an old book of fantasy by Peter Beagle. I thought about buying a small cabin somewhere in Montana or France. I looked at my cats with envy, chasing flies and worrying about the stray who jumps on my balcony to steal their food. Not that they do much about her -- they just wiggle and whine about it while she eats. She's young and very thin and weighs half what they do, but she gets her way. Or maybe they know she's hungry.

We're a big country, but so interconnected now that a shooting in Colorado seems like a shooting down the street. Virtual worrying, virtual suffering. Yet in my town of only 12,500 people there have been 3 murders in the last 2 years, all within a mile of me. Someone a hundred yards down the street tried to poison his upstairs neighbors by cooking a poison on his car engine late at night. Across town a son recently shot his mother in the stomach, and was let out on $110,000 bail. The police force has been cut by 20% in just 3 years, and only one in four serious crimes leads to a conviction and sentencing. More than one person in 11 here can't find a job.

Anymore it seems like the whole country is falling apart, and people are too busy fighting about why to care. Maybe it's just too big anymore to govern, or for anyone to notice and care that a 24-year old, obviously intelligent person like James Holmes become so alienated, isolated and alone that one semester he's in medical school, and the next he's outfitting himself for Armageddon.

Like Steve Duin recently wrote in the Oregonian, "Who still believes that either candidate wants anything from the rest of us beyond a show of hands?" Just shut up and vote. Maybe next year GDP growth will be 3.4% instead of 2.2%, and all will again be well. What do you expect, anyway -- to go to a movie in safety?


Dano said...

And remember: there is a lot of money to be made by the media. The feeding frenzy of satellite trucks at every gun massacre attests to that.



Brian said...

I like the argument to keep the killer's name out of the media:

The closest thing I've got to a solution....