What could possibly go wrong?

Daniel Mack
Nov 9, 2018 · 3 min read
Mark J. Terrill / AP

Go to war often. Train thousands of young men in the tools and methods of violence, then ship them off to the most terrifying circumstances imaginable.

Turn them into verifiable killing machines, the world’s most feared, and flip that switch in their brains that considers killing other human beings a sometimes justifiable act. Render them experts in handling and using the world’s most deadly weaponry, particularly “assault rifles” and semi-automatic pistols.

Expose them to repeated trauma, mind-altering horror, daily dehumanizing visions and experiences. Put them through hell half-way across the world, ask them to sometimes do terrible things on your behalf in countries you can’t pronounce or find on a map. But fret not, only regurgitate that they “protected our freedoms abroad”.

If they make it home not in a body bag, give them a shiny medal, maybe a nice ribbon. Treat them as heroes in the abstract, give them discounts for burgers and oil changes, salute them at ball games, allow priority at airports — “thank you for your service!”.

Concretely, though, show them you think they are little more than cannon fodder. Barely mourn them if they fall abroad, and ignore their actual needs if they return. Perhaps allow for a diagnosis or label that makes you comfortable, like “PTSD”, individualizing a tragic cost that is in reality a social responsibility.

But whatever you do, don’t invest in treatment or healing. Please remember, they’re tough. Warriors. They can “man up”. Plus, mental health care is expensive, and good public health care is for those ‘socialist’ European countries.

Make sure that despite any worrisome signs, they continue to have legal or at least easy access to those very tools of war they became experts in. For good measure, allow easy access even to accessories that have no justifiable use outside of the battlefield, including extended ammunition magazines.

Glock 21 .45 auto pistol / Getty Images

Even if they brush up against law enforcement or mental health professionals over the years, by all means, let them keep their guns legally. Don’t give police the tools to prevent a future tragedy.

If anything ever goes wrong, remember to vilify the individual, perhaps paint him as a monster, maybe even together with all his peers, but never, ever, question the system. It’s a binary world, so the vile perpetrator cannot possibly also be a victim. Speculate about individual themes like motive, never structural ones.

Also recall to second-guess family members, loved-ones, and mental health professionals — “how did they not know?! why didn’t they do anything?!” — but never the laws and policies that allow unwell individuals to keep instruments that can cause massive harm.

Remember, any talk about gun control or safety should be seamlessly pivoted into a discussion about the real culprit: mental health. But not in a way to ameliorate said health or improve access to its providers, of course. Insist that complex societal problems cannot be caused by multiple factors concomitantly, just one in isolation. All or nothing, so of course it can’t be the guns. It’s never (partially) what’s in their hands, only what’s in their heads, and that’s their fault, not yours.

Glorify and heroize any victims, you know, the good ones, but omit that their deaths were utterly avoidable and tragically in vain. Like children and civilians on a fair away battlefield, they had no protection or knowledge they were combatants. For the fallen that were professionals, commend their “great bravery”, call them “heroes”. Offer condolences, but never legislation that could keep them safe while doing their jobs. Never give enough of a shit about them to actually protect them while they try to protect us.

Despite science and the majority of the population knowing the status quo is insane, do nothing to change this reality. Rinse, lather, repeat. “Thoughts and prayers” shall suffice.

What could possibly go wrong?

Or maybe, just maybe, try to fucking do something about it.