THEY HAVE FAILED US
The problem isn't that policies or strategies to make American life safer aren't popular. It's that our politicians lack political courage and concern for our lives
Yet again, children. Murdered. Slain. Massacred.
A gunman with an AR-15 and body armor.
There’s a dance to this. A way we’ve been taught to deal with it. A day of shock, a day of anger, a day of mourning, a day of forgetting, days and days of numbness that insulates us from anything besides numb shock when it happens again within a few hours.
You look up and it’s hard to remember how many mass shootings have taken place.
There have been well over 200 mass shootings in the United States of America in 145 days.
Over two dozen shootings in schools.
The scope of that failure is massive. America’s supposedly open society has been twisted and perverted, rendered into a free-fire zone. There is no safe quarter. In our homes, in our schools, in our churches, in our grocery stores. There is no corner of American society that has gone unsullied.
We could enumerate the options. Regulations, reform, confiscation, money for mental health, programs answering the poisonous elements of hypermasculinity and its related violence, or addressing the cruel and relentless alienation that this economy and political environment creates.
But let’s be honest. Any conversation about options to even so much as curb gun violence is more or less a waste of breath. And there are only so many breaths we can count on before our lives and the lives of our loved ones are cut short by gunfire.
What we are experiencing is a total and damning failure of leadership. There is political will in the United States to address the existential threat of gun violence. A vast majority of Americans, including gun owners and Republicans, support common-sense reform. The onslaught of tragedies has driven the point home.
What we lack is political courage and concern among the political class.
The Republican Party is its own disgrace. Members of the GOP rely on conspiracy theories, including the lie that shadowy “Leftists” are coming for their guns, for their power base. White supremacist paranoia, which underlies their appeals, is the motivation that fuels this country’s obsession with bigger and more powerful firearms. Their partnership with the National Rifle Association, predicated on continuing these lies for profit and political gain, is sacrosanct and unchallengable. Possibly, with some momentum, a member or two might join a minuscule push for something, but to expect anything else is as productive as just hoping this problem fades away.
Members of the Democratic Party have less in the way of excuses. The mass will for addressing this problem should animate them, but courage has never been their strong suit. The prospect of standing up in front of the world and actually proposing a solution is something strategists and pollsters could never endorse. Five years ago, after another gunman killed 60 and injured 800 in Las Vegas, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out directives telling members not to “politicize” the tragedy and instead offer “thoughts and prayers.” Since then, that’s been the standard operating procedure.
To a degree, it is fear. Undoubtedly the GOP and NRA, along with their armies of conspiracy theorists, personalities, and pundits would react by calling it tyranny and fall back to New World Order claims about camps and takeovers. But they do that anyway. Even if Democrats refuse to even discuss actual action they’re still painted with the same brush.
But it’s also something else. Something we have seen more and more evidence of as bills to actually help people, fund human projects, or make lives even the slightest bit more tolerable have been stonewalled and blocked by members of the party. There is fear, but there is also a deep and corrosive belief among the political class that the government has very little responsibility for doing anything about anything other than existing as a supplement to the economy and its continued exploitation.
Neoliberalism cannot solve problems like this one. It can only profit off of them. It can only birth businesses that offer expensive services to schools in order to run mass shooting drills. Security experts who line their pockets with public funds and treat all of this as an unavoidable and inevitable part of life. Or, as we are more than likely going to see soon, take advantage of opportunities for profit by staffing armed guards at schools or make millions and billions of dollars training beleaguered and exhausted teachers how to use firearms should someone bust through the door outfitted in kevlar and brandishing military-grade weaponry.
In times like these, following senseless tragedies like this - children, they were just CHILDREN - I am left with a profound sense that the only way to fix any of this is a wholesale sea change. For all the fears of white replacement, maybe the answer is political replacement, a movement that replaces these wealthy and isolated representatives with members of our communities, mothers and fathers and neighbors and people suffering this preventable scourge.
Because this we know: they have failed us. So many times over. There comes a point where that failure is simply too much.