Yesterday Jeb Bush followed the family tradition of crass and fatuous oratory that made his surname legendary. If that was the former governor’s goal: “Mission Accomplished.” I wouldn’t have thought it possible to out-do Shakespearean eloquence such as “Trees cause more pollution than cars do” and “Smoke evildoers out of their holes”; Bush fils part deux set a new standard. When asked for his thoughts on the rampage at Roseburg our prospective forty-fifth president replied, “Stuff happens.” As insensitive and tactless as the latest heir to the Bush legacy spoke, the ultimate tragedy lay in his veracity: at least in reference to mass murder in America.
Josef Stalin, himself no stranger to the concept, once observed, “One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic.” It saddens me such unmotivated acts of violence occur with such frequency in our society. While the Umpqua Community College shooter’s father may express “shock” at this latest massacre, in the last day I’ve read tweets from PBS and the Associated Press stating that our country averages one mass shooting per day. I fear our society is becoming desensitized to it.
But why would we? After all, the media will saturate us with “coverage” of this latest “tragedy”. They’ll present myriad “special reports” on the killer. They’ll probe his friends and family with, “How could this happen?” They’ll ask “Why? Why? Why?” We’ll get incisive analysis of how he “was a quiet boy; a good boy; a troubled boy.” This will go on until he becomes as much a household name as John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald.
This “coverage” will, no doubt, feed the salacious appetites of “tragedy porn” addicts. We’ll receive up-to-the-minute body counts presented as enthusiastically as the score of a Baseball Playoff game. As appalling as that may be, I fear something much more horrible. I worry this unwarranted attention will only encourage the next “quiet, good, troubled boy” seeking his fifteen minutes of infamy.
This latest massacre brought to mind Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin. It’s an epistolary novel about a woman’s quest to understand why her son executed several of his classmates. The author thoroughly researched the subject. She cited numerous names in reference to school massacres. Some I recognized; others I didn’t. As a work of fiction, I presumed them the product of the author’s imagination. Due to the volume of appellations at the halfway point in the book, I wondered and investigated on-line. It astonished me to discover that this sort of tragedy had been occurring regularly in the US since the 1970s.
Every culture has its share of violence. We Americans have a legendary brand of it. The late former FBI Agent Robert Ressler pioneered the study of serial killers. He observed that most reside in the United States. When asked why, he answered, “We live in a society that encourages and glorifies violence.”
The media sensationalizing of this crime will further ignite the passions in the gun control debate. Based on Mr. Ressler’s view, I’m wondering if limiting access to firearms would have any effect on violent crime. While fictitious, the killer in Shriver’s novel didn’t use a gun.
While I disagree with the way the former Florida governor expressed himself, I’m disturbed more by how I agree with his underlying premise. This is a national disgrace and an embarrassment to our great country.
My thoughts and condolences go out to the friends and family of those affected by this latest act of senseless carnage. I’ve lost friends and family over the years. I can’t imagine the pain of losing someone I love to such a meaningless violent act. All of those affected have my deepest sympathy.
The rest of us can take solace. We’ll forget all about this tragedy with the advent of the next one. Based on the numbers, we won’t have long to wait. The media will scamper from the Pacific Northwest and descend upon the next campus asking the ubiquitous “Why? Why? Why?” After the standard, “He was a quiet boy; a good boy; a troubled boy”, we’ll be treated to a new stock response: “Stuff happens.”