The Initial Processing:
July 20th, 2012: It's not really a shock, unfortunately, that someone would plan in advance a mass killing of unsuspecting strangers in a public place. American society has seen these events only increase in popularity within the past decade, and not just in movies.
Ergo, after seeing this morning's tweet about the massacre, I consciously dissected my own desensitized reaction to it. Sure, the more I dwell on what happened, the more I realize in my brain just how awful it is, but honestly my heart feels little ache, and that troubles me.
Partly I'm troubled because of the news attention this kind of event receives. It worries me that the notoriety of place and act become the trophy and not the message. In other words, for the sick or angry minds that fantasize such devilish acts, here is promise they will have their moment, and the world will know who they are. There is a delicate balance in the dissemination of the news to first do no harm, and second, shed light to understanding of our tragedy.
But more than the indirect danger of a salacious headline, I'm disheartened that what it takes for a nation as great as the United States to work up a united emotional reaction to bloodshed and injustice -- this loss of innocence and a feeling of contemplation as to what this all means -- isn't that 14 people died from getting shot. In the United States, more than 1,000 people die by gun violence every month. No, it's the phenomenon that it happened in the same place at the same time. News.
In the wake of this tragedy in Colorado, My hope is that this sort of event, which makes us contemplate the immediacy of life, extends the charitable flesh of our hearts to consider the others too -- those unnamed, collective masses that die every day, not just from gun violence, but also from hunger, preventable disease and unnecessary conflict.
And let us not only consider, but also lend our voices to the widening gap between reason and action. Let us blog and meme and hell-raise and advocate and tweet and post and share and fill our status updates with digital expressions of our compassion; but let us also back it up with real action, all the while hoping that our collective humanity in moments like Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood and Aurora aren't the sudden news-cycle-length exception to the rule, but only an intensification of it.
Speaking to that hope just after the Aurora shooting, President Obama said, "I'm going to continue to work with members of both parties and with religious groups and with civic organizations to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction."
April 18th, 2013: After another tragic shooting, Newtown, Connecticut, which struck the nerve I felt had become numb after Aurora, we are continuing that conversation President Obama promised to have after that day in Colorado. Now, in culmination of those efforts, last Wednesday, a minority number of senators chose to abandon reasonable, bipartisan-crafted policy, effectively halting several proposed gun control measures.
Former Arizona Congresswoman and leader against gun violence, Gabrielle Giffords, in a column she wrote for the New York Times, said of the senators, "their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest... bringing shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing."
And while Ms. Giffords wrote that she was furious, the president also did little to hide his disappointment from the Rose Garden podium as well saying that, "most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this."
It seems the article I started to write and never could finish turned out to be troubling foreshadow for Sandy Hook and the ultimate victory of the gun lobby in Wednesday's Senate bill. I'm even more struck by how in the light of so much tragedy in one week for our country, those elected officials who stymied gun control efforts can bend and stretch their empathy in every hollow tweet and press release to pray for those in Boston and Texas, proclaiming business as usual for online gun-sale loopholes and ineffective background checks.
Think not that my intention is to to diminish the magnitude and tragedy of the Boston bombing and Texas explosion, but lip service to a tragedy void of political risk, is diminishing to those same leaders who, in their cowardice, gave no regard for the ceaseless slaughter of citizens which on a nearly hourly basis dwarfs the tragedies in Massachusetts and Texas. If it's a solitary event they want, Sandy Hook could be Exhibit A.
Then came the damning indictment on Wednesday the 17 of April, which rang true to the core of everything that is wrong with the current American political state. "It came down to politics," President Obama said at the White House briefing, "the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections." Sadly, this is one scenario where I wish he wasn't right.
And yet, when such an unspeakable horror as Sandy Hook cannot move a representative of the people to take a risk of conscience despite the political backfire, one must look at the coward for what he is, certainly not a senator. Not next time anyway.
Follow Joseph Peterson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/planetjoseph