The internet renders us an immediate, intimate observer to tragedies in all corners of the world. But the internet changes very little in what we can actually do. We are largely as powerless as the audiences of a century past; we just happen to learn things an order of magnitude more quickly.
For most Americans, therefore, the only “good” that comes of national calamity is the way that it briefly sharpens and focuses our collective attention. For a few days, most people are thinking about the same thing. We learn about the disaster’s human cost, we consider its causes, and—ideally—we ponder what collective action we can take to keep it from happening again.
Always politicize tragedy. Unless you are giving money or blood or volunteering on the front lines, politicization is the one good thing you can do. Use Hurricane Irma to learn about the purposeful dismantling of environmental safeguards in the state of Florida; use the horrifying deaths of nearly 60 people in Las Vegas to familiarize yourself with the policies that enabled this gunman to acquire such a destructive arsenal so quickly.
A “thought and prayer” is nothing. It is something you can do, quite literally, in your sleep. Thinking critically about why something happened and how it can be stopped is the barest thing you can do. As an American, it is something you must do. And lest you think that the “don’t politicize” crowd is sincere in its beliefs, consider tonight’s take from Bill O’Reilly:
Public safety demands logical gun laws but the issue is so polarizing and emotional that little will be accomplished as there is no common ground.
The NRA and its supporters want easy access to weapons, while the left wants them banned.
This is the price of freedom. Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.
Already, the pundits of the American gun lobby are roaring to action. Because the shooter was not a man of color, they intend to preach a gospel of powerlessness. They intend to tell you that “this is just the way things are,” as if a definitive interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has been carved in granite. As if it is right or normal for an industrialized nation to bear more mass shootings than there are days of the year.
More Americans were killed last night in Las Vegas than were in operations in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan combined. This is not the “price of freedom.” This is a conspiracy between moneyed interests and pliable politicians. It is distilled greed and cruelty. It has no place in a just society.