Ok, let’s think about this.
Guy goes into a gay nightclub at two in the morning, the tail of a Saturday night, and shoots people. Dozens die. They get the exact number wrong. Most people killed in a “mass shooting” in U.S. history. A record of some kind. Guy is a citizen, U.S.-born, but has proclaimed his ties to Al Qaeda and, just before he is put down by a SWAT team, to ISIS.
First thought: guns. Prevent people from having assault rifles and maybe this won’t happen, or won’t happen as often. But we know where that thought goes. It goes up against the Heller decision, Scalia reaching out from his grave, and the NRA, and every self-imagined revolutionary cowboy out there, and it’s not as though this isn’t just a lens collecting in one place a few of the hundreds of deaths-by-gun happening every week in U.S. cities. And the wind goes out of it and the thought dies. These people are determined, we’re told. If we take their guns away, they’ll just build bombs out of pressure cookers or load trucks with explosives. Myself, I guess I’d like to make them jump through those extra hoops, test that determination a bit. Just a thought.
Second thought: politics. More xenophobic fodder for Trump, more ineffectual gesturing from Obama, more talk of terrorism as though this guy was anything but another narcissist moron with a gun looking for a justification for his pathology, what we used to call simply a murderer without the need to elevate him into an enemy combatant. It’s like calling a thief a soldier. More talk from Rubio about how it’s not the weapon but the ideology that we must somehow control, as though you can shame an ideology with the phrase “Islamic terrorism” or control it with –what? More guns? And of course the FBI interviewed the guy in 2013 after he mouthed off at work about Al Qaeda. This catch-and-release trope is getting overly familiar. Has anyone thought about the possibly radicalizing effect of being interrogated by the FBI?
Third thought: media. More grist for the media mills, sending their reporters to Orlando to stand in the street where it happened, an odd throwback to old TV, as though personal presence has any meaning anymore, unless you’re there, actually there, when it happens, and get a video of it on your phone. Ratings bumps, a couple of news cycles on this, at least. (If we can’t bring ourselves to enact serious gun control, let’s enact a Murderer Effacement Act, which would make it a federal crime to publish the name or the likeness or any personal details about anyone committing a mass shooting. Would present First Amendment issues, but by now should pass the yelling-fire-in-a-crowded-theater test.) More talk about the true Islam and community involvement. Sanctimony about the gay angle, punditry about hate crime and solidarity with our gay friends, moments of silence, ritual flower altars in the street next to the club. Seen it all before, it’s losing its capacity to horrify or titillate or inspire; a couple of news cycles on this, at most.
Not many thoughts. Then acceptance, silence, receptivity before the screens. A hundred more angry young men notice the attention being paid, want it for themselves. Next time. Soon.