Another day, another mass killing. This time a white man went to a prayer meeting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., sat for half an hour, then opened fire. “I had to do it,” this white supremacist terrorist reportedly told the sole survivor. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”
We can’t let this keep happening.
If I’ve learned nothing else from the aftermath of every horrible act of domestic terrorism, every mass school shooting, and every death from every gun in this country, it’s that there is very little that will ever back white America off our wild, bloody embrace of violence and firearms.
Here’s the playbook: people will make excuses for the shooter, they’ll blame mental illness, they’ll trot out statistics suggesting gun control doesn’t work, and eventually any thought of doing real work to get guns off the street will vanish. Until the next time this happens, of course.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal put out a release about Charleston, and I thought this part was worth quoting: “We are far beyond saying ‘enough is enough’ and in danger of being numb to the scourge of gun violence plaguing our country. Numbness to gun violence is consummate complicity.”
Obviously. Numbness to racism and toxic politics, same thing. But here we are. So are we all complicit?
Absolutely we are.
What happened in Charleston is about race and politics and culture, and it’s impossible to separate those three things from one another. White racial anxieties and hatred fuels white gun culture, which impacts politics, which inflames racial divisions, and around and around.
America has a problem with violence. We see it everywhere: on TV, in games, in sports, online, in reality, everywhere. Our rate of deaths by gun — and that includes murder, suicide, and accidents — is one of the highest in the world. “Let’s be clear — this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” said President Obama in a statement Thursday, and he is right.
All that blood and terror leaks into other aspects of our lives. Our police constantly use excessive force, we make a fetish out of security and safety, our military has been at war for 14 years straight, and our politics regularly uses the language of violence and battle to turn the opposition into enemies. It also means that we reach for violence reflexively as a solution — often with horrifying results.
This has done some awful things to our national psychology. In what other country would men swagger around in public ostentatiously wearing large guns as some kind of political statement? That’s why I wince whenever I see a Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL) “Carry on!” sticker on the back of a truck.
It’s gotten to the point where we’re just resigned to it, and we say nothing. But we can’t stay quiet any longer.
Gun control has to be part of the solution, because in some instances, it works. For example, there’s a