So we woke to yet another lone wolf mass shooting carried out with military firearms, and the horror of the event was soon compounded by the announcement that Donald Trump, our President, would soon address the nation. In a moment calling for empathy and restraint, what could this callous and remarkably impulsive man, who once insinuated that “Second Amendment people” might wreak armed violence against Hillary Clinton, possibly say that wouldn’t make things worse?
Would he anticipate the inevitable questions about how a yet another delusional white male could come to possess an arsenal of automatic weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition by reassuring his “base” that none of this had anything to do with guns per se, much less lax gun control, that anyone with the will could inflict harm by any number of means, military firearms being merely incidental to this and all the other domestic tragedies that have been inflicted with them?
Would he lash out preemptively at those who would observe that his cynical pandering to nativist populism and the coarse impulsivity that he has brought to the office of the presidency has given license to a lunatic fringe that includes any number of angry armed men who believe themselves agents of racial retribution or Godly comeuppance?
Would he intimate that terrorism might again be afoot, and cynically exploit the event as justification for his travel bans and border walls?
It’s a sad testament to our lowered expectations of this president that any and all of this seemed possible as we awaited Trump’s remarks. As it happened, when he finally appeared, orange haired and makeup-encrusted, the skin around his eyes weirdly whitened in a way that some misguided handler must think makes him look more youthful, the old blowhard merely mouthed the usual post-shooting pablum on the teleprompter, about grief and loss and how Americans have always come together in moments like this, and always will, “forever,” as though this fragile, fraught nation were a mythological kingdom in a fairy tale.
Who writes this stuff? Who on earth believes that it’s possible for any president, let alone the pompous, privileged hedonist who currently occupies the office, to address the horror of losing a loved one — of losing one’s own life — in such a random, brutal, and unnecessary way? The word “God” was sprinkled throughout his remarks, merely a word to him like all the others, dropped for effect. The convenient word “evil” was ritually invoked to encapsulate the long chain of failures that most assuredly allowed this massacre to happen, and will allow the next one and the one after that. The word “prayer” came and went too, as though this consummate narcissist had a deep spiritual life that he could now and again drag forth to comfort us.
But what, really, could anyone say in the face of such pointless and impersonal mass-death? The only possible response is to ask, yet again, whether anything can be done to prevent it happening, and to prevent the other thousands of deaths by firearms that happen each year in this gun-entranced country. But that would be to “politicize” a “tragedy,” and we can’t have that. Think of it as just another hurricane. Nothing to be learned here, folks. These things happen. Just move on.