how we react to mass shootings

Note: I just found the first draft of this, written last June. Or maybe it was the June before that. Does it matter? Our country has been at war with itself for some time.

No declarations were signed as each side took up arms: Republican vs Democrat, traditional vs progressive, black vs white, Christian vs Muslim, shooter vs victim. We are a country of cowboys stirring up trouble wherever we go. Must we continue to do so?

Here was my response to a shooting, or a terrorist attack, or a bombing… was it last June? Or the one before that?

Let’s be bored by violence.

We react to these attacks with self-righteousness, anger, fear. We debate retaliation or legislation. We analyze the attacker’s motivations in search of clues to prevent the next unexpected slaughter. We look at cultural backstory, talk to the parents, and film the grieving. We protest in defense of kids at a club, kids in a car, kids at a concert, kids at school.

We march for the Victim of the Month.

Isn’t that the normal response, you ask? Well, yes and no. Marching is one way to express a desire for change to our legislators. Most of us can’t write the legislation ourselves, so as voters we look for other ways to express ourselves to our legislators.

But as a society the outrage can become palliative. It can become tempting to think that emotion has an impact. It doesn’t.

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself how you want to engage with evil.

For myself, I’m bored of it. I’m bored of hatred. I’m bored of judgment. I’m bored of aggression. Not just these heinous crimes, but aggression committed on a small scale every day: I’m bored of your opinions about how I dress, or how he acts, or what she does for a living. I’m bored of Hollywood’s industrial engineering of the villain, escalating his evil over the years to maintain our interest. I’m bored by our imagination for evil.

I’m bored by hate.

I’m bored by the melodious drama of loss.

We have suffered at each other’s hands for thousands of years in the name of gods, kings, ideas. We have accepted, This is life. We do this without noticing. Every day watching the news, we feel borrowed rage and post it on Facebook. We engage with evil in our hearts, loving the pain of it, the choices it forces upon us: Would you stop the terrorist on the plane? Would you stop a bullet?

We celebrate evil with speeches and vengeance and war. We sing ballads, we write stirring articles, we Tweet. God, we love to be moved by tragedy.

To avoid giving up the delicious delights of pain and suffering, we let the NRA roam free. We manufacture guns of more ingenious design. We fight wars with random countries to create more enemies. And most delightful of all, we put off actual vengeance, waiting years to seek and destroy known villains like bin Laden. We torture people for years to gain information that will be irrelevant by the time it is confessed, we hold murderers in prison for decades.

The addictive theater of conflict wages on.

We could dispatch murderers and terrorists, guns and cancer, poverty and bullying, quickly. If we wanted to. We don’t. We do not want a world without evil. We very much want evil. Because without it, we would have nothing to fight, and nothing against which to compare ourselves.

We cannot seem to measure our morality or find rewarding adventure without the aid of the Devil.

And so, he lives on.

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