The recent hyper-tragedy begs many questions, again, about gun regulation. How can a man like this be allowed to amass such a collection of guns? How can such a massive collection of guns walk casually passed the state-of-the-art hyper-vigilant security of a Las Vegas hotel?
But I don’t think of these mass shootings are an issue of gun regulation anymore. They are the result of American culture and American exceptionalism.
First, think of the awe, the loud whispers and shaking heads as we talk about the scale of this latest tragedy. Think about its ubiquity across all media. Think of the uniquely American, ridiculously unrealistic desire to be gods in our own little social or academic or professional worlds.
Think of the perverse unflinching eye contact of the television camera. Journalists who think of themselves as ethically unimpeachable because while they spend all of the 24-hour news cycle talking about this man they claim they won’t talk about this man. As if we need his name. As if he needs a name.
Think of the American compulsion toward one-up-man-ship. Often that ambition can have dazzling personal if not national benefits. But when that personal ambition belongs to emotionally unhinged, self-worshiping, desperate people, their only ambition is to bring forth a horror show, an American tragedy to make the last mass shooting seem black and white and distant. How else can the massacre of innocent school children be eclipsed except by a man who can sit in quiet, comfortable security and take his time gunning down, mowing down concert goers with the dispassionate disconnect of a video game.
Don’t fool yourself, every one of these potential horrors hear you gasping, wall-eyed and awestruck. Every future faceless psycho watches as anonymous yet omnipotent men eclipse our president, our politics, and our passions.
We worship guns or we fear guns. There is nothing in between. But guns are not the center of this. We are the center of this. We vote with our remote controls, our thumbs, our clicks, and our conversation. We turn our backs on the gunman when they are fragile. We ignore them when they are unarmed. We disenfranchise them when they are other. We mock them when they are not. We birth and groom them. We arm them and we spin them around until they are blind and dizzy.
We must talk about guns now. We must talk about our obsession with guns. We must talk about mental health. We must talk about bullies and avarice and casual film violence. We must talk about the media’s role in this and our role in this. We must talk about how we raise our children, treat our neighbors, and elect our leaders. We must think and we must talk and we must act. But we must stop talking about the gunman. We must stop giving him this power.