Post by Daniel Edward Massoglia
“Now isn’t the time.”
Jesus Christ. “Now isn’t the time.” When is the time? What does that even mean? Why are you saying it?
It is a peculiar society in which the common response to one of the most horrific shootings in its history can be telling others not to talk about it, to not think about it, to not feel it. That can hold engaging in the scripted, often-disgusting exercise of gaudy, superficial grief the best of all options. The United States is the mass murder capital of the world. Please, sir: when is the time?
For people intent trying to make sense of the Newton, CT tragedy with the familiar grief process—a tear from the president, a solemn nod from the anchorwoman: there’s no way to make sense of a mass murder at an elementary school. There’s no way. It’s senseless. Are we so lacking in intellectual and emotional maturity to understand that of all the times, NOW is the right one to be asking why, demanding answers, to be screaming, fucking furious? Asking how to stop it from ever happening again? In what universe is now not “the time”?
Because in a day or so, when the merchants of melodrama deem it “the time,” the talking points will be familiarly and predictably unimaginative. “We need more mental health care. And the NRA!” Well, yes, more mental health care. The NRA! But it’s still true that a person with mental illness is more likely to be the victim than the perpetrator of a violent crime, and that not every gun-owner is in the NRA. “Well too bad they outlawed guns in schools. Michael Moore!” Uh, okay, but there’s still the fact that offensive gun use is far more common than defensive gun use, and that parents don’t want their kids going to a school where teachers and anyone else are holding.
On the subject, as on most, America is lacking is the ability to examine and consider reality outside of a two-party, bipolar binary. I’m reminded, in more ways than one, of conversations between Obama voters and various Leftists prior to his re-election. “Now’s not the time! Talk about drones later!” Well, he got elected, and, in fact, celebrated with a drone strike, killing several in Yemen. Then, as now, America’s distressing tendency to oversimplify and essentialize political events into singular frames hurts people.
The reason constructive discourse following a tragedy is subject to such ideologically reinforced rigidity is because it leads to conversations that are uncomfortable to have. How can a “God Guns Go!” country come to terms with the highest murder rate in the developed world, much less in the context of 20 children dead in their school? Mike Huckabee blamed—yes—not enough God. While assholes do have the right to speak via the First Amendment, another Amendment—and its misunderstood history—is more to blame… coupled, of course, with this country’s rabid and blind love of militarism.
And like most self-delusion, there is the selective outrage. For the militantly anti-gun crusaders so angry about these deaths: have you heard of Rekia Boyd? Alan Blueford? The horrifying trend of young black men winding up handcuffed and shot in the head in police cars? Do you share the outrage when a blue shirt pulls the trigger?
And you, the “Think of the Children” crowd: Do you share the outrage when children are murdered by in foreign-sounding places like Gaza and North Waziristan? Is that “unthinkable” too? Do you dare not support our troops? Is now not the time?
When the conversation exists only on pre-described, narrow grounds, it’s always too soon. When you frame events as simple issues of causation, with only two factors involved, the rest of existence notwithstanding, debate is impossible. ”We can’t possibly talk about the President’s addiction to executive power now, what about the Fiscal Cliff?” We can’t talk about the astronomical murder rate in Chicago, which so far this year exceeds that of a healthy handful of developed nations, because timing! The same reason gun killings are so prevalent in America is the same one that makes discussion thereafter so difficult. We are a nation that rejects critical discourse; we gravitate towards hypocrisy because we know no other way. Land of the Free, Home of the Slave.
It is a scary reflection on the status quo that satirical news website The Onion regularly provides a more accurate reflection on the mood of the country than any real news web site. So I’ll leave you with this: when is the right time?
Dan Massoglia (@jujueyeball) is a Chicago-dwelling law student, activist, and sometimes-journalist for the Occupied Chicago Tribune, which he says is obviously the better Tribune. He is a dog person and a decent guitarist.