I was in New York City the morning of September 11, 2001. At that time, it seemed like combating extremist terrorism from the Middle East, would be the main concern for mass violence in America.
To be clear, I want to specify that when I refer to “mass violence” I am not referring to aggregate violence, as this is probably not so different from how it was in the 90s. By “mass violence” I am specially pointing to those incidents where many people are killed or wounded in a single event. It also may be worth stepping back to think about the “mass aggregate” violence, even more than single incidents of “mass violence”. That said, we evolved to fixate on the nonlinear events. So, 20 people killed in a single event will resonate much more with our emotions, than 20 people killed in 20 separate events, even if the ultimate outcome is the same.
Look at how different things are now, from the days of 9/11. Besides the specific deaths from the attacks on the twin towers, mass shootings perpetrated by our own American citizens, have absolutely dwarfed the threat of terrorism from other parts of the world.
We now live in a society where the real terror comes from within our borders, not from beyond them. There is no hostile nation, or terrorist organization on earth, that could hope to do worse to us, than we have already done to ourselves.
The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, literally had to plan for years to learn to fly planes, to hijack planes, to get into the country and pass safety checks etc. They did it once, and that was it. America responded and spared no expense. We changed society to deal with the threat of foreign terrorism. We even fought some terrible wars, to ensure that an attack like 9/11, never happened again.
Politicians love to talk about how strong Americans are, and how terrorists will never defat us, or degrade our way of life. I think that can be true in some instances, but only if they are the kinds of terrorists we have the will to do something about. If they come from the Middle East, and hijack planes to kill innocent men, women, and children, we will absolutely end them. If, on the other hand, they come from middle America, and they acquire their weapons of terror and murder at the local gun shop, it's an entirely different story. In that case, we will not do a blessed thing to hinder them, no matter how many men, women, and children they kill.
These days, if you’re in a public space, including an elementary school, you have much more to fear from a fellow American with a gun, than any terrorist overseas. That is perhaps the saddest fact of all. We fought all those wars, lost all that blood and treasure, to prevent foreign terrorists from destroying our way of life. Then we allow the very safety and peace of mind, that so much was sacrificed for, to be destroyed one mass shooting after another. If the foreign terrorists had a crystal ball, and could see what Americans would do to ourselves, they might have never came over here in the first place. They could have just sat back and watched us destroy ourselves, with our own weapons, in our own schools, churches, and grocery stores, from the comfort of their native countries.
I am not going to delve into any commentary on causes and solutions in this piece. I just wanted to mark the moment, and reflect on the utterly devastating state of affairs, we find ourselves in, as a country.
Our “thoughts and prayers” don’t amount to much. I find that it’s a lot more productive to reflect and adjust. So, that is what I wish for myself, and for my fellow citizens, and for our country as a whole. I wish that we can reflect and adjust, so that one day the phrase “mass shooting” is relegated to a solemn remembrance, an odd anachronism for those of us who lived through its heyday. May it be utterly meaningless, to future generations, outside of history books that chronicle the strange and tragic epidemic of gun violence. This fog of insanity and apathy, that plagued our great land we call America, in the early 21st century.
May this scourge be long forgotten.
Not soon enough, but one day.
May the gone be not forgotten,
Kept alive, in some way.