Las Vegas: If Not Now, Then When?


I got jumped on a bit for a comment that ‘politicized’ the tragedy in Las Vegas.

Before I say anything about that, let me once more take a moment for all of us just to think of 58 dead. 527 injured.

Let’s stop long enough, from looking at the pictures. Tracking money to the Philippines. And actually think about 58 people dead.

Lying on the ground. Tended to by friends. Who knew them, laughing and singing, only moments before. With families waiting. For whom now the wait will never end.

Let’s think about what 527 injured means. A scratch? Crippled? Neighbors whose lives are ruined. Whose families just went from sharers to carers.

Let’s think about the first responders. Who, as always, thought nothing of their own safety. As they attempted to protect others.

Let’s think of the concert-goers. Who stood up. Went back. Covered bodies. And helped some to safety. Who were themselves injured, or killed, as a consequence.

It’s not just that we live in violent times. We live in an age where social ADD is the norm.

Who remembers Harvey? Who cares now about Irma? The people still suffering the effects of flooding do.

The President, for sure, has moved on. To Puerto Rico. To demand praise. For emergency efforts that owe nothing to him.

A President whose only contribution to societal institutional memory was to minimize the effects of Maria, by making offensive comparison to Katrina.

But it’s not just Trump. It’s all of us. If it happened last week, it might just as well have happened a millennium ago.

If it happened before a win by our favorite college team. It is forgotten altogether.

I’m 61. I’ve seen a lot. There isn’t too much about which I cannot say: it’s ok; things will change – they will get better.

But one thing gets worse. Our ability to move on, and forget. I do not mind the moving on. I do mind the forgetting.

I was accused of heartlessness for ‘politicizing’ Las Vegas ‘too soon.’ The real heartlessness is allowing so much time to pass that it never becomes sufficiently ‘politicized’ at all.

We permitted Donald Trump to become President, because we waited too long.

We let important issues slide because we have convinced ourselves they can wait until tomorrow.

We condemn ourselves to future tragedies, because we pretend that it is ‘too soon’ to politicize the ones that just happened.

Another product of our age is our desire to normalize activity we know, deep in our heart, is not normal.

I understand about the Second Amendment. I get the history of this country. The desire to protect loved ones. But gun culture is not normal. We need to stop pretending to ourselves that it is.

And this is not merely a rant calling for gun legislation. That is one more product of our times: we seek to dumb everything down.

This isn’t just about responsible gun ownership versus bad. This is about changing ourselves into a society where we hate less, and are prone to violence less. Where the perceived need for guns is less.

This is not a cultural change that happens overnight. With one piece of legislation. This is a process that takes years. Demands dedication. Sacrifice. Clear thinking. And constant renewal.

I wrote elsewhere about what sort of issues I would see addressed if one were to attempt a complete rethink of a culture that regards possession of incredibly dangerous and offensive weaponry as the norm. I paste that ‘program’ here:

“If someone were to ask me to address the issue of violence in the US, I would talk about:

1) My therapist from alcohol rehab in 1994. Who is or was part of a national commission, set up by rehab experts and the insurance industry, to examine the whole problem of addiction. Causes. Environmental. Genetic. Cycles of abuse. Which commission was seriously discussing having all insurance companies pay for two weeks of therapy for every insurance holder. To deal with all of the natural distortions we all experience growing up. The commission (not so much the insurance companies) took the view that such wholesale therapy could well reduce the incidence of violence in society.

2) Reform of policing methods. Aiming at a time when front-line police in the US might not carry guns. When citizens would be involved in designing the rules of conduct by which they are policed. When the disconnect between those who genuinely want to serve and protect and their communities could be fully repaired. (

3) The connection between disadvantage and behavior. The connection between seeming imbalance in society and reaction. Addressing causes, while also making it clear that no ’cause’ excuses breaking the law.

4) The manner in which our society properly deals with those with mental health issues. In a dignified fashion.

5) Sentencing policy, and whether or not it creates a devil-may-care attitude among those likely to break the law.

6) Gun culture. How to change it. I really do not think there is anyone out there saying that gun ownership is a good thing. It builds character. It makes my crops grow. It is generally expressed in terms of protection. So, let’s talk about protection from what. And seriously address the ‘what.’ With an open mind.

This would be a start. And, as you can see. I regard the issue of ‘gun culture’ as multi-dimensional. Too many folks, in my opinion, look at it one-dimensionally: guns are good; guns are bad. It ain’t that simple. And. Addressing it will take tens of years. If not longer.”

I now add a couple of comments from another contributor. I do not have their permission. But I was struck sufficiently by their words that I want you to read them, too:

“I wish we had more support for those who feel breaking into someone’s house armed to rob and possibly kill (is ok), maybe if there were far less poor and suffering there would be less of a need for others to feel they have to protect themselves. Maybe if certain drugs were legalized and regulated there would be less violence as well.”

“I don’t think society will become safer. We are over populating our planet and our middle class is disappearing, with not much hope in sight for a brighter future for those who have only known a life of despair. I am grateful for those in my life who have helped my family out in our lowest of times, preventing me from feeling the desperation that so many do that bring them to the point of committing heinous acts against others. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to ensure the safety and wellbeing of my husband and children. Thankfully I have people in my life who have prevented me from reaching the point where I feel I have to jeopardize my moral beliefs to keep my family fed, not everyone has that. And the number of people who don’t is growing rapidly.”

Hate. Violence. Gun culture. Are not normal. But that does not mean that I do not understand why they exist. They exist because too many of us are in despair. In fear.

I do not apologize for ‘politicizing’ Las Vegas. I do not apologize for ‘politicizing’ it ‘too soon.’ I do not apologize for saying that ‘gun culture’ is not normal. And demanding that our society do much, much better. Each of us. As individuals. Not some amorphous societal blob, in a capital or capitol. All of us. We all of us need to do much, much more to relieve the despair and fear felt by so many in our society. My only apology would have been if I had not politicized this issue at all.

Facebook comments are here.

Published in: on October 6, 2017 at 3:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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