Images of immense pain and sorrow on the faces of high school students in Florida in the wake of another maelstrom of violence and bloodshed in America keep coming to mind and heart. Is there anything anyone can say in the wake of such replicating, execrable awfulness?
As a friend said, “These school shootings [18 in 45 days] are such a sign of how bad things are in this country.” And yet a cable news commentator leads off his show repeating the nauseating nostrum of “American exceptionalism,” adding, “though these shootings are making it harder to sell to the world.” Ya think?
Politicians on the right in the pocket of the gun lobby, such as President Trump, mouth the same old disgusting platitudes: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families…we cannot politicize this issue…now is not the time to discuss gun laws.”
Denialists on the left, politicians and media hacks alike, utter soothing half-truths such as, “The difference between here and anywhere else is that mentally deranged individuals like this young man can so easily get their hands on military assault rifles.”
The problem lies with “loners” and “outcasts,” people who “cannot fit into the otherwise good life that the vast majority of American have.”
The day before this latest mass murder Frank Bruni wrote, “There can be no mistake: America is in a rotten moment, but North Korea is rotten to the core.”
No, America is also rotten to the core, and until that fact is faced, this shit is going to continue. If you need any further evidence that this is a benighted land, consider the words of some of the students who knew the killer:
“A lot of kids joked around, saying that he was going to be the one to shoot up the school. It turns out everyone predicted it.”
“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him.”
“I can’t say I was shocked, from past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”
“Everyone predicted it.”
Contrast these comments from students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with those of parents and teachers, who insisted they were living the “very residential, very safe and wonderful community” of Parkland, Florida.
This complete contradiction and disconnect describes the condition of the culture, the Grand Chasm between what young people know and view as normal, even joke about, and the truth that adults refuse to admit and face and act upon.
People say they want to know why these mass murders keep happening. But they don’t really want to know, because that requires looking into our selves.
I was talking with a couple of smart, attractive women in Starbucks the other day about the jewel of this city, the large canyon just beyond town called “Upper Park.” I said that I try to get there once a week to meditate and hike, but recently have been harassed by drones, with smartphones attached, hovering directly overhead.
“I’d take out my gun and shoot them down,” one woman said, the last person in the crowded café I would have thought was a gun nut.
More bemused than amused, I asked, you’re a gun lady?
That’s what things have come to even in California, where many people are buying into the delusion that the only thing that can protect them is a gun.
Concealed gun permits are hard to obtain in California. This well-educated mother and clearly competent woman bragged about her proficiency, and “the sheer damn fun” of shooting all kinds of guns.
“People in the know say that at any given time in a mall, 50% of people are carrying guns, half with permits, half not,” she added.
I don’t know whether that’s true, but the mentality is prevalent. Why should we be surprised? America, the worst spreader of arms and wars in human history, has become a landscaped war zone.
The easy explanations—mental illness, guns, bullying, alienation, political paralysis, etc.—are being repeated ad nauseum.
Very few if any are looking below the surface, at why such evil is erupting in the nation’s schools. Once again the focus is on the individual—his motivations, social media postings, warning signs, etc.
Commentators are finally beginning to express outrage. But it’s still a huge show, in which the unspeakable suffering of even high school students is paraded before the cameras in some kind of sick pageant of vicarious, voyeuristic pain.