Image: Law enforcement responds to a shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Spring, TX. (KSAT, via Associated Press)
It’s become a routine: first, a bare notice on the AP wires that “a shooting” has happened, more to come. Then the “more” comes: details about where it happened, a growing roster of dead, stories about the first responders, then, to fill the 24 hour news cycle, endless speculation about “the shooter” who is almost always dead, almost always male, almost always white.
Was he mentally ill? What was he angry about? Was he a terrorist? Was he something else? What was his motive?
Meanwhile, somewhere, emergency rooms are filling up with people screaming in pain, bodies blown to bits, lives shredded like so much confetti.
The news reporters count the tally: how many dead? How does this compare to other shootings? Was this “the biggest” in some way?
And I cannot help but think of the next “shooter,” collecting his guns and ammo, making his plans. We know that at least some of those men followed the news about other shootings.
And through it all, I want to cry, fling a shoe at my radio, and wail, “I DON’T CARE WHY HE DID IT.”
We have taken a national health crisis and made it into a drama. People (usually white males) murder (mostly by shooting) lots and lots and lots of people, and we debate when it is OK to talk about solutions, when it is OK to talk politics, and on and on about motive.
His motive was that he wanted to hurt people. The means was easy: it was probably a gun, which is easy to get and easy to use. The method: find a place where people are gathered, squeeze the trigger and let fly.
There is no mystery about the shooter, only sick fascination.
The real mystery is why we sit like looky-loos passing an accident, hanging onto the news for gruesome details, watching the commercials so we can get to the next segment, the next expert, the next scrap of information that doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
We perseverate over his motive, we perseverate over his story, and meanwhile there are people in hospitals with lives ruined, limbs mangled, futures lost. I don’t care why he did it. I refuse to care about him. I care about the people who are hurt.
I don’t have any solution to this. More control of who gets a gun? We seem to lack the will for that.
The only word I have that makes any sense to me: Idolatry. We have chosen, as a nation, to enshrine a certain kind of device and make unfettered possession of it more important, more precious, than human life.
I am sick at heart, and I have no more words.
For my follow-up to this post, read Our Orgy of Anger.