Why Are We So Numb? (Opinion)
Like you, I could have never imagined waking up to the tragedy that is unfolding in Las Vegas. I would be at a loss for words if I were not compelled by my heart to make something out of the pain. Over fifty people have died and over five hundred have been injured in what is now the largest mass shooting in American history. There is simply no way of getting around the monumental scale of this violence. Yet the feeling that even this scale of violence will not result in change has already set in.
As this week progresses, we will hear the stories of survivors and of the fallen. Even though we will hear words that would shatter us if they were spoken by our loved ones, most of us will not shed a tear or feel affected. I know I likely won’t. But I don’t know if I should blame myself for that feeling. I am asking myself when I decided to start acting like this. Was it something that I started to do along the way, or that happened as a collective sigh, as if the whole nation chose to give up? For now, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. At most we can just agree that we feel numb.
There are the usual places that we can look to place blame. Our political institutions, most of all our historically despised Congress, have taken no meaningful steps towards dealing with gun violence in the American life. Knowing that there will very likely be no political progress made on the issue of automatic weapons and mass shootings, it is fair to say that it has become easier to place the news at the back of our minds each time something happens. It is a perfectly natural reaction to a problem that feels both unsolvable and out of reach.
The gun debate also frustrates our daily lives. America is an ideologically splintered country in which one person’s cherished freedom can feel like another’s burden. Nobody wants to butt heads with their good friend, family member, or longtime coworker over a topic fraught with such emotion and pain. The right to bear arms was guaranteed to us so that we might defend ourselves against tyranny. It is not wholly ridiculous to say that this is a logical part of our constitutional system. I believe that a more compelling argument, in favor of banning assault weapons and restricting purchases, is to count all the lives that could have been spared. But I know that despite my conviction – and despite my desire to fight the good fight – I cannot persuade enough people on my own. So I choose to ignore it all.
How do we stop being so desensitized? I can only think of one way to move forward that will honor the victims of Las Vegas. It is time to be relentless. Our reactions to each incident over the past couple of years, from the nightclub shooting in Orlando to the summer attack on members of Congress, have done nothing. Timidity hasn’t changed a thing. As far as I can tell, the only way forward is to be so loud and so persistent that any person that wishes for peace cannot ignore our demands for reform.
Backing down to our neighbors won’t bring people back. Giving up on politics won’t bring people back. On this side of the country, we cannot rush to the side of our fellow Americans as they suffer. But we can raise hell so that it may not happen again. Knock on doors. March in Washington. Speak up to your friend. Do whatever it is that makes you feel. Numbness is not the solution.
This is an Op-Ed and does not necessarily represent the views of the Skidmore News Editorial Board.
Photo from The NY Daily.