The Horror of our Failure

I realize I’m writing this with therapeutic intentions; today’s shocking, horrifying news is only now starting to really sink in and I feel compelled to write as a way to process yet another senseless act of mass murder in North America.

In an odd way I’m reassured that I still have the ability to feel real sadness thinking about the awful events which transpired earlier today in Connecticut, but it’s very quickly overpowered by a deep sense of helplessness as well. This in turn compels to write, as it serves to numb the deep feeling of shock and terror. Despite all I’ve seen on the Internet, despite all the crazy shit this world manages to produce, and despite all the death anyone who watches the news witnesses on a weekly, if not daily basis, I had an emotional response. I feel it’s a bit of a rarity, perhaps an increasing rarity, as I feel I’m otherwise permanently numbed by exposure.

I processed this trag and I don’t think I’m alone. I remember checking the news earlier in the day and the headline didn’t initially register – for whatever reason, perhaps because the story wasn’t the lead story on the site (I suppose it would have just broken at around that time, and details would have been fuzzy) I supposed that a weapon had been found and a school evacuated, but not a mass shooting such as this.

A little later it became very clear what had actually occurred, and yet I continued on with my work – what else was there to do? My instinctual reaction was, ‘it didn’t happen here, no one you know is implicated, move along – you can’t get tripped up by every crazy thing happening in this world because you’ll likely get depressed’. This is what I thought. I had to stay focused on the task at hand.

Later during my lunch break, more details, and not surprisingly the inevitable deluge of debates from the opinion-slingers populating the social mediasphere. Had it not registered for them either? Are we all the cynical and emotionally numb?

Or is it that all any of us can do is blast opinion into the ether hoping our thoughts are appreciated by others, because we’re fundamentally emotionally incapable of real grieving, and forming a real reaction to this inexcusable action?

I think this might be the case. It didn’t take long for progressive and contrarian alike to take to the great media apparatus and strike up an orgy of vitriolic debate. It seems this happens every time there’s a particularly savage crime or mass shooting. And in case you already forgot, there was a mall shooting in Portland Oregon not three days ago.

Between the time the story broke and my afternoon coffee this depraved act of savage brutality had doubtless spawned millions of comments, tweets, updates and debates – all in our effort to stave off actually having to recognize what ought to shake every one of us to our very cores, as if Sandy Hook Elementary School were located up the street from where you live. When this happens it is a societal failure, one we’re all responsible for. That tragedies like these should happen so frequently, and to such devastating effect, should be indication enough a real problem exists.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a sizeable number of people who must feel compelled to exorcise whatever feelings they have by supporting the notion no such problem exists and anyone arguing in favour of gun control, at a time such as this, is out of line.

I thought interviewing the kids and parents was pretty out of line, but that’s not the point. It seems as if we’re in a race to argue about something related to this tragedy than to allow ourselves to come to terms with it.

It was because of the ensuing, related, debate that I discovered there was another school attack today, this time in China where a 36 year-old man slashed and stabbed 22 children aged 6-11 outside a school. No deaths occurred, thankfully, but what’s troubling is that this is but one in a series of such attacks in China. It was brought up as a reason why gun control won’t prevent a mentally disturbed individual from carrying out their intended crimes.

Perhaps it is indeed the Chinese equivalent to American spree shootings; gun ownership is virtually non-existant in China and so I guess, in a sick way, it makes sense that there’d be mass stabbings. Fewer people killed, incidentally. I saw a stat floating around earlier today that said whereas 20 Chinese children have died in slashing or stabbing attacks, over 200 American children have died in school shootings in the last six years.

Which in turn reminds me that media outlets were busy organizing information so as to be used in ‘conversational debating’ – HuffPost just tweeted a ‘gun control stats cheat sheet’, anticipating the little debates we’ll carry around with us over the next little while, at the dinner table, the water cooler etc.

It’s incredible how much time and effort will doubtless be devoted to the ensuing debate, and nothing productive will come of it. And why should anything come of it – social change is hard, acquiescing and accepting these spree killings as an inevitability much easier.

Just pray it doesn’t happen to you.

And so I guess that’s what we’ll do until Christmas. Talk about gun control. Debate gun control. Argue gun control. News programs will invite ‘passionate defenders’ of whatever side they represent, and we’ll collectively poor over and create copious amounts of ethereal digital thought and opinion. and be told, over and over again, to pray.


We don’t need prayer.

I’d argue the Americans don’t need gun control either; they must eliminate individual gun ownership altogether and take broad measures to eliminate existing weapons. Further still, penalties associated with simply having a firearm in your possession would have to be incredibly stiff (in China, as an example, an individual caught illegally transporting firearms for the purpose of sale, could conceivably be put to death) and the vast lobbying organization designed to prop up the American firearms industry would have to be very publicly dismantled as well.

In my eyes there’s simply no other way. There are too many easily accessible firearms in the United States, and too little in terms of a social safety net – tragedies such as these will assuredly happen again in the future unless massive changes are made in a short period of time.

Evil did not visit a small town in Connecticut today. A man fell off the edge, probably some time ago, and went on a killing spree, taking many innocent people away from their loved ones forever. Evil is not a tangible object or force, it is not a presence, and it can’t be wished away.

If, as a society, we absolve ourselves of our collective responsibility and entertain the notion nothing could be done to avoid it, that the spree shootings are random occurrences we have no control over, then it implies not only could anyone be a potential victim, but could be a potential perpetrator as well. If, by contrast, we accept collective responsibility to do whatever can be done to avoid such a tragedy from happening again, then we will simply pay the requisite amount of tax-revenue for the implementation of all the policies, programs and plans designed to do so.

And we could do it too, if only we weren’t so easily distracted by the endless soothing debates we engage in in-lieu of working to prevent future disasters. America’s gun problem isn’t a new issue – it’s been a clear and present danger to contemporary world society for quite some time now.

But we keep choosing not to come together; we keep choosing to hack away at the social safety net, we keep choosing to omit and ignore. We quite literally drown out the noise by burying our heads in the sand.

Is it any wonder we never see the market dropping out from underneath us? Can never manage but to be caught off-guard by a hurricane?

We’ll one day soon have to learn we can’t pray or wish our problems away.

My heart goes out to all the grieving families; the loss of a single child is unbearable, this is simply beyond words.