I started writing this post about mass shootings in the United States last week, then over the weekend, there was a mass shooting in Monterey Park. That’s where we lived before we moved to Joshua Tree. The shooting was a block from the CVS we went to a hundred times. The shooter left the scene and went to Alhambra, where we lived before we moved to Monterey Park. He was disarmed (but not detained) half a block from our old post office.
We’re 125 miles from those places now, but it was still kind of disturbing to learn of a mass shooting (I don’t know why don’t we call them what they are, mass murders) in cities where I spent 13 or 14 years living. It brings it all home, as they say. It forces you to think about it. Which we rarely do when mass shootings happen “somewhere else.” But you can’t really blame anyone for not thinking about mass shootings. There are too many mass shootings to care about all of them.
There are too many mass shootings to care about all of them.
39 mass shootings have taken place in the US in just the first three weeks of 2023.
But it’s okay, because: praying! Thoughts and prayers. Empty performative gestures of non-concern. “We prayed for the victims of mass shooting #7,286, what else do you want from us?” Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, wipe the blood off your hands, and pray some more. This is America.
When I was born there hadn’t been a mass shooting of random victims in modern America. The first one happened when I was six years old, in 1966, at the University of Texas at Austin where 15 people were killed and 31 were injured. There had been and continued to be, plenty of mass shootings at protests and during civil unrest, it was the 60s after all. But those weren’t random.
In the 70s mass shootings became more common, but I feel like the mass shooting world we live in today really started in 1984 when someone shot up a Mcdonald’s in San Ysidro with an Uzi, killing 22 people, and injuring another 19.
And on and on it goes, and here we are, in a world where mass shootings are normal. Or rather, a country where they are normal. The USA is #1 there, by a wide margin. There are larger countries with more gun violence overall, but no place else on earth allows as many random mass shootings to take place.
Mass shootings are probably normal here because we’ve normalized gun ownership and use. Try to forget for a minute that we have more guns than people in the country, and ask yourself if it makes sense that there are companies that manufacture guns at all. Let alone sells them to anyone who wants one. Try to rationalize that. You can’t because it isn’t rational.
And speaking of normalization, try to limit your movie or television show viewing to movies or shows where no character ever touches a gun. Good luck.
I love America. Or I love most of America. I am the product of gun country (I owned a gun for years, though I do not own a gun now). Or maybe more accurately I love the idea and potential of the country and its people. We do not have a great country now, nor have we ever (unless you are or were a rich white man). We have a decent basis for a great country, a starting point, that’s all.
But that’s a lot. It would be easier to build a great country from this American pile of bones than it would be to build a great country from, say, the bones of Afghanistan. But there are far more commonalities between America and Afghanistan than there are differences. Afghans just don’t bother to hide their many hatreds, we do. We try to hide them, but we’ve never been able to.
Okay, sorry. That’s a fairy tale for a different day. In the meantime, let us pray.
It’s the least we can do, and we always do the least we can do.