The Double Tragedy of the American Spree Shooting
We are, once again, in the aftermath of yet another heartrendingly terrible mass shooting. This time the targets were eleven Jews who were massacred by a hate-poisoned anti-Semite for the sin of being Jewish in a world that never allows Jews like myself to forget that we are hated on a deep, vitriolic level that could erupt into violence at any time and sometimes does.
As a Jew as well as a human being, this latest shooting spree hit close to home. It feels uniquely, uncomfortably personal but whether the victims of the latest shooting spree are your fellow Jews or gentiles half a world away, the aftermath of an American-style eminently preventable mass shooting is dispiritingly predictable.
There will be the requisite calls to come together and unite in a time of mourning and despair, confusion and dread but they will almost always ring hollow and insincere. This is particularly true if those calls for unity comes from Donald Trump and take the form of him imploring his followers (and only his followers, really, as he does not give a fuck about anyone who did not vote for him) to come together and confront the true enemy of the American people: a free press that accurately chronicles the things Trump does and says, often using his own words verbatim, something he seems to see of as an appalling violation of journalistic ethics at best and a crime punishable by capital punishment at worse.
In the awful shadow of a mass shooting, Republicans invariably accuse the Democrats of politicizing an awful tragedy by arguing that we should take bold, decisive, long-overdue action to prevent future massacres through common sense gun control and rethinking a national culture that prioritizes the freedom of hunters and anti-government conspiracy theorists over the safety of children and teachers.
The answer, they inevitably insist, is not fewer guns (God forbid, that’s blasphemy!) but rather more guns in the hands of the good people. Arming teachers remains a horrifically popular idea among the gun nut set and when eleven Jews were killed for practicing their freedom of religion, Trump insisted that the problem was not the sharp spike in anti-Semitism and bigotry that swept him into office or our toxic gun culture but rather evil and a lack of armed security at the Synagogue.
For Republicans, shootings never have anything to do with gun laws or the ubiquity of guns in our society. No, it’s all about evil and you can’t do anything about evil except put more black men in prison for marijuana unless rich white men can benefit from black men smoking marijuana, in which case blaze it up, baby!
Trump’s odious, victim-blaming, inevitably self-serving and dishonest response to mass shootings makes Republican politicians’ empty offer of “thoughts and prayers” seem like an elegant, eloquent and deeply humane and meaningful action rather than a blood-boilingly pointless, hollow and empty gesture.
In the wake of these awful shootings Republicans will accuse the left of not caring about the victims except as pawns in a political chess match. The left will say the same of the right. Both parties will dig in and depict the other as callous monsters who either want to ensure further massacres by stubbornly refusing to implement common-sense gun control or by sadistically and unconstitutionally marching into their homes under cover of night to confiscate their guns so they will be powerless before the many bad people with guns that the government didn’t take away because they’re illegal.
We seem to grow progressively angrier and more inflexible, more partisan and less understanding. This, friends, is a double tragedy. We compound the horror and sadness of a tragedy by responding to it in ways that make our culture even uglier and more divisive. I wish that we could come together in times like these but I just don’t think it’s possible. Instead of illustrating unity these massacres just expose the yawning divisions of a culture seemingly at war itself.
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