Ten dead in Texas today. Shock. Grief. Outrage. The handwringing sanctimony, sobbing parents and the earnest pleadings of jowly law enforcement officials will fade into the gauzy glaze of Harry and Meghan. It won't last 36 hours. And the sickness of whateverthefuck America has become will just shrug and wait for the next dozen kids to be gunned down in their US History Class or 3rd Period Geometry. If you talk to these kids as I did at the March for Life in San Francisco a couple of months ago, you'll find out that "live shooter" drills are as much of a fact of life as their Instagram pages. They're certain it's going to happen to them. They'll even tell you they have some probable suspects. The guy who's just not right, who no one really knows or wants to know. "It's a matter of time," they'll tell you. Helluva a way to grow up.
I recently worked for a marketing firm headquartered in Las Vegas, and was at a company meeting about 10-12 days after the shooting on the Strip that killed and injured hundreds of concert goers, their final moments spent enjoying a breezy evening listening to their country music favorites. I remember that night last October. What you heard first were the horrendous numbers. Then body camera and iPhone footage of people scrambling over bodies, not sure which way the bullets were coming or which escape route was safe. The footage of the hospitals and shaken reporters who had no words for the horror they'd seen. Then the analysis, the experts, and finally the decline into the entropy of the gun issue: Nothing will happen. Owning firepower is a God-given right. It's the price of freedom. Shit happens--bar your doors and get a gun so you can be the one of the good guys the next time. It's become as formulaic as episodes of The Batchelor.
Except that in real-time, human reality, it isn't. I went to the memorial on the Strip to pay my respects. A woman was there who visited her friend's marker three times a day. It was nearly two weeks after the tragedy but her wailing anguish was as fresh as the day she first heard about it. There are no words. The shooter was more than a 1/4 mile away from his victims. He shot from the Mandalay Bay, over Las Vegas Blvd. into a crowd of thousands. It's impossible to fathom how powerful his weapons were and how incomprehensible this whole event was until you stand there, look up at the hotel and see the sheer distance between the shooter's window and the killing field. There are no words.
No sane person standing on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. and Hacienda Avenue, seeing how much distance there was between crime and perpetrator, can rationalize the legality of weapons of that capability. No one. No sane person can rationalize looking through the sight of a semiautomatic weapon at 6-year olds and pulling the trigger. Yet these atrocities are normalized--not just by NRA money--but by us. Because as socially and intellectually aware as we might be, as much as we might march and protest, we still accept the narrative and the mini-series of tragedy every time this happens. There needs to be deeper connection than text and Tweet, than marathon coverage on CNN. There needs to be an angry rejection of thoughts and prayers over events that are 100% avoidable. Change has to happen one person at a time. Until we pull our heads away from the screen, even for a few moments a day, and have real conversations with real humans in real time over issues that really matter, there will continue to be fewer of us.