I can’t say with confidence that by the time you hear this, the killings in El Paso and Dayton will not have been followed by yet another mass shooting. It’s become an almost expected occurrence, which only seems to draw heightened attention when a new incident escalates the horrible reality. So, the three murders at California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival — weren’t they just a few days before the two-state carnage? — quickly faded from public attention until the body count ratcheted way up someplace else. Thirty-one and counting combined deaths in Texas and Ohio. We are caught up in a bullet-ridden repeat cycle.
Lingering screams in the air, bodies on the ground, tears and candlelight vigils, funerals and prayers. And a disturbing growing list of places where ordinary Americans take their last breaths.
President Trump told us the day after the shootings, “We’re a nation overcome with shock and horror.”
But are we? Or are we a community numbed by the regularity of shock and horror, and the all too familiar bloody details. And one week later, we are still helpless to do more than to echo eachother’s heartfelt pleas: ”What are we going to do? How will we make it stop?” Until the next time it happens.
Greek Philosopher Plato said,” We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, but the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
We’ve chosen not to step into the light to face the vicious roots of these tragedies, chosen not to name the thing what it is — domestic terrorism. Instead, we’re continuing to engage in a dangerous game of semantics characterizing these shooters, the young disaffected white men, as ‘troubled youth’.
We attributed their premeditated actions to a spontaneous outburst of mental illness. But the Dayton shooter kept a list of people to rape and to kill. There has to be some mental instability to gun down random strangers, but as one Latina pointed out to PBS NewsHour, the El Paso massacre “wasn’t a random shooting.” She said, “He wanted to shoot brown people.” Just as 21-year-old Dylan Roof wanted to kill black people when he murdered nine Charlestown churchgoers in a prayer meeting. Back then there was fierce denial about Roof’s racial agenda. Could we have saved lives if we saw him then as part of a not-so-underground white nationalist movement? The facts are the FBI identified 100 domestic terrorists since October, and FBI officials worry that copycats will drive up that number.
Sorry, Mr. President. The reason for the mass shootings is not primarily about video games or mental health — though if you believe that, why has your administration cut significant funding to those programs?
I'm not going to argue about whether or not your language has contributed to the environment, which incites violence. It has.
The El Paso shooter referenced the impact of your Presidential words in an internet posting before the killings. And, after a wearying several weeks of enduring your racist tweets, I’m done debating this point. I’m also not wasting my time wondering if this moment after these deaths will propel us to move legislatively to make changes in gun laws. Sadly, I doubt it.