Mass shootings aren’t a tragedy

It’s difficult to keep track of the mass shootings in this nation. As I write, I have to keep searching to find out how many mass shootings there are. One article tells me 33. Nope. Wrong. The next tells me there have been 36 so far this year. Nope. Wrong again. It’s 39 as of January 23. I’m just going to stop there because frankly that’s appalling.

I’m sick of calling these a tragedy.

Tragedy is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

1 a: a disastrous event CALAMITY


2 a: a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror

b: the literary genre of tragic dramas

c: a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man

3tragic quality or element

That’s the full definition with links for your reference. A mass shooting certainly fits the first definition coupled with calamity, which the dictionary defines as “a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering.” I don’t think there’s any debate about that. Every single one of these mass shootings causes great loss and lasting distress and suffering. Every. single. one.

And yet, I don’t think calling them a tragedy is appropriate any longer. Because of the second definition. in literature a tragedy is a drama written about a hero figure who faces a superior force or destiny and falls to that force eliciting pity from the audience/reader. It’s too much for the hero to overcome.

This is why I have a problem with our continued use of the term tragedy when it comes to mass shootings. Gun violence is not a superior force or destiny. It never has been and it never will be. We have willingly handed over our agency to act to a small handful of people to are imposing their will over the entire nation. We have willingly bought into a fabled mythical story about the Second Amendment as if it is Biblical truth and we dare not question it. We have made guns into something larger than life, given them a super power they don’t deserve. We have willingly, as a nation, decided that hardware of violence has more value than human lives. Oh yes, that is exactly what we have done. Yes, polls say the populace overwhelmingly wants there to be action, but a handful of politicians refuse to act, yet why is it that such a small handful of politicians can thwart the will of the people for their own safety? Has the populace not spoken loud enough? Why do we keep electing the same politicians into office, while we wonder why nothing changes? Who is really to blame here? And why do we think that just sitting back passively and only raising our voice will cause these politicians to respond? Why should they?

Mass shootings aren’t a tragedy – not after the first few anyway. Not after absolutely no action is taken to do anything about them. Mass shootings are a consequence. They are the result of belief systems and political will and the lack of it. They are the result. And they carry a heavy price.

And they are unnecessary. Mass shootings are unnecessary. Every person who dies in a mass shooting doesn’t need to die. Every person who loses a loved one doesn’t need to mourn the loss of a loved one. There doesn’t need to be the added trauma. There doesn’t need to be additional fights over what to do and the ridiculous ideas in response. There doesn’t need to be politicians getting on TV and offering empty “thoughts and prayers.”

Look, I understand a few things about this – guns are a highly emotional topic. And they immediately become highly partisan too. Yippee! But that should not make them, or any topic, into one of those superior forces that literary tragedy writers are famous for writing about. That should not automatically make them off limits. I refuse to accept that. Your highly emotional reaction is your problem, not an excuse for the the nation to not address a problem we all face. And just because something is political is not an excuse to not address it. We address political things all the time. That’s why we have political processes.

I don’t think there is a one size, fits all solution to this because this is a huge nation with very different cultures, geographies, needs, economies, etc. The approach to dealing guns will look different in urban settings than it will in the rural vastness of Wyoming. That’s just reality. And there is nothing wrong with that. I wonder why we can’t accept that reality and also accept the reality that there are bad people in the world who will do what they can to break the law in order to make money and hurt people, like they do now. Guns are outlawed in Chicago, yet it has a high murder rate. Why? Because guns come in from outside of Chicago. And that answer is overly simplistic too. There is more to it than that. Can we accept that as well? Chicago can’t control the flow of guns from outside of its municipal borders and the surrounding municipalities have different laws. There is no uniformity, or a regional approach to crime or law enforcement or violence. It is a piecemeal approach, and when you have a piecemeal approach, you end up with crumbs and a mess. There is no interconnectivity.

Which leads to the bigger issue in all of this – What is your view of how connected you are to others? Are you an independent being – apart from others? Or are you interconnected to others? If you are independent, then what others do most likely will not be seen as having an impact on you. It might impact you, but it is not directly related to you. It impacts you like traffic does. It happens, but it is separate from you – something “out there,” or “over there” happening. If on the other hand we are interconnected, then things are different. What happens to others impacts you and vice versa in real ways. There is no us and them. Your fates are tied together. Their loss is your loss. Your victory is their victory.

Here’s my thought – gun violence will continue as long as an independent way of seeing the world in this nation. When enough people adopt a more interconnected outlook, then we will act and put a stop to gun violence. It won’t be a fight either. It will just be the natural thing to do. That doesn’t have to be the majority outlook either. Just enough people influencing enough of the decision makers to make it happen.

If you want something to pray about – that’s what I would suggest you pray for. Pray for more people to have an interconnected way of seeing the world.


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