Mass shootings are so frequent in America that the political responses to them have become ritualized to the point of parody. The social-media accounts of the N.R.A.—which kicked off last weekend by retweeting a picture of a machine gun, to celebrate #FullAutoFriday—go dark. The politicians funded by the N.R.A.—mostly Republicans—tweet “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. The House Speaker, Paul Ryan, said, “The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences, and in our prayers.” He ordered flags at the Capitol to be lowered. “Keeping #LasVegas in our thoughts this morning after the horrific news,” the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, tweeted. A tweet from President Trump was a model of the form: “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
The politicians, mostly Democrats, who think that an epidemic of mass shootings requires government action issue angry pleas for action. “This must stop,” the Connecticut senator Chris Murphy in a statement said. “It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”
The New Yorker on the ritual.
The US’s gun violence epidemic is horrifying in that it’s a problem unique to the US and for which the solutions are well-known and implemented in pretty much every other country in the world. But the problem isn’t policy-based. It’s cultural. There’s something sick at the heart of American culture. Something thoughts and prayers aren’t going to fix.
America’s gun violence is the horrifying intersection between capitalist big money and right-wing paranoia. It is a handful of mega-corporations using propaganda to incite a minority of the country into holding the majority hostage with the threat of violence and, make no mistake, that is exactly what it is. Legislators are reluctant to move on gun control because they, rightly, fear for their lives. So they prevaricate. Hold up mealy mouthed platitudes about hunting trips as children and “responsible ownership” as shields. Please, don’t shoot me too.
And, meanwhile, people die.
Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Talking about “lone wolves” isn’t enough. Holding gun manufacturers accountable will be a start. Gutting or repealing or rewriting the Second Amendment–yeah, I said it, not that the Second Amendment means what anyone thinks it means, but whatever–will be a start. Do I think that’s going to happen? Not unless America elects goddamn Superman–someone immune to bullets, in other words–as President.
You want to talk about terrorism? This is terrorism. Corporately funded terrorism. And I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better.