The brutality of this past weekend has an eerie familiarity that is difficult to shake, something like a recurring nightmare. We saw two horrific mass shootings, one committed by a white supremacist, another by, from all appearances, a vicious misogynist. This country has witnessed similar mass shootings over the years from people meeting both of these profiles. The only really shocking thing was that they happened so closely together, and so soon after a shooting had taken place in California.
But the proximity shouldn't startle us anymore--the recurring nightmare just keeps recurring. There have been six mass shootings this year in my city, Philadelphia.This past weekend in Chicago, 46 people were shot and 7 were killed. In this country, people can claim the honor of attending more than one mass shooting--survivors of the Las Vegas shooting of 2017 (which had claimed 58 lives) have been present at the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting and at the Thousand Oaks shooting. Multiple generations can claim to have been touched by shooting tragedies.
Our gun culture, for a high-income nation not ravaged by war, has left us with a unique mass shooting problem.
And yes, I blame gun access, among a few other factors. It isn't mental illness that is causing the problem and it certainly isn't video games. Other countries have video games--they don't have the mass shootings we do. It isn't the lack of "thoughts and prayers" either--as for prayers, less religious nations than ours also have less shootings, and clearly, a barrage of prayers certainly follow each tragic event (although I believe we could stand to see more thoughts). It isn't same sex marriage or violent movies or musicians back-masking Satanic lyrics in the heavy metal albums. Any asshole in this country can amass as much of an arsenal as they want if they put their mind to it, and there are people in this country who consider it that asshole's God-given right to have one. End of story. Countries with stricter laws that make people work harder to amass an arsenal just don't have the same number of assholes potting away at the public.
We also have a problem with toxic masculinity, and for those not that familiar with the term, don't misunderstand me--men are great. I like them. Men don't have to be toxic--but attitudes about what "makes a man" definitely can be, especially when they are centered on lack of empathy and embrace of violence. That term, fraught as it is, didn't come out of feminism but out of a men's movement to get men in touch with a better understanding of who they are and to break out of harmful stereotypical roles. Roles like needing to dominate women (misogyny) or other men (being an "alpha") are a part of the incel culture that really seems to have fucked with some young men's brains. (And no, women should not be expected to "take one for the team" to give lonely young men something to abuse to keep them from enacting violence on the general population.) We have a problem when men are seeing violence as a kind of multitool for whatever bug is gnawing at their brainstem.
There's also our broken political culture where one side (yes, one) simply does not care how inflammatory their rhetoric has become, and seems to have embraced conspiracy theory (like QAnon), white supremacy and genuinely fake news. And while unquestionably, this trend pre-dates Trump--he is not helping!
But the biggest problem we have is denial. We have politicians blame everything but guns, and who chide us not to "politicize" the events, and throw out these useless "thoughts and prayers" that never do anything. How can we avoid dealing with the heart of the shooting issue--the weapon being used? How can we not politicize mass shootings when some of the shooters write political manifestos? And what good are thoughts and prayers if they do not lead to purposeful action?
The nightmare goes on until everyone wakes up.