Maybe we don't care how we look to the rest of the world. In fact, we probably don't.
A headline last Thursday, the day after this nation’s latest mass shooting, read, “There really are no words.”
But, actually, there are lots and lots of words. After an obviously troubled former student at the high school in Parkland, Florida shot and killed 17 students with his AR-15 rifle and injured more than a dozen others, as is always the case in these here United States of America, everyone had plenty of words at their disposal to say.
You know, the usual. Shocking. Horrifying. Horrific. Tragic. Terrible. Awful. Senseless. Unspeakable. Words like that. We say them and many more to convey our reactions and emotions when people armed to the teeth mow down other people in a hellfire rain of bullets on our soil.
But maybe it’s time we add another word to the litany of responses that flow so easily and routinely after these massacres that have become so commonplace in this nation: Embarrassed.
Shouldn’t we be embarrassed by now? Shouldn’t we have felt embarrassed a while ago? Or at least sheepish? These things just keep taking place within our borders, and the rest of the developed, civilized world – where these things for the most part do not happen – looks at us with jaws dropped, wondering if we’re seriously going to go with the “thoughts and prayers” thing again, followed once again, after the reactions die down, by more crickets.
Shouldn’t our elected leaders be embarrassed? They run for office in a political system that allows mountains of cash to flow into their campaign coffers, and the corporations and special interest groups that donate all that money, like the National Rifle Association, obviously expect favorable treatment in return from the politicians they’ve bought. And yet, sensible American citizens and sensible people around the globe are supposed to believe when all these shootings take place that these politicians, so compromised by special interest cash, are being genuine and are simply standing up for their own principles when they say that even the most minuscule of gun law reforms are simply not the answer? No, no, no. Sensible people know it’s basically not even these politicians talking. They’re puppets. Their greatest fear is not being re-elected, leaving them to alter their career trajectory, which would most likely lead to a lobbyist gig at one of the special interests that was so pleased with the work they did for them while still in office.
Before the haze from all of Nikolas Cruz’s bullets had cleared in Florida last Wednesday, the familiar debate was already raging, in regard to what is needed more, some common-sense reforms of our nation’s gun laws, or better services for the mentally ill in this country.
Again, embarrassing. Like we can’t tackle both. Like there aren’t billions and billions of dollars of fat in the federal budget that could easily be trimmed and reallocated to things this nation actually wants, needs, and could benefit from. If we’re all about America being so “great,” can’t we tackle two pressing problems at once? This doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Let’s pursue sensible gun law reforms in this country, as well as enhanced mental health services for those who desperately need them. Heck, while we’re at it, let’s try to tackle the third leg of the stool, too, and appease the pro-gun crew at the same time, by working diligently to make today’s pampered, selfish kids feel a little less entitled.
Most likely, nothing will get done on either front, at least nothing that won’t require a microscope to discern. The persistence and courage of these Florida kids in the wake of their classmates’ slaughter is certainly impressive, but unless they form a Super PAC and start lining politicians’ pockets with some serious coin, they don’t have a prayer.
Maybe we don't care what the rest of the world thinks. Maybe we just went to close them all off and bask in our own tremendous glow. The more we continue to embarrass ourselves, the more the rest of the world might welcome that.