“Bah, the latest news, the latest news is not the last.”
I wake up and before I finish making the bed, I hear there’s “a mass murder incident” in Indianapolis. A mass murder incident. You know how the meaning of some terms change over time? Like ‘cheater’ used to refer to an officer appointed to look after the king’s escheats — property that reverted to the State or the King when somebody died without a legal heir — and now means a person who cheats? Well, in terms of mass murder, the original definition of ‘incident’ still applies. An incident is ‘something which occurs casually in connection with something else.’
There was a mass murder incident in Indianapolis this morning — the murder of at least eight people occurring casually in connection with…well, with going to work in a nation that has a small but powerful minority who worship firearms. The incident was described as “the country’s deadliest shooting since ten people were killed on March 22.” That was less than a month ago.
Last night in Indianapolis more people were murdered while casually going to work than were murdered three and a half weeks ago while casually shopping for groceries at a supermarket in Colorado. This is how we measure mass murder incidents now.
The authorities have said the mass murder “wasn’t precipitated by any kind of a disturbance or an argument.” As if ‘a disturbance or an argument’ would actually explain in any way why eight people were shot and killed. The authorities are also trying to “understand the motives” of the shooter. Because if we understood the murderer’s motives, we’d be able to…to what? Do something about it? Nobody, it seems, is bothering to understand the motives of legislators who continue to weaken and erode firearm safety legislation. That might be something we could actually do something about.
This is just the latest news, and as Samuel Beckett says, it’s not the last. We’ll make the effort to pretend what happened is explainable, that it’s understandable — but it’s not. It never really is. People call it a tragedy — and it is, and it isn’t. It’s an incidental tragedy, a casual tragedy, a temporary tragedy that will eventually become a passing reference in a news story — ‘the country’s deadliest shooting since eight people were killed at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.’
“I know my eyes are open,” Beckett wrote, “because of the tears that pour from them unceasingly.” But the problem with unceasing tears is that after a while, they no longer indicate grief. It’s just crying. Some families and friends in Indianapolis will be grieving, but as a nation we’ll go on today and tomorrow as if this is all normal. Which it is. Our boy Beckett understood too.
To go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.
I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always. A FedEx facility in Indianapolis, a supermarket in Boulder, Asian spas in Atlanta, a brewery in Milwaukee — the same place as always. Murmuring the same stories as if it were the first time. The latest news is not the last.