I’ll be honest. When I heard about Gilroy, and then El Paso, and then Dayton (which is 45 minutes from my hometown), I felt nothing. I just stared, dull-eyed, at the news and at social media feeds and as people lamented the evil in the world while being very careful not to name any specific evil.
And then, yesterday, as my husband and I were getting dinner ready for the kids, I went to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror. And I lost it. I sobbed. Gasping sobs I tried to muffle. Because I didn’t want him or the kids or my visiting mother-in-law to hear. No need to make people uncomfortable when this kind of thing literally happens every day in America.
And I’m going to be even more honest. I’m not sure if I was crying because of the horror of all those senseless deaths. Of the horror that it won’t stop. Of the horror that nothing will change, no matter how high the death toll. Of the horror that it’s only a matter of time before it’s me or someone I know.
Or, just as horrifyingly, if I was crying because I realized I finally really am numb. And the only reason I was crying is because I was mourning that part of my humanity that also died in the latest hail of bullets.
Does that sound defeatist? It is. Because I’m defeated. And maybe you are too. Because the biggest horror of all is that we have decided this is ok. We might say it’s not, we might scream until our voices are raw that we can’t let this be the new normal, but we won’t do anything. It doesn’t even matter what we think is the cause behind these mass shootings anymore.
Is it a gun problem?
Is it a mental health problem?
Is it a young, white, male problem?
Is it racism?
Is it hate?
Is it an uncaring society?
Is it all of the above?
Again, it doesn’t matter. Gun control measures never get passed and still we elect the same people over and over in Congress. Money will never be given to expand mental health care services. People can’t even get healthcare for the physical bodies, let alone their minds. These killers leave behind manifestos specifically citing racism as their reason for killing dozens of innocent people and yet America still can’t take a good hard look at itself and say unequivocally that we have a massive problem with racism. Hate? Maybe if we all just hug each other more. Except kindness isn’t bullet-proof. Neither are thoughts and prayers.
But, hey, I get it. It’s easier to say this is a heart problem, a problem within these individuals, and then get back to the business of living than it is to realize that we have all contributed to this dystopian nightmare because of our collective complacency. Let alone do something meaningful about it. We can’t even be moved anymore by the images of young survivors of a school shooting on TV pleading for us to do something to save their lives.
Tough break, kids. But really it’s your fault and all those video games you play.
Afterall, the world can’t stop for every mass shooting when it happens all the time. We still have to make breakfast for the kids and send them off to school. We still have to go to the office. We still have to go shopping and head to church. It’s easier just to teach our toddlers how to run and hide when they hear gunshots going off. Easier to just turn off the news and shrug our shoulders at the growing piles of bloody dead bodies and dash off short tweets about how there will always be evil in the world. No need to actually try to stop it.
Does this make you angry? Sad? Does it make you feel anything? Does it make you want to do anything? Are you nodding your head in recognition? Or getting ready to dash off a scathing comment about how they’ll be coming for your guns now even though no one has ever come for your guns? Not even after a classroom of kindergartners were slaughtered.
Because it doesn’t matter. We can argue about this forever.
And while we do, more of our children and friends and lovers and neighbors and classmates will die.
And we’ll still be right here. Where we started.