Sunday, July 22, 2012

ritual sacrifices

while there's no sense to be found in a senseless massacre, these tragedies do happen for a reason. they happen because americans have collectively decided that our way of life is worth at least one or two senseless massacres a year.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by further restricting which people can buy which guns, we've decided that it's not worth it.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by further restricting which manufacturers can sell which guns, we've decided that it's not worth it.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by further restricting which people can buy and sell body armor, we've decided that it's not worth it.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by better tracking the violence-prone and the unstable, we've decided that it's not worth it.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by building more mental health facilities, we've decided that it's not worth it.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by reducing the violent content of our media, we've decided that it's not worth it.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by tightening security in public spaces, well, we're in the eleventh year of an experiment in doing just that.

if it's possible to prevent another massacre by expanding the government's police powers, again, we're in the eleventh year of an experiment in doing that too.

the one thing that we've decided that's worth doing, in lieu of most of the above, is engaging in a well-practiced national ritual: the nonstop replay of the crime; the mourning of the victims; the dissection of the killer; lastly, the hollow demands and promises of action, before returning numbly to whatever it is we do between the massacres. the ritual is necessary because we refuse admit to ourselves that we won't do anything else. the victims are the necessary sacrifices that allow the rest of us to continue enjoying the american way of life. the ritual is the necessary trade-off that allows us to trade away the guilt.

it is of course possible that there is actually nothing we can do or agree upon that will prevent another massacre, but who really believes that? so if this latest tragedy goes by without our acting meaningfully to prevent the next, it's because we've decided that it's not worth it — or maybe we think that it's worth at least one more senseless massacre.

No comments: