Why is Amer­i­can pub­lic OK with mass shoot­ings?

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - BALANCED VIEWS - Leonard Pitts Jr.

I hate mass shoot­ings. Ev­ery­body hates them, of course: in­no­cent death, fa­thers, fi­ances, best friends, and sons snatched vi­o­lently away, sud­den car­nage crash­ing or­di­nary days. But I hate them for an ad­di­tional rea­son.

When things like this hap­pen, you see, it’s my job to have some­thing to say. And I’ve got noth­ing. More ac­cu­rately, I’ve got noth­ing left that I haven’t al­ready said.

Shall I parse the killer’s mo­ti­va­tions? I did that af­ter Columbine.

Shall I praise hero­ism in the midst of mas­sacre? I did that af­ter Aurora.

Shall I call out the evil in this world? I did that af­ter Vir­ginia Tech.

Shall I de­mand a re-ex­am­i­na­tion of our gun laws? I did that af­ter Um­pqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

And it’s a mark of how of­ten this sort of thing hap­pens, how rou­tine it has be­come, that you prob­a­bly don’t even re­mem­ber Um­pqua. Or Isla Vista.

So no, I’ve got noth­ing — and even that is some­thing I’ve said be­fore.

The need to have some­thing is, as you doubt­less know, oc­ca­sioned by our lat­est atroc­ity: 26 peo­ple shot dead in a ru­ral church near San An­to­nio. Half of the vic­tims re­port­edly were chil­dren, in­clud­ing a tod­dler 18 months old. The 26-year-old killer, re­port­edly mo­ti­vated by a do­mes­tic dis­pute, shot ba­bies point blank, ac­cord­ing to an eye­wit­ness.

Yet even at that wretched ex­treme, the whole thing feels rou­tine, just an­other Sun­day in Amer­ica. Which leaves me with noth­ing. Ex­cept a ques­tion: Why are we OK with this? Not you and me as in­di­vid­u­als, per­haps. But Amer­ica, as a cor­po­rate body? It seems ever more ob­vi­ous that for all the lip ser­vice we pay to “thoughts and pray­ers,” for all the can­dles we light and tears we weep, this is a thing we ac­cept. As op­posed to Is­lamic ter­ror, which we don’t. You can read the dis­tinc­tion starkly in Don­ald Trump’s tweets.

Af­ter a Mus­lim shot up a night­club in Or­lando, the then-can­di­date de­cried our lack of tough­ness and de­manded a ban on Mus­lim travel.

Af­ter a non-Mus­lim killed nearly 60 peo­ple in Las Ve­gas and wounded over 500 more, he said the killer’s “wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain.”

Af­ter a Mus­lim killed eight peo­ple in New York City, he mused about send­ing him to Gitmo and de­manded the “DEATH PENALTY.”

Af­ter Sun­day’s mur­ders by a non-Mus­lim, he promised to stand with the peo­ple of Suther­land Springs.

It’s not that Trump won’t con­demn a non-Mus­lim killer, but that he saves his great­est en­ergy and out­rage for the killer who claims to wor­ship Is­lam, even though the for­mer is the far dead­lier threat.

And though Trump is of­ten an out­lier, his moral in­con­sis­tency here seems to re­flect Amer­ica’s own. Do you think that if the Texas killer had had an ex­otic name or be­gun his at­tack with a cry of “Al­lahu Ak­bar!” our re­sponses would be limited to thoughts and pray­ers and law­mak­ers would be con­tent to mouth im­po­tent pieties?

As a wag named Michael Skol­nik pointed out on Twit­ter, “One shoe bomber tried to blow up a plane and now we take off our shoes.” When the killer is not a Mus­lim, though, we treat the killing like rain, a nat­u­ral vex­a­tion we lament but also ac­cept be­cause, what are you go­ing to do?

But this is not rain, just a dif­fer­ent kind of mur­der. Why are we OK with it?

The an­swer is ob­vi­ous, but un­til we can bring our­selves to face it, we will be ill equipped to find ways of pre­vent­ing tragedies like this.

Such is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sprawl, and its power to es­tab­lish new gov­ern­ing prece­dents, mere Wash­ing­ton twitches can jeop­ar­dize ven­er­a­ble prin­ci­ples and in­sti­tu­tions. This is il­lus­trated by a seem­ingly small but ac­tu­ally mo­men­tous pro­vi­sion of the Repub­li­cans’ tax bill — a 1.4 per­cent ex­cise tax on the en­dow­ment earn­ings of about 70 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties with the largest per stu­dent en­dow­ments. To raise less than $3 bil­lion in a decade — less than 0.005 per­cent of pro­jected fed­eral spend­ing of $53 tril­lion — Repub­li­cans would blur im­por­tant dis­tinc­tions and aban­don their defin­ing mis­sion.

Pri­vate foun­da­tions, Do you have a sub­mis­sion for View­points? Have some­thing to say about pol­i­tics, his­tory, arts, tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness, devel­op­ment, pop­u­lar cul­ture, science or other is­sues af­fect­ing Cen­tral Texas? Please send it to views@states­man.com along with a photo of your­self and a short bio. Sub­mis­sions should not ex­ceed 650 words.

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