When Murder is the Norm and Shock is Elusive

Copyright 2015 Jack Ohman, aka the most brilliant political cartoonist in the history of the craft.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  

Here we go again.

I received a text this morning from a friend of mine who asked,

“What are you going to tell Jake about the California shootings?”

Staring at the words on the phone I actually laughed.

What am I going to tell Jake?  What do you tell a child who is so immune to the horrors of people slaughtering each other that he hardly reacts anymore? What do we tell our children raised in a society so imbued with the stench of hatred and violence that our paradigm is horror, rather than normalcy?

What happens when there is no such thing as “horror” any longer?

Nothing to See Here, Ma’am, Move Along

Jake was home sick yesterday and as I was working in my office, I saw the news flash across my monitor and exclaimed,

“No.  Not again.”

He was watching TV in my room next door and ambled in out of curiosity.

“What’s happening?” he asked.

“Another mass shooting; this time in California.” I replied.

“That’s terrible,” he said, and then shuffled back to bed to watch Judge Judy.

As President Obama noted after the shooting here in Oregon, we’ve become numb to this.  We offer “thoughts and prayers” to corpses and their loved ones on Facebook as we feel nothing and wish we could.

Remember When?

Those of us who came of age in a time when tragedy was not the norm wistfully recall the shock and profound sadness felt by individuals and society as a whole when terrible things happened.

  • The murder of John Lennon (1980)
  • The Beirut Marine barracks bombing (1983)
  • San Ysidro massacre (1984)
  • Bhopal (1984)
  • The Challenger explosion (1986)
  • Chernobyl (1986)
  • Pan Am 103 (1988)
  • Stockton, CA schoolyard shooting (1989)
  • Mecca stampede (1990)
  • LA riots (1992)
  • Bosnian genocide begins (1992)

I think it was then things started to shift.  By the time 1993 arrived, Americans were becoming so immune to senseless violence that we made a national joke out of a horrific incident of domestic abuse.

1993: The year Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis, threw it in a field, and was found not guilty due to temporary insanity.  She served 45 days in a mental hospital and was then free to go about her merry way while we made the gruesome crime a water cooler punchline.

By the time 1994 rolled around with the Rwandan genocide, our country was developing a habit of the CSS (Collective Shoulder Shrug): served up in lieu of outrage, shock and sadness, the CSS protected us from both fear and decisive action.  “What can we do?” we all questioned in quiet resignation.

“The world is a fucked up place.”

1995 brought us the Oklahoma City bombing and the Tokyo sarin attacks, but our country was riveted instead by the real-life soap opera of the OJ Simpson trial, complete with The Dancing Itos.  The victims were largely ignored as people like Jay Leno sought to cash in on the slit throats of innocents.

And that was the beginning of the end.

September 11 may have catapulted us backward to a time we could be struck dumb and then unified by the atrocities of man, but that was only temporary.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the rise of multiple terrorist organizations who would behead those who traveled far to give aid to their countrymen, the thousands killed by those terrorists over the years, and the herpes-like existence of the occupation of the Kardashian family at the forefront of the American consciousness all prove we may be heading to a place from which we cannot return.

My friend Jack and I discussed this over text last night.

“I feel guilty for having a child,” I wrote.

I wonder how much worse things can get and what sort of world will be there for our children and their children.  When I go too deep down that rabbit hole, I cannot breathe.

The Politicization of Death 

As if these mass shootings and other awful world events weren’t bad enough, we now have the scourge of anonymous cowards on social media, quick to bray about their weaponry skills and patriotism but so terrified of the world that they cannot express their opinions under their real name.

Yesterday I checked Twitter immediately after hearing the news to see if they had any live tweet on-scene reporting going on.  The tragedy had barely begun to unfold and was maybe 15 minutes in when I saw this:

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And then this happened:

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And this morning I woke up to this:

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(If your eyes are old and worthless like mine and you can’t read what those say, click on the images)

We don’t know what happened yesterday and why.  We certainly knew nothing in the first few hours, much less minutes.  What we do know is that there are some people so angry and uneducated that they would twist the deaths of innocent civilians into an attack on “liberals,” whatever the fuck that word means.

The Honeymoon is Over

After the last mass shooting and the hundreds of others occurring just this year in America, many people want to discuss improving our gun laws to reduce the incidence of these events.  President Obama has been routinely excoriated by right-wing gun advocates for raising the issue “too soon” after a massacre.

  • “Too soon” after Tucson (6 murdered, 11 injured)
  • “Too soon” after Aurora (12 murdered, 58 injured)
  • “Too soon” after Sandy Hook (27 murdered, 1 injured)
  • “Too soon” after Charleston (9 murdered, 1 injured)
  • “Too soon” after Roseburg (9 murdered, 9 injured)
  • “Too soon” after Colorado Springs (3 murdered, 9 injured)
  • “Too soon” after San Bernardino (14 murdered, 17 injured)

Some people would have the President or anyone else concerned about the proliferation of gun violence in this country hold their tongue until a time “more appropriate” (which apparently is vaguely defined as: “less soon”) to discuss U.S. gun laws.  But when is that time ever to present itself?

I am reminded of the cycle of domestic violence I studied as a college student.  Here’s a simple illustration for you:

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Experts say that over time, an abusive relationship will speed up this cycle to such a degree that there is no longer the remorse, pursuit, and honeymoon phases.  Instead, the perpetrator moves from “build up” to “stand-over” to “explosion” in rapid succession.

In other words, you stop getting the apologies, flowers and candy in-between assaults.

It feels like our country is in one long abusive relationship with its citizens.  We now live in a society with an average of more than one mass shooting every single day.

There is no honeymoon period.

There is no respite from the images of bloodied bodies and wailing families.

There is no peace.

It’s never “too soon” to begin the analysis of how to solve this crisis.  But sometimes, when I lie awake in bed and wonder if bringing a child into this world was a horrible and selfish mistake, I wonder:

Is it too late?

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. george shearer

    maybe humans are flawed. maybe modern life has allowed those that darwin would have removed to reproduce, and without sabertooths and t-rex’s (for the 6K earth believers) to cull the herd, we have become dumb and dumberer. the maharaji says that everything is as it should be. if true, america is in for a long period of karmic retribution. i used to fret about what could i, a lone single voice of rational thought (hopefully), do. the only answer i have come up with is, be the answer. change the paradigm. peace and love.

  2. Brendan Quinlan

    Sad but very true

  3. Mary Bowman

    This is a brilliantly devastating piece of writing.

Comments are closed.