The writer in me spends a lot of time observing the behavior of others and my surroundings. This often manifests in stringing together - or attempting to- the perfect words in order to share my often pedestrian thoughts. I look for substance and a story in most every situation. For the most part, nothing comes from my observations though I tuck them away for an anecdote for later. I have spent days trying to find the words, that substance, in the aftermath of the shooting at UCSB but al I am left with is numbness. Instead of being able to use my words to convey a sense of absolute sadness. All I have is exhaustion. I have read and re-read the words below only to come to the same conclusion: weariness. Numbness. An inability to be profound because this is our normal and how we Americans live. How we have learned to accept this as status quo.
I have the sense that I have told these stories before and listed the statistics but it bears repeating.
I was 16 and a junior in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. By the time I graduated in 2001 no less than five other school shootings happened.
I was 18 and living in Washington, DC when two snipers terrorized the DC, Maryland and Virginia area.
I have a number of these memories that have grown fuzzy and run together over the years. Once upon a time I could remember what I wore, what I was doing and the way that fear made its way through my body and brain as I questioned the severity of each of these incidents. The rarity of each act of violence has been long forgotten and in place is not ambivalence but exhaustion. How many times can we have this conversation? How many times can we - the collective we as residents of what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world - dissect shootings and the anatomy of each? Mental illness is offered. He’s a psycho is uttered by a talking head. Hashtag activism is born. The emergence of Twitter in addition to the 24 hour news cycle, as we learned long ago, has propelled each shooter into celebratory status as we research their genetic and mental make up. Each time we ask, “what drove him to do it?”
This heaviness. This perpetual feeling of waiting for the next shooting to happen. Aren’t you tired too? This collective anger should drive us to move mountains to ensure that this does not happen again. Why do we live in a country where the second amendment trumps the rights of all citizens to live in a place of relative peace? Where each month we shake our heads while watching the news of another shooting go by? And then we go back to our lives. I want to cry because I am so angry though my tears will do little to make a difference.
I have watched and re-watched the anguish of Richard Martinez the father of victim, Christopher Martinez. This is how we should all respond; to push through the noise and rehashing the background of the perpetrator but to call on congress to do something. People always tell me that they are afraid to call or reach out to their member of congress or any elected official. They are nervous. Not doing anything gives tacit consent for them to continue to do nothing and to perpetuate the violence. By not speaking out we are allowing for the likes of the NRA to continue saying that the second amendment trumps our safety.
I am so bad and unable to tie this up neatly except to tell you to act and to read this from Michael Moore who is far more adequate at expressing our new normal.
“With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests." The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?" Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.” - Michael Moore