Tuesday, October 03, 2017

What Happened In Vegas...

...won't stay in Vegas. I don't care how many "thoughts" and "prayers" you send. Because nothing changed after Sandy Hook. Nothing changed after ANY of the  MORE THAN ONE THOUSAND MASS SHOOTINGS SINCE.
These deaths mean nothing to the NRA and its crowd of hip-happy holster harpies. They don't care. Not the slightest bit. Oh, they pretend to: there are exclamations of horror that mean even less than 'thoughts and prayers', since they're immediately followed by adamant refusals to even TALK about anything that might even SLOW the carnage. Any call to do something, anything, is "political", you see. It's "politicizing" a tragedy. Incidentally, have you noticed, as I have, how this is a "tragedy" and not an "act of terror", at least on the right wing sites? I bet if the shooter had been born of skin and a worshipper of Allah, we'd be characterizing this entirely differently. For damn sure we wouldn't be seeing the headline memorializing the "lone wolf", the "gunman", the "distraught person", making him sound like a person somebody's actually going to miss. He was a country music fan, we're told.  He enjoyed gambling. He lived a "quiet life" before the massacre.

Bully for him. Talk about white privilege. Never mind Muslim, do you think you'd see a headline like that if he were black? Of course not. He'd be a "thug", a "gang-banger", something like that. You can't say "nigger" in the paper, so those are the words used instead. But he's white, so what he did is whitewashed into almost acceptability.

And any talk about "what now" is shut down immediately. Controlling guns, we're told, won't stop shootings like this. Wring your hands some more, America. I mean, after all, you're the only country on the planet with this problem (to be honest, I don't believe the NRA actually sees mass shooting as any kind of problem at all). Of course you can't totally eliminate mass shootings, but you sure as hell can minimize them. Everybody else has.

Those of us outside America are stuck with the tried and trusty "thoughts and prayers". How I loathe that phrase. It's usually (not always, but usually) a rote response to incidents like this, signifying precisely fuck-all. I don't believe in the God these people are directing their prayers to, but it doesn't stop me from picturing him up there going Me damnit, the fuck do they want ME to do about this? 

I was going to go on a rant-within-the-rant on "thoughts and prayers". I will concede that some people say that and mean it. I'd be much more impressed with specific expressions of empathy coupled with tangible efforts to help. We can't do much from a distance, but...

Here's some things America could do. You know, if it gave half a shit about people getting murdered every single day, which it doesn't, but if it did...

Let's start with mandatory background checks for anyone purchasing guns. Duh. The National Review article above takes great pains to tell us this wouldn't have stopped the Vegas shooter. Maybe not. But it would stop SOME of these grotesqueries.

And that's the thing, isn't it? You bring up some actual measure you think might do some good and it's immediately, ahem, shot down. "Oh, that wouldn't work." Well, guess what. The status quo doesn't work, and it's exacting a death toll that I have to think in any other context would have people marching on Washington. With guns.

This shooter was clearly mentally ill--I sincerely believe that just thinking about taking a human life is a form of mental illness, let alone doing it. Again, there's shock in his family, he has no meaningful record with police, and yet...how else do you characterize an act like this? Somebody wasn't looking closely enough. In this world of dissolving community and every-man-for-himself, it's something of a wonder there aren't even more of these attacks; then again, nearly one a day is staggering.

There needs to be much better recognition and treatment of the mentally ill. There can be no stigma. Again, we don't know what motivated this killer, and perhaps there was no stopping this particular atrocity. But damnit, let's not make it so EASY.

This has another facet, and it's one I've never seen discussed until my friend Barbara brought it up on Facebook today. The victim count, last I looked, stood at 59 dead, over 515 injured, and apparently zero bystanders who will suffer any kind of psychological trauma whatsoever. This is, of course, bullshit. Most of the people at that festival -- 22,000 of them -- are victims whether they were hit by bullets or not. You don't think being on a killing floor fucks you up? It does. For life, in many cases. So let's recognize this: let's provide proper mental health care for anyone that needs it, for any reason.

Wow, that's a non-starter in a country where it's still thought perfectly acceptable that people should go bankrupt for PHYSICAL ailments. Empathy, America. Why is it in such critically short supply?

Guns. The fascination with them escapes me utterly: they are killing machines, nothing more, nothing less. The idea of a gun registry invokes death threats, so let's not go there; instead, let's have an AMMUNITION registry. Since these are (we are told) strictly for sport, let's make ammunition available only at gun ranges. Let's limit the amount one person can purchase to some reasonable number that isn't "thousands of rounds". These are just ideas...work with me here, people. Mandatory training, mandatory safe and secure storage, and an end to proliferation of the fucking things. Putting guns ANYWHERE does not make that place safer...if it did, America would be totally safe by now.

There's a third prong in doing something beyond milquetoast "thoughts and prayers", and it's something we can ALL do. Let's stop glorifying violence. The names of murderers should never be made public. They should be given to the families of their victims, and that's all. Let's talk more about the victims of crime, and what they've lost. That's even something the Right claims to want.

I really don't want to go much further because people start slapping a tinfoil hat on me. I know that violent video games aren't to blame, nor music (gun culture in country music is very noticeable, but to my knowledge there are no country songs about killing cops or other people in your neighbourhood. That'd be hip-hop/rap. At the same time, music, television and video games are all reflections of culture, and culture is in turn a reflection of media. What we need, desperately, is a culture that shuns unnecessary violence...and if we ever achieve that, let's then keep widening the definition of 'unnecessary'.

But none of this will happen. In three weeks, Vegas will join the dozens, scores, hundreds, thousands of footnotes in America's sordid history of senseless murder. I'd say that maybe a kindergarten getting shot up might provoke some kind of change, but that happened five years ago and nope. There was exactly the same thoughts and prayers and handwringing and "whatever-shall-we-DO?" then.

It's sad. And infuriating.

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