Play It Again, Uncle Sam

America’s Automatic Response to Semiautomatic Tragedy

During my rounds to various news sites on the afternoon following the Florida school shooting, I noticed that several stories from the archives were trending. That often happens on days when America experiences another chapter in one of its bleakest and longest running narratives.

The old articles trend because we already know this story.

We know it’s insane to make weapons of war available to citizens.

We know the availability of these weapons and the resulting carnage is what makes America different from all other countries.

We know kids regularly get murdered in their schools and that more efficient hardware is making the problem worse.

We know that, after these mass murder events, we’ll hear about acts of heroism from people who sacrificed their bodies to shield others. And we know that no such heroics will happen in DC.

When a kid who survives a mass shooting pleads with us to get something done (“We’re children. You guys are, like, the adults.”), we know our leaders will offer thoughts and prayers and not much else.

We know there won’t be satisfactory response to Steve Kerr’s comments: “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater; it’s not enough, apparently, to move the people who are running this country to actually do anything.” We know not to expect any answers about this national disgrace in a political environment where even asking the questions has been repeatedly stifled.

We know that the death of 17 people at a high school in Florida is unlikely to lead to a tightening of gun restrictions, but very likely to lead to a loosening of gun restrictions (and, of course, a temporary pop among gun stocks).

We know we’ll hear talk of evil and claims that mental health may have been a factor. But we also know that America’s biggest mental health problem is that we can’t pass sane gun laws.

We know we’ll hear those same old tired refrains that it’s too soon after a shooting to discuss the weapons that were used, or that we shouldn’t politicize the deaths of kids. Instead, we should do nothing but wait, and as Paul Ryan advised, we shouldn’t immediately respond to such mass murders with a conversation about taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. “Right now (rat-a-tat tat), I think (rat-a-tat tat) we need to take a breath (rat-a-tat tat) and collect the facts.”

We know the facts. We know what happens when we take a breath and wait.

We know all of this. We’ve known it for a long time. We’ve seen this story before, time and time again.

And so articles from the archives trend anew as we go back and read and share the old write-ups about what this unthinkable gun madness is doing to America and its children; because we’ve got no new words to describe, yet again, what we already know.

Adapted from NextDraft: The Day’s Most Fascinating News.