November 8, 2018
Cozy and I were at the zoo this week and she was really excited to see the fruit bats. To get to the Oregon Zoo’s bat cave we had to pass the giraffe enclosure. She was so focused on the bats she could have cared less about the giant giraffes. “But Cozy, there are two huge giraffes right there! Let’s stop and look at them.” She looked back at me, like “meh. I’ve seen those giraffes before.”
Her blasé attitude about giraffes is how America feels about mass shootings. So what?
When I went to school in the UK in 1980s, people would often be amazed that, as an American, I didn’t live in constant fear of being killed by a mad gunman. “Aren’t you terrified you’ll be in a McDonalds and some guy will walk in and just start shooting?” This is the world’s picture of the United States. It’s a shoot out at OK Corral every day as boys and men unload their sacred weapons into soft targets at schools, synagogues, and college bars. “Meh,” we say, as the bodies stack up. Some of the victims of last night’s shooting in Thousand Oaks were also at last year’s shooting on the Las Vegas strip. How many mass shootings will you survive? Or not?
It’s more than disgusting that this is the hallmark of American culture. We are a nation of boys and men who see homicidal violence as an appropriate way of expressing pain and anger. Most of these boys and men are suicidal so the “good guy with a gun” myth only fits into their plan. Another day, another mass shooting in America. I have written about this too many times and the need to focus on the masculinity-gun violence connection. There will be so many more shootings, so many more grieving family members on TV. And then the next shooting will happen. This is America.
Pioneering sociologist Georg Simmel (1858-1918) foresaw the “Meh Effect” in his 1903 essay, The Metropolis and Mental Life. He wrote of a relatively new phenomenon he called the blasé attitude. Life in the city had so much stimuli that we become overwhelmed and just tune everything out as sort of a coping mechanism. I remember the first time I saw a homeless person laying on a sidewalk, I jumped out of friend’s car to help. I thought they were having a medical emergency. My friend grabbed me and told me, “That’s just a homeless person. You see it all the time in the city.” Meh.
Nothing is shocking anymore. We see so much carnage from random gun violence in this country, it’s barely worth looking up from our phones. It must be how kids in Aleppo respond when they hear another bomb drop on their neighborhood. We are immune. Until it happens to us. Until the deep trauma has dropped on our doorstep.
Because I do this work, I pay attention to the exit signs. Especially when I am out with my kid. When Cozy and I were wandering around Times Square last month, I made mental notes about where to go if a bomb went off or some guy just opened fire on the crowds. I did not, however, make a plan of how to respond if my daughter had been killed and perhaps I should.
The good news is violent crime in America has been dropping since 1993. The bad news is boys and men who shoot innocent people in orgies of violence has not. You are not safe anywhere. Not the movie theater. Not the mall. Not a yoga class. Not a church. Not a kindergarten class. So you better prepare yourself. If you are not willing to work to change the culture of boys and men who do this, you better be ready for when they do and kill someone you love.
6 thoughts on “At which mass shooting will your loved ones be killed?”
When I heard that it was a Marine who did this, my very first thought was PTSD. It reminds when the U.S. sent our nations elite operational soldiers to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. When these men came home, they were so messed up, they fell off their rocker and killed their wives and children. When I came home from Iraq in 2005, I knew of several guys that committed acts of violence. Even the army traitor Nidal Hassan who shot and killed many soldiers because he didn’t want to be deployed.
Whenever there’s a shooting, people are quick to call for gun laws. Doing that is saying one thing: there are thousands of gun laws on the books and not ONE is sufficient. Washington just passed a law that pushes the legal age from buying a rifle from 18 to 21. That’s good and all, but what good is that really? That’s like putting a band aid on a gun shot wound. There’s laws that prohibit felons and the mentally ill to own a gun, yet they either steal or buy them on the black market. I’m not sure if stricter gun laws will do.
I’m not sure if this will make sense or not, but I’m going to do my very best to explain this. As a veteran who’s seen some nasty stuff, I understand what David Long (the shooter) was going through. When our veterans come home from combat, they are exposed to a different war. While deployed in a combat environment, everything makes sense there: kill or be killed. It’s about ensuring you not only make it home, but also the person to your left and right. When the service member comes home, they are exposed to life that is not normal to them. Family members almost expect them to return to the normalcy of a life they had prior to combat deployment. So when the service member comes home, they think that fighting and violence is still the answer. When David Long shot and killed those people in the bar, something triggered him there. We may not necessarily know what it was, but something triggered him.
Please don’t think I’m making excuses for him because I’m not, I’m looking at in a lens of someone who’s been in those shoes. We live in a country where we say we support the military 100%, but I ask if there are people who really do. The military really doesn’t do much with transitioning from combat to non-combat, military to civilian. So many of our service members (both men and women) think it’s a sign of weakness to go seek mental health treatment (the military trains us that way).
So I challenge this: rather than calling for stricter gun laws, call for our government to do more to help our military and veterans. Rather than stamping a $20 bill on their chest and wishing them the best of luck after combat or the military, there needs to be something more to help them. However, I don’t think our elected officials really listen. I’ve tried reaching out MANY MANY MANY times to my elected officials. I NEVER hear anything back from them. When my wife and I lived in Monterey, CA., I always heard back from my congressman (Sam Farr).
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PTSD us a serious issue. People used to make fun of “shell shocked” vets. Not anymore. Another reason war should be the last possible choice.
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As someone who’sa exposed to it, it’s not about using it as a last resort. It’s about using and taking proper protocols to helping our men and women who come home from battle.
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i have PTSD after witnessing the murder of my husband. it is terrible , imagine what our fighting men have seen. i got excellent mental health care. it is still there. please help these vets. make it easier for a parent to see that they get help. it is an on going process, and will be with them always . . i don’t know this guys motive. but all of these people are still dead. the man that killed my husband was mentally ill but not with PTSD. Just bat shit crazy. and now i turn my thoughts to gun control. if you are not in the armed services, a policeman or a hunter that hunts to feed his family, YOU DO NOT NEED A GUN. and certainly not one that’s shoots many bullets rapidly. this guy’s Mother saw signs of violence in him. either did nothing or couldn’t force him to get help. the old “thoughts and prayers” after these killing are a waste of time. so many young , promising young people dead, i can only say, it might have been prevented if this killer had mental health care. i weep when i think of all those whose lives were cut short, young people full of hope and dreams of a good life. and their parents must have shed a million tears. my heart reaches out to them.
I know I’ve said this many times, but I’m deeply sorry that someone took your husband away from you. I honestly believe that we live in a country that says there needs to be something done to help those who are mentally ill, but there’s no action or follow through with it. The only solution people can come up with is to say we need stricter gun laws.
Here’s a problem with that, it’s not the gun that kills people, it’s people that kill people. 10 out 10 guns won’t shoot and kill someone. Put that gun into the hands of someone who shouldn’t….that could be a different outcome.
I own quite a few guns. Some used for sport shooting and others used for hunting. Stricter gun laws or taking guns away won’t solve the answer until the talk turns into action to not only help the mentally ill, but to try and keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and mentally ill.