Newtown, CT, and America’s Serial Aversion to Substance

Picture: US DOD (PD)

Daniel Edward Massoglia writes at Diatribe Media:

“Now isn’t the time.”

Jesus Christ. “Now isn’t the time.” When is the time? What does that even mean? Why are you saying it?

It is a peculiar society in which the common response to one of the most horrific shootings in its history can be telling others not to talk about it, to not think about it, to not feel it. That can hold engaging in the scripted, often-disgusting exercise of gaudy, superficial grief the best of all options. The United States is the mass murder capital of the world. Please, sir: when is the time?

For people intent trying to make sense of the Newton, CT tragedy with the familiar grief process—a tear from the president, a solemn nod from the anchorwoman: there’s no way to make sense of a mass murder at an elementary school. There’s no way. It’s senseless.  Are we so lacking in intellectual and emotional maturity to understand that of all the times, NOW is the right one to be asking why, demanding answers, to be screaming, fucking furious? Asking how to stop it from ever happening again? In what universe is now not “the time”?

Because in a day or so, when the merchants of melodrama deem it “the time,” the talking points will be familiarly and predictably unimaginative. “We need more mental health care. And the NRA!” Well, yes, more mental health care. The NRA! But it’s still true that a person with mental illness is more likely to be the victim  than the perpetrator of a violent crime, and that not every gun-owner is in the NRA. “Well too bad they outlawed guns in schools. Michael Moore!” Uh, okay, but there’s still the fact that offensive gun use is far more common than defensive gun use, and that parents don’t want their kids going to a school where teachers and anyone else are holding.

On the subject, as on most, America is lacking is the ability to examine and consider reality outside of a two-party, bipolar binary. I’m reminded, in more ways than one, of conversations between Obama voters and various Leftists prior to his re-election. “Now’s not the time! Talk about drones later!” Well, he got elected, and, in fact, celebrated with a drone strike, killing several in Yemen. Then, as now, America’s distressing tendency to oversimplify and essentialize political events into singular frames hurts people.

The reason constructive discourse following a tragedy is subject to such ideologically reinforced rigidity is because it leads to conversations that are uncomfortable to have. How can a “God Guns Go!” country come to terms with the highest murder rate in the developed world, much less in the context of 20 children dead in their school? Mike Huckabee blamed—yes—not enough God. While assholes do have the right to speak via the First Amendment, another Amendment—and its misunderstood history—is more to blame… coupled, of course, with this country’s rabid and blind love of militarism.

Read the full post at Diatribe Media.

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  • Haystack

    I think it’s tasteless and exploitative to treat events like these as opportunities to grind political axes. Consider how it would feel to watch the very recent death of your child/spouse/friend being discussed by total strangers on cable news or the internet; to see that very specific and unique person whom you have just lost being used to illustrate some abstract point about America’s social problems? We forget that these communities don’t ask for news crews to show up with cameras, or pundits to offer their opinions about what went wrong there. We objectify the victims and appropriate the suffering of their survivors when we transform their fundamentally unique and personal tragedy into a public spectacle for mass-market consumption.

    Do we need to be having a discussion about violence in our culture? Of course, but if we are only able to do so during the fleeting period of public interest that follows a national tragedy, how fruitful is that going to be? A shooting happens, we pass a gun law, then move on. A terrorist bombs something, we give the police more power, then move on. The broad-ranging discussions that we need to be having require greater depth and longer attention than you get by injecting your talking point into the news coverage of whatever shocking thing happened this month.

    It’s only the business logic of our crisis-driven news media that leads us to believe that the only way we can discuss social issues is by pegging them onto (read: crassly exploiting) some recent, dramatic event.

    • BuzzCoastin

      don’t worry
      Bubbah Gump’s mind is preoccupied with survival
      this news is only for people with time on their hands
      and with the hubris to think that discussing it matters
      when in fact it’s much ado about nothing wee can do about

      • emperorreagan

        Some people seem to get preoccupied with the notion that they can steer the course of an entire river instead of just trying to paddle their own boat.

    • bobbiethejean

      Are you leveling all this criticism at the article writer or just putting it out there into the ether?

  • kowalityjesus

    All moral relativism aside, has anyone discussed the matter that the Framers of the Constitution did not put “the right to bear arms” 5th or 6th. They put it 2nd.

    Has anyone stopped to discuss WHY they put it second? Non. Because then they would need to talk about the fact that violent revolt against power is explicitly and integrally built into the framework of our Republic. And that is, of course, out of the media dialectic due to the unacceptable implications it holds.

    • feint_ruled
      • kowalityjesus

        hmm, that is hardly something you would see on TV or read in a newspaper or magazine thus not exactly “mainstream.” But it does point out the idea that the order of amendments COULD be arbitrary, or more arbitrary than their numerical declension belies.

        Personally, I do not find it arbitrary that the 1st amendment is the right to free speech. By extension I think it has SOME degree of gravity that the 2nd amendment is the 2nd amendment. After all, how ridiculous would the bill of rights look if soldier quartering were first on the docket. America would look like a nation simply tired of unwanted house-guests.

    • Dingbert

      A recent Supreme Court decision is an all-encompassing legal, political, and social history of the Second Amendment that apparently no one read: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html

      • kowalityjesus

        that is an excellent primary source, one which thoroughly reminds me why I can never be a lawyer. The question of assault rifles for common citizen’s use is not explicitly answered:

        …does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but
        rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those
        used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes.

        later in the syllabus it discusses WHY a militia is important to the nation:

        The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms…

        Thus is defending one’s private property against violent intrusion (be it politicized army or rogue militia) not a lawful purpose? In that light, is the federal government capable of openly admitting its own untrustworthiness and potential tyrannical fallacy? Contrarily I would vie that Feds want to assuage all speculation in that respect due to their own insecurity towards their perhaps clandestine intentions.

  • emperorreagan

    I don’t care about the latest mass shooting. I think mass shootings tend to be indictments of the dysfunction of rich suburban culture, but doubt anyone cares to address that so why get my panties in a knot?

    I also think the focus on guns, as this author does and many others have, is missing the point. Access to guns is an easy answer – a salve to make people feel better without digging too deep. It may be part of the solution, in particular to suicides, but is unlikely the solution to rich kids shooting up a school or the fact that many impoverished urban kids grow up with PTSD because of the violence in their communities.

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