Jun 13, 2016, 10:12AM

Is There Even Hope Left?

Reflections on another mass shooting.

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When a mass killing takes place—whether it’s terrorism, domestic violence, workplace conflict or psychosis—I don't know what to think, how to feel, or what to do.

I alternate between rage and despair, and the thought keeps occurring that there's something terribly wrong with our species, that human beings don't deserve to exist. It's like a mirror image of the shooters' own attitudes: they get to the point where they think everyone—or everyone of a certain description (maybe gay, in this case)—deserves to die. Perhaps the killers typically also believe that they themselves deserve to die, for they end up annihilating humanity even in their own persons.

Sometimes I feel overwhelming anger at the killer, or at the sort of person who does things like that: terrorists or madmen, people consumed by hatred and enacting it externally by inflicting random suffering. Again, it occurs to me that this might be the very sort of attitude—the bigotry and rage—that the killer was feeling.

There is even a moment of indifference, as the incidents build up and flow by for hours on cable news. I don't know anyone involved; I don't know how to find a sense of connection; I start cynically rolling my eyes at the coverage and at the authorities who are saying the same sentences this time as last time. To what extent am I only pretending to care; to what extent am I caring vicariously?

Sometimes I can't find tears, but as one bloodbath follows another, I’m also having trouble finding hope.

I don't have any practical answers. I’ve argued that the government should control all the weapons; then you just have totalitarianism, and you haven't cured the violence. The wars and genocides of the 20th century were prosecuted by governments. Police violence is a problem more or less everywhere. But then I can't with a good conscience simply oppose anything that might stop some of these events, or any of them. I get to a half-assed stance: if you guys try to put more limits on weapons, I’m not going to do anything to stop you.

Nevertheless, we're not going to get rid of all the weapons. I live in rural Pennsylvania, where hunting is extremely popular and there are guns in almost every house (not mine), and "Don't Tread on Me" flags everywhere. I don't know how we’d even try to reduce the number of guns dramatically without unleashing a violent backlash. I don’t know what to do.

Somehow there has to be a cure for the world, for us: I find myself praying for it, or begging God for personal peace, political peace, peace for troubled and violent people, peace for the victims and for the people who love them. But I'm not sure what I believe about God, or what He was thinking when he created humans, if he did. This is just the sort of thing—undeserved suffering—that made me an atheist for the longest time.

I don't know whether God would want me to be angry about the killing, forgive the shooters, or work ineffectually for peace and then see more murder. I’m trying to commit myself to pacifism; I found myself in a Quaker meeting Sunday morning after the shootings in Orlando, committing myself to it with a whole heart. But I don't have much faith that our species can be transformed by this route.

One thing is certain: we need to be transformed. I just don't know how we can be.

  • I heard some pundit say on the news yesterday morning, "It's a tough day today." Really? If you don't know anyone involved in a shooting, why is it so "tough"? I find it impossible to muster any sympathy. Totally desensitized. Don't get me wrong, they're all obviously horrible, there's a huge problem with ISIS, lone wolves with assault rifles, homophobia, etc. But it didn't rattle my emotions one bit. Nothing has come close to 9/11. People often say that if Sandy Hook didn't get the wheels rolling on gun control, nothing will. Well, there was no visual element to that tragedy, or any of these shootings. The grand scale of the 9/11 attacks, and the constant rotation of the video, is largely responsible for most of America and the world falling in line behind Bush for three or four years.

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  • Ditto. Smart, if unpopular opinion, at least today. I don't own a gun, don't plan to, and am for reasonable gun control. But let's not kid ourselves: the GOP gets the blame, deservedly, for being in hock to the NRA, but so are the Democrats. Like it or not, that's just one reason Trump resonates with voters. Not because of gun control per say, but because he's not a bought and paid for professional politician.

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  • Homo Sap spent a million years getting like he is. Transformation isn't in the cards. Best we can do is reduce the combination of incentive and perceived likelihood of success. Guns aren't the problem. How many guns did Tim McVeigh have? Remember how bad things got last time those pressure cookers got loose and started running around? Easier to get, exponentially, is a half gallon of gasoline. Maybe two. Cover two entrances. The feds have proven they can't protect us. They were useless on 9-11. The Russian intel gave the FBI the Tsarnaev bunch on a platter. Mrs. Farook faked her paperwork so well it took ABC almost a day to spot the clangers. After 9-11, then FBI director said, "I hope it wasn't those guys in the midwest flight schools." An investigator who claims to have been getting close to the San Berdoo shooters said he was pulled back to avoid looking like we're chasing Muslims. Nidal Hasan should have been thrown out of the Army, not make major. The FBI looked at this guy several times and....nada. So, after having conclusively demonstrated we're on our own, the feds want to disarm us. Make sense to you?

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  • i think people fairly often get to the point where they want to kill everyone, think that everyone deserves to die, including themselves. i am not sure how you get a species like that. it explains a lot about our large-scale behavior too: we are extremely destructive toward one another and the world. we're not just making mistakes; we're murder-suicidal. not that there aren't other aspects of us, but some days it's hard to believe them.

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  • A hard rain's going to fall

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  • That's rather cavalier. So you'll soon seek shelter from the storm?

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  • I'm going to go find a Dylan quote to respond to that.

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  • Sorry, you ain't goin' nowhere.

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  • Still looking for that quote.

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  • "The kings of Tyrus with their convict list Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss, And you wouldn't know it would happen like this, But who among them really wants just to kiss you?"

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  • Now pucker up.

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