I barely remember the details of the last school shooting — three weeks ago — before Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot and killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla. with an AR-15 yesterday. I do remember what I did.
Then, as yesterday, I listened to the radio on the way to pick up my son from daycare, parked the car, turned it off and tried for a long time to make my expression neutral. Then, as yesterday, I remembered a day last year when I picked him up after another school shooting, where I frightened him by hugging him like I was trying to fuse his tiny body to mine, so that he'd never be out of my sight again.
Then, as now, I thought of all the days he would be out of my sight from now on: 2,340 days from kindergarten through high school, 720 through college, and every day afterward that he might go to a park or festival or ballgame or a government building, be in the wrong bar, or argue with a stranger.
I will worry when I can't see him, because I live in society in which I have to.
If I am lucky, I will get to worry for the rest of my life.
Donald Trump will not worry about him, and the Republican Party will not either — save, if he should be shot, to wonder why everyone around him wasn't ringed with guns and issue the emptiest of lamentations. They have made their bargain, that political donations are worth every funeral their resistance to gun control creates, because that money assures them electoral victory, as well as every tax break they can dream, every deficit they create, and every eventual cut to Medicaid that leaves surviving shooting victims bankrupt or broken. This is who they are.
They do not worry about the dead, and they do not worry about the wounded, and, in exchange, if I am lucky, I will get to worry for the rest of my life.
If you write about mass shootings in America, you eventually get to write one for every mood. There's the explanatory one, then the elegiac one, then the angry one, then the exhausted one. Then comes the repetition. The numbers and the locations change; the impotency never does.
When you talk about the politically possible, what you really mean is the recalcitrance of the Republican Party to do anything to annoy the rented suits of the National Rifle Association.
You add the allegedlies as a point of legal nicety; you know it probably doesn't matter — an orphaned adoptee staring down 17 counts of murder has bigger problems than suing you for establishing guilt before it's determined by a court of law — but you add it anyway.
You write about "Congress" and "Lawmakers", even though that's a nicety too. You know that the majority of Americans support multiple forms of gun control, and that only one party wants to help them achieve some of those goals. When you talk about the politically possible, you know that what you really mean is the recalcitrance of the Republican Party to do anything to annoy the rented suits of the National Rifle Association.
There are some small details to add each time, beyond the differing body counts.
You may note that the NRA may have spent around $70 million on the 2016 elections — $30 million to support Donald Trump alone, which was triple what it gave to Mitt Romney in 2012. Perhaps you add, this time, that the FBI is investigating whether the deputy governor of Russia's central bank used the NRA to park money intended to back Trump. You might close by noting that, after effectively winning total war over any specter of gun control, the NRA's public messaging has switched to full-throated white grievance and violent condemnation of anyone who would "sabotage" Dear Leader.
We are forgetting our outrage even faster than we are forgetting the dead.
After all the videos and pictures of people screaming and weeping and fleeing, all that's left to write about is numbers — the deadliest shooting since a given date, one of the top 10 or 25 or 50 worst mass shootings or school shootings, the most ammunition found or guns recovered, whether the area is represented by a Congressman with the best NRA legislative score.
Maybe the most relevant number isn't even about guns so much as it is about time.
Seventeen days after the Las Vegas shooting, I sat down to do a podcast with a colleague. She insisted that we talk about it, determined not to let it fall down the memory hole just two weeks later, disgusted that it already almost had; 90 minutes later, we hadn't even gotten to it. There were too many stupid or awful or astounding things had happened more recently than that mass murder.
On October 1, 2017, 484 people in Las Vegas were shot, 58 of them fatally. It has only been 136 days since that shooting. If, starting the day after the shooting, you had begun reading the names of the victims, saying one name at noon each day, you wouldn't have finished until late January 2019. Add to that the total killed and wounded in Parkland, and you'd finish by March.
We are forgetting our outrage even faster than we are forgetting the dead, and as repetition pushes them into the past, it's too easy to forget those in power whose indifference creates both. Everyone deserves to be remembered — not just the victims but the politicians with bloody hands.