In the wake of a shooting that left 22 Texans dead, America went to sleep. She woke, no sooner than the next morning, to the news of another. This time: Ohio, where in just 30 seconds a lone gunman punched bullets into no-less than 25 people, 9 fatally.
A national tragedy? Hardly. Those of us on the outside and also, surely, many Americans, remember what national tragedy used to resemble. We remember a time when the massacre of 13 high school students wrought national unity in self-introspection. We remember a time when the thump of butchering bullets into 20 preschool children, huddled with their teachers at the back of a classroom, rang louder than the din of political point-scoring. We remember a time when the President couldn’t help but cry – who among us didn’t?
We remember a time when the mere idea of a POTUS so carelessly confusing the target of his counsel would illicit white fury (the city was Dayton, not ‘Toledo’, Mr President). We remember a time when gunmen, white supremacists and other “very fine people” were confined to the far fringes of society. We remember a time when industrial-scale death was something to be explicitly condemned, no ifs, ands or buts.
The Texas shooter entered an El Paso Walmart and shed humanity, like a snake slithering out of old skin. Arched over his head, farcically, were a pair of protective earmuffs, fit for filtering out the fire of his rifle and the screams of its targets.
America, too, walked into El Paso clad with earmuffs. She did so again, some 13 hours later, in Dayton, Ohio.
The President bumbled erroneously through a routine post-spree speech – though one wonders how long it’ll be before Trump is mistaking Toledo for Dayton. The flags, again, were lowered, and tweets were sent refreshing the global tally of mass-shootings.
Such is the well-run routine of American pseudo-mourning. The normalisation of mass murder has left the political establishment and lobbyists well-placed to anticipate, humour and dampen the inevitable wave of outrage that bleeds from the national psyche in the wake of a shooting.
Conscientious citizens: the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School political action committee stands out, will rally and rail against vacuously lax gun ownership regulation, and those in high office who would dare defend the status quo. Simultaneously, and just as surely, campaigns for the debasement of the reformist cause will start in earnest. Misinformation will spill from the mouths of status quo preservationists, in media and politics: allusions to video game violence, mental health and ‘good guys with guns’ will seek to prop up the façade of a ‘gun debate’. In reality, for a question long-since settled by almost every other developed country on the planet, the gun ‘debate’ occupies the same space as the climate change ‘debate’, the flat Earth ‘debate’, the Apollo 11 ‘debate’.
The death of the American national tragedy is dated December 14th, 2012. Its hallmarks, since then, have been absent, bled from the collective psyche by the mundaneness of routine, the triviality of normalisation and the capitalisation of status quo preservationists on each. After Sandy Hook, national tragedy in America is a fading memory. That reality is, truly, tragic.