After the Las Vegas massacre, we’re told we cannot talk about politics. At times of public mourning, we must maintain some dignity that is otherwise entirely absent from our politics: we must pray, reflect on the nature of evil, but never debate what to do next.
Because what we’ll do next is mourn the next mass murder in the United States. There is a strange exclusion zone around white gun violence by second amendment fanatics. Mass murder by Muslims (or foreigners who may have come from majority Muslim countries) is not subject to the same kind of hushed grieving. Gang warfare in Chicago receives no such respect.
And to be clear, a white liberal gunman – as Stephen Paddock was initially rumored to be, at least by some on the far right – would prompt no outpourings of concern about human nature and the need for national unity.
At this time, we must suspend our sense of moral outrage, our deep concern for public safety, and frankly our incredulity when we hear this White House respond to a gun rampage that left hundreds wounded and at least 59 dead.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence and although we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today and always will forever,” said Donald J Trump in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Monday.
Those were fine words from anyone. They were worthy of the Diplomatic Room itself. “In times such as these,” he continued, “I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy.”
Is this Donald J Trump by any chance related to the Donald J Trump who goes by the handle of @realDonaldTrump on Twitter? I only ask because I could have sworn that the last couple of times there was a senseless murder in London, he variously blamed ‘loser’ terrorists, the internet, and its mayor. He even seized on one attack to provoke a debate about gun control.
But our bonds cannot be broken by violence, especially if they are ties to neo-Nazis. Our unity cannot be shattered, unless we don’t really care about standing with our friends. Answers do not come easy, unless we are detonating an incendiary Tweet.
As President Trump put it so well: “We can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”
No, this is no time for politics. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told us so, saying it was “a day of reflection, a day of mourning, a day of gratefulness for those that were saved. And I think that there will be, certainly, time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.” Fortunately, that moment passed very quickly. Within seconds, actually.
When a reporter asked about Trump’s old views favoring gun control, Sanders couldn’t help but stop all her mourning and gratefulness. “I think one of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t stop these types of things from happening,” she said. “I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there.”
Too right, Sarah. Look to Chicago and its bordering states, where they most definitely don’t have the strictest gun laws in the country. From the East Side of Chicago, Illinois, to East Chicago, Indiana, takes all of an 18-minute drive. Perhaps the former governor of Indiana, Vice-President Mike Pence, can explain the geography. After all, when the Chicago Police Department the source of guns recovered over 11 years, more than half came from other states.
This happens to be a national sickness, requiring a national series of cures. We can’t pray it away. It’s a public health crisis that kills more Americans than HIV, Parkinson’s Disease and hypertension. But in spite of repeated medical calls for more studies, we’re not going to admit that because Congress has blocked such research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two decades.
In truth, this is no time for silence. We don’t stop talking about air safety after a passenger jet goes down. We don’t stop talking about terrorism after another Isis attack. Gun violence is not an act of nature: it’s not an unpredictable earthquake or unexpectedly severe hurricane.
Some victims are discovering this late in the day. Guitarist Caleb Keeter, who was playing at the Las Vegas festival, has entirely changed his mind on the second amendment.
“A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of firepower,” Keeter wrote. “Enough is enough.”
But for every Keeter, there is a Steve Scalise. The Republican House majority whip, who only recently recovered from his own shooting, was and remains a staunch gun rights advocate. After the Vegas bloodbath, he urged Americans to stand in unity and actually donate blood. “Our whole nation must respond with countless acts of kindness, warmth and generosity,” he said.
That kindness does not extend to protecting the next crowd of festival-goers, or elementary school children, from semi-automatic assault weapons that could be rigged up to work like machine guns with a hand-cranked device costing $99. Because right now, at this time of mourning, unity trumps sanity.