In the past 2 weeks, there have been at least 2 major mass showings that have made national headlines. The first was in Buffalo, New York at a grocery store, the second was in Texas at an elementary school.
What was once a grotesque rarity, just a few decades ago, has now become an unpleasant yet expected reality, like snow storms in the winter.
I was reluctant to post anything about these events on the Primary Scenes site, as I would rather not inject current events or politics so overtly into Primary Scenes. Generally, the intention is to speak to a much broader and more in-depth context, that unifies all of human experience, rather than commenting on individual events in the news.
Then it dawned on me, that in some way, we needed to acknowledge the reality of these mass shootings as an unfortunate, but very real part of our modern human experience. Primary Scenes ultimately emerged, from a quest to understand human experience, and to share a meaningful view of it. As a result, it would defeat its own purpose, if it ignored the current epidemic of gun violence in America.
I am just old enough to remember a time when mass shootings were basically unheard of. I was a child of the 90s. We grew up on Ninja Turtles and Transformers cartoons, before they became awful CG movies. I used to rock Air Jordans when that little air bubble felt like part of a space suit. Reebok Pumps had our 8-year-old fingers, frantically pressing buttons shaped like basketballs and tennis balls, before playing pickup games in the gym. We listened to Kriss Kross, I even had Ewing sneakers and wore my jeans backwards one time. Those of us who were kids in the last decade of the 20th century, saw an era of runaway economic growth, and the rise of Web 1.0. We watched the first war in Iraq on CNN, in fuzzy, grainy video of missile strikes. We played Zelda, and Street Fighter Two (Turbo is the GOAT for sure), Mortal Kombat, and Mario (3 is the GOAT for sure). Most of us knew there was violence in the world, and even saw it on the news from time to time. That said, we had little to no sense, that mass shootings were anything that could happen with any regularity, if at all.
Just to put those times into perspective, the “mass violence” of the 90s was utterly different from how it is in 2022. It was largely predicated, on people with extreme political agendas, who would have to go so out of their way to build bombs, that the genre of violence tended to limit itself. Here are some examples of the kinds of mass violence that we did think about in the 90s.
- The World Trade Center bombing
- The bombing of the Atlanta Summer Olympics
- The Oklahoma City bombing
These were the kinds of incidents that made national headlines and made us wonder and fear about the state of large-scale violence in America. It may seem perverse to reminisce about a time, when we used to think about bombings at major events and office buildings, but looking back, we had no idea how good we had it. As awful as they can be for the people involved, the upside is that bombings take a significant amount of time, effort, and sophistication, that most people simply are not going to have. In addition, acquiring the skills and ingredients to create bombs, often gives authorities much more lead time and clues, to potentially stop these acts before they occur.
The world was by no means perfect in the 90s, but the concerns were qualitatively different from the way they are now. For those of us who grew up in those years, and were lucky enough to live in safe neighborhoods and attend good schools, mass shootings were not even on our radar screens. Not as a general phenomenon, let alone as a serious threat.