Last year I went to a party for someone in the entertainment industry, attended largely by TV writers. I left the party feeling angry, not because it was a bad party, but because all anyone talked about was “the business.” Normally, that’s what I talk about with friends anyway, but this party was different, because it was the day after the Sandy Hook massacre, and not one person there was talking about it. They were all just common, middle-aged writers asking, “So what’s on your Oscar ballot?”
I get it. I get that people don’t want to talk about an elementary school shooting at a party. But in the midst of a national tragedy, it seemed like nobody cared. Like these people had become inured to it, like, “it’s not my problem.” I left that party incredibly terrified that I might become like those writers, so involved in my own bubble that no one else’s troubles can penetrate it. I understand that our empathy must have limits – if we were to distribute it equally among all the people in this world suffering, then our lives would become unlivable. But I cannot stand that, in this country, the murder of innocent men, women and children is seen as a commonplace thing. Like, “Oh, another one.”
This weekend, the Isla Vista massacre has brought up all these feelings in me again, only I feel more defeated. In the nearly year-and-a-half since Sandy Hook, more than 35,000 Americans have been the victims of gun violence. Let that number sink in for a moment: 35,000. That’s more than Japan, Spain, France, The United Kingdom, Greece, Australia and New Zealand combined. The NRA has become the secret benefactor of the American government, constantly pushing for laxer gun control laws so that more people can buy their products and rampage as much as they want.
How can we stop this? The most ludicrous answers are now taken seriously. Seven years ago, after Virginia Tech, a Daily Show report focused on one man’s efforts to have teachers carry guns. But like most satire, it was truer than we gave it credit for: after Sandy Hook, Newsweek headlined a disgraceful op-ed arguing the “good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun” theory by David Mamet, of all people. I’m not saying that Newsweek or David Mamet has much national influence anymore – one stopped writing anything of quality more than twenty years ago and the other is Newsweek – but that any magazine would run such a heinous article based on a belief so rudimentary that even third-graders would reject it, is a devastating sign of the times.
The NRA’s great victory in their attempts at controlling the government is this: they’ve killed our ability to hope. To hope that things may change; to hope that we may see people come to their senses; to hope that this will go away any time soon. Nobody should abide this, but the NRA wants us to. I feel myself, this weekend, turning into one of the writers at that party, caring more about what people think of X-Men: Days of Future Past than debating this point. But the one part of me that still believes change is possible won’t let me give in so easily.
Guns are our national disease. We are all connected in some way to these massacres, even if we weren’t directly involved. We know someone who knew someone, or we have experienced the terror these weapons carry in our own lives. I have found myself looking at certain people I’ve gone to school with my life, and been terrified that they would bring a gun onto campus. I should not have to live with that terror. Nobody should have to live with it. Yet rather than petitioning for Congress to pass gun laws, most schools will just install mandatory metal detectors, as is done at many public schools. No school should have a security check – we should be allowed to go there and feel safe. We should feel safe anywhere. But NRA-backed politicians feel the only cure for guns is “more guns,” so we have laws like Georgia’s bill, allowing residents to carry guns everywhere they go, or the risible “Stand your ground” rules in Florida. France does not resort to these rules. No sensible countries do. But who says we’re a sensible country? We allowed five corrupt justices to hand the country over to George W. Bush.
Please be angry. Please, please, please be angry. To the #yesallwomen tweeters, I support you. To Richard Martinez, the father of one of this weekend’s victims, your words to the press were inspiring. There are moments in human history where rage is what is needed, not complacency. This is one of them. Your anger can be a powerful motivator, because, if pointed in the right direction, it can create the possibility for change.
Anger can keep hope alive.