But like the idiotic tweets of President Trump, these atrocities have a sameness to them. They have become ordinary, normal. Twenty-six dead is a huge number, but not as high as the 58 dead of Las Vegas and not as exotic as the recent eight dead of New York — a true terrorist attack, or so it seems. Even that has faded from the news. It got old within a day or two.
The “new normal” is a useful phrase. It describes a condition, an enervating apathy. Just as wartime London, for instance, learned to live with the Blitz, so we have learned to live with recurrent atrocities and the madmen among us. Worse, we have learned to live with the conditions that enable such atrocities. We see them as “acts of God,” a coldly legal phrase having nothing to do with theology. It means no one’s at fault. Things happen. You know.
But, of course, these mass shooting are not acts of God, either legally or in a religious sense. They are acts of man. They are not like war, where the enemy is distant and beyond our control. The means of death are within reach, sold in shops and shows and over the Internet. In the name of a constitutional right conceived to deal with 18th-century conditions, we are helpless to deal with 21st-century calamities. It is not an armed government I fear. It is a recklessly armed citizenry.
This torpor is very un-American. We are used to solving problems. We laud ourselves for the Normandy invasion, for sending a man to the moon, for ridding the world of polio. We built canals and railroads and sent office buildings into the sky. We did marvelous things like that, and we also ended legal racism. That, too, was once ordinary. There was Jim Crow everywhere you looked, from water fountains to state parks to schools — a racism so repellent and complicated it’s amazing and sickening, looking back, that it was once accepted by so many whites as normal. It took time for it be seen as abnormal. But it was done.
This “normal” of ours has to end. Guns have to be restricted. A culture has to be seen for the menace it is. The old saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people is not only clearly wrong but incomplete. Apathy does.