It is now just after midnight, Eastern Daylight Time, on February Sixteenth.
That means that, somewhere in Florida, seventeen different families have just finished their first full day of never seeing a loved one again. Sixteen more families are waiting in hospitals to see if their loved ones recover.
Their shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested without incident and has confessed.
I’m told this is either the eighth or the eighteenth school shooting in this country, depending on how you define school shootings, in the forty-six days there have been so far in 2018. If the number eighteen is correct, we’re averaging one every two and a half days. I’m also told there have been over 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook.
It’s been almost ten years since they’ve had a school shooting in Europe. There have been eleven school shootings altogether in Canada since 1975. In Mexico, which we’re all told is such a dreadful place, there have been four since 2011.
There’s so little I can say about what’s happened, because everything is exactly as you’d expect.
Nikolas Cruz had an AK-15 with him on his Uber ride to the school. Of course he did. This is America. People do things like that. I’m told it’s our constitutional right, so that we can be safe and protected from tyranny. Students had worried about Nikolas Cruz and expressed their worry, but not enough was done. Of course. That’s how it works in schools.
When I heard the shooter had been taken alive, I assumed he was white– and indeed, when I googled his name, I saw brown hair, freckled skin and green eyes. Of course.
When I found that the shooter was white, I knew that the government would not blame terrorism or immigrants but mental health, and that’s exactly what happened. In America, we presume that white men are violent because they struggle with mental illness, but brown and black men are violent because they are evil. And, to be perfectly just, mental healthcare is indeed horrendous in this country, but somehow nothing is ever done about that either.
I was taken aback, but only mildly, when a militant white supremacist organization claimed that Cruz had trained with them in military drills, and people went right on claiming it was just mental illness. If Daesh (ISIS) had taken credit we’ve had believed them without question, but white supremacists make what amounts to the same claim and we go on thinking about mental illness. This turn of events was extreme enough to be parody– but how deeply American. In America, violent black men are thugs, violent brown men are terrorists, and violent white men are mentally ill. Even if they train with terrorists, they’re still mentally ill. Not that anyone will really do anything to help mentally ill people either, of course, but we’ll go on blaming mental illness.
I pray with all my heart that things will be different after this last tragedy, but I don’t think they will be. They should have changed after the Columbine massacre, nineteen years ago when I myself was a teenager, but they didn’t. They should have changed after the horrific slaughter of little children at Sandy Hook, but they didn’t. They should change now, but they won’t.
What I believe will happen is that things will go on in America as they have for twenty years, again and again in cycles like clockwork. We will hear of more dead children, youths and teachers; we will judge the shooters to be evil if their skin is too dark and troubled if it’s not. We will bluster about mental illness and deepen society’s prejudice against those who suffer, but nothing will be done to help. We will build walls, persecute immigrants, send drones to murder foreigners and be afraid of our Muslim neighbors. We will ignore the threat of white supremacists because they don’t look like our idea of a terrorist. Gun sales will continue to boom. People will ride in cars with AR-15s as is apparently their right. They will get out of the cars, walk into schools and murder children, youths and teaches, and we will judge their culpability by the color of their skin. And so on indefinitely.
I pray that I am wrong.
I wish with all my heart to be wrong.
But I’ve been an American all my life, and I don’t hold out much hope.
(image via Pixabay)