The headline “Deadliest Mass Shooting in U.S History” has appeared at least four times in my lifetime.
October 1, 2017, I woke up, turned on the coffee pot and found myself staring at the headline, “Live Update: At Least 38 Dead and over 430 Injured in Las Vegas after Violent Mass Shooting.”
While I sat in Government class, studying the constitution, the final update came in, “58 Dead and roughly 500 Injured in Las Vegas making it the Worst Mass Shooting in U.S History.”
I can still remember when Pulse nightclub was the worst mass shooting in U.S history.
When Sandy Hook Elementary School was the worst mass shooting in U.S history.
When Virginia Tech was the worst mass shooting in U.S history.
All four of these “Deadliest Mass Shootings” have occurred in the last ten years and every time the victims and their families are kept in one’s thoughts and sent prayers.
But thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.
Not in the past, not in the present and not in the future.
In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul claimed, “The only thing that probably could have prevented that shooting would have been if the principal had a gun in his desk or if the teacher had a gun at his desk,” a sentiment he went on to repeat in later interviews, nearly verbatim.
I remember this quote in vivid detail- I was twelve, sitting at my family computer writing an essay for English class, Senator Paul’s words echoed through the walls as my parents watched the news in the other room.
I remember realizing the majority of the victims were only six years younger than me. I remember a cold shot of fear and dread shoot through me at this realization.
I remember hearing, “This will be the end” “We’re going to see some gun control this time” “Jesus, they were just kids.” And for a while there was talk held under the watchful eye of a certain Second Amendment. An amendment written when the bayonets attached to our muskets were arguably more effective than the muskets we had a right to bear.
Inevitably, after every one of these shootings there is always talk of reform, gun owners and enthusiasts panic, proposals flood the Senate and House floors; but it’s all stagnant, nothing really happens, not really it seems because the next big shooting feels unavoidable at this point.
What’s worse is that I don’t really feel it, I’m- apathetic to it all. I read the headlines, then I move on. It doesn’t feel like fifty eight people now cease to live, my day goes on. That’s the true issue with gun violence in my lifetime: apathy.
Beyond the shocking and terrifying murders there is an undercurrent of unreality, desensitization. It is almost as if headlines lose their weight and meaning the more times I see them. The update comes in, my normal life taps its fingers on the desk waiting for me to put down the news.
I know I can’t be the only one, the only one who feels like they forget about the fact that dozens of lives just … stopped.
That with the victims’ hearts, the hearts of their loved ones ceased to beat for that moment and then unmercifully continued to beat on without the dead.
It is an unimaginable pain to anyone who hasn’t lost someone to gun violence on a mass scale, a pain that cannot be accurately put into words.
It is a howling pain that demands it be listened to by people who feel it, people like those who spoke in the New York Times opinion piece, “Our Loved Ones Died. We Want Action on Guns,” but the people they speak to, the people they appeal to, people in politics, us out there listening, don’t understand, don’t empathize, don’t know how to.
So I go on, I listen to the same comments, “This time is it, this time we’ll see reform.” I go on, I hear people joke about mass shootings, school shootings before the bodies have even cooled, I laugh, but I don’t want to. I go on with my life, unaffected, unfeeling of the horrendous violence.
So we go on with our lives, unconnected to the death of people just like us, unconnected to grief of people just like us.
Life goes on, it glosses over the pain and inexplicable violence with thoughts and prayers, meant well but not really landing with genuine conviction. Life goes on, it floods its citizens with headlines and menial reform.
Our lives go on- without the dead, without the grieving- without empathy.Share