Another angry young man has shot up a crowd full of people, and, as the Onion so aptly puts it: Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado Shooting’s Aftermath Will Play Out. Yes, we know there’ll be vigils, and gun control fights, and arguments over violence in movies, and at least one idiot will tell us that this wouldn’t have happened if everyone in the theater had been packing heat.
Aside from saying that I feel for all the people who went out to have a good geeky time at a midnight screening only to end up as victims of or witnesses to a massacre, I don’t want to fall too deep into the coming platitude-fest. Jeanette Winterson was right when she wrote that it’s the cliches that cause the trouble. Our ritualized responses to these mass shootings haven’t helped, and I think they’re symptomatic of our larger national problems of sclerotic intelligence and pinched imagination.
So, tossing the hackneyed rhetoric aside, we might want to devote the next few weeks, months, years, and decades to the following issues that bedevil us:
1. The United States is, by any measure, a wealthy and politically stable country; yet it seems to have a peculiar talent for producing alienated young men, a small but significant percentage of whom succumb to the temptation to lash out violently at strangers.
2. The U.S. is very good at arming said alienated people with weapons capable of killing large numbers of people in a single burst without warning.
If you’re about to ask what my solutions are to these problems, rest assured that I don’t have any. (At least, none that are practical and well thought out.) I’m a fiction writer and English language tutor by profession. Though I’m interested in politics and public policy, it’s not my speciality, and in areas where my knowledge is limited I prefer to listen to those with a better chance of knowing what they’re talking about.
Shootings like this one will happen again. What I’d like to see is a response that’s not just less predictable, but is also more likely to address the problems that keep leading us back to this miserable spot.