forgetting

Yesterday we had the school shooting. Today we’ll name the victims. We’ll create a makeshift memorial, with teddy bears and balloon hearts, with heartfelt handwritten notes and painfully sincere poems, with photos of the dead before they became the generic dead. Today we’ll swear to remember them and keep them in our hearts and prayers forever.

“To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever…” — President Comrade Donald J. Trump

Like so much of what Trump says, this isn’t true. We won’t be with the victims and their families forever. Tomorrow — maybe later today — we’ll start the forgetting.

Not the parents, of course. Not their family members and their friends. They actually will remember the dead and grieve for them. But the rest of us? Well, school shootings are like buses; another one will come along pretty soon. Most of us will retain a better memory of the last bus we took than we will of individual victims of any school shooting.

We’ll forget. That’s just a fact. Back in December of 2013, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, I made a similar comment about another school shooting victim.

Yes, a 17-year old girl got shot, but if it weren’t for the Sandy Hook anniversary thing, the national news media would probably have ignored it. Still, they did what they could with what they had. They emphasized the Cute White Girl Who Loved Horses angle, making her a classic innocent victim. They found some really nice high school photos of her. What was her name? Kaylee? Claire? Callie? Something like that — pretty sure it starts with a ‘k’ sound. She got shot in the head. With a shotgun. Nobody wants to hear about that. And nobody other than her friends and family will remember her in a couple of weeks. Same with what’s-his-name, the school shooter. Karl.

Her name was Claire Davis. She died ten days after she was shot. She and the shooter were the only physical casualties of that event. In the discussion that followed that post, I was taken to task by the mother of one of Claire’s classmates.

“Claire died and a entire community cares. My daughter was in that school. Many students will have post traumatic stress disorder due to this shooting. We care about this and it has nothing to do with the media. You came across very callous in this post and whatever you tried to communicate got lost in that.”

That, sadly, is exactly what I tried to communicate: that we’ve become callous, that we’ve become numbed by the sheer number of mass killings. There are so many mass killings and so many victims — so many dead, so many wounded and maimed — that as a nation, we can’t keep track of them. We identify them as individuals shortly after they’ve been killed; we give their names, we mention something specific about them in an effort to stress the magnitude of the loss, we try to say Look, this is a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life, and now that potential is GONE.

But the reality is there are just too many of them. Ten yesterday, seventeen a few months ago, three a few days before that, fifty-some in Las Vegas, a dozen here and there and they’re all inevitably clumped in the public mind as generic victims. We don’t remember them. We can’t.

But we should try.

This is Claire Davis. She was seventeen years old. She was a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. She loved horses. She was a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life. She was shot on December 13, 2013 and died ten days later.

Her name was Claire Davis.

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they don’t say that anymore

Making America great again, that’s what this fuckwit says he’s doing. Another school shooting, eight to ten dead, explosive devices scattered in and around the school, and this guy’s first response? Strap on his pistol (because Texas is an open carry state), grab an American flag, slap a Trump/MAGA hat on his melon, and head to the scene to stand up for the Second Amendment.

And the other guy in this short video? The one who is outraged by the fuckwit with the flag? His answer is that we need prayers. Prayers. I suppose it’s better to ask for prayers than to strap on your little friend and start a one-fuckwit Second Amendment parade. But prayers? Hasn’t helped yet, has it. Hasn’t made America noticeably great again.

And the patriots at FreeRepublic? They know who is responsible.

“[S]ingle mother whores having children indiscriminately because they don’t need a father figure. Their bastard children growing up without morals, values or ethics. An utter sense of depravity and lawlessness. Liberals have only themselves to blame for this chaos.”

“False flag event to distract from yesterday’s IG Horowitz report on illegal acts by FBI to whitewash Clinton email investigation. As the heat increases against the deep state, watch for more of these.”

“The deep state is the group who covered up Holder’s, Obama’s, Brennan’s, Rices’s, Clapper’s, Lynch’s and Clinton’s crimes, who then tried to to stage a coup against a rightfully elected president by creating a completely fictitious narrative about collusion with the Russians. They’re funded by a global cabal that includes the wealthiest families on earth. The same families who financially fund both sides of World Wars.”

Single mothers, liberals, the Deep Fucking State. How can you possibly reason with people like this? They also know how to put an end to school shootings.

“Perhaps time to bring back public hangings.”

“It’s time to arm the teachers and students.”

“Ban violent video games. Hollyweird’s crap spewing violence is also not a help to these unstable kids of leftisms rotten fruits.”

Ban video games. Hang offenders in the town square. Arm everybody. Carry a flag to the site of a school shooting. That’s how to make America great again.

I rarely get discouraged. I’m an optimistic person by nature. But it guts me to know that this shit is NOT going to stop. It guts me that the people with the authority and power and the goddamn obligation to reduce this shit aren’t going to do it. It guts me to admit that this county, which has done great things in the past, isn’t capable of greatness now. And won’t be for the foreseeable future.

Kids used to say “I never thought something like this could happen at my school.” They don’t say that anymore.

if i had enough bullets

Howard Unruh. Odds are you’ve never heard of him. He was born in 1921 and raised in Camden, New Jersey, not far from where the poet Walt Whitman lived in his declining years. He was a shy, unassuming, working class kid who took a blue-collar job out of high school, and when World War II broke out, he signed up with the Army.

He was assigned to the 342nd Armored Field Artillery of the 89th Infantry Division. His unit fought in several major combat operations in Europe, including the relief of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. By all accounts, he was a good soldier. Followed orders, fought well, killed several enemy soldiers, earned some commendations, and at the end of the war, after three years of military service, he was honorably discharged.

Private First Class Howard Unruh

Like a lot of veterans, he had trouble adapting back to civilian life. He suffered from a lot of free-floating anxiety, argued with his neighbors, was mocked and harassed for being gay, kept track of slights and insults in a notebook. Then on September 6, 1949, after breakfast with his mother, Howard Unruh dressed himself in a brown tropical-worsted suit, put on a striped bow tie, and laced up his old Army boots. He loaded the Luger he’d taken from the body of a dead Nazi during the war, left his house, and began to walk down the street shooting people.

He shot people he thought had treated him poorly. And he shot people who were somehow associated with somebody he thought had treated him poorly. And he shot people who just happened to be passing by. He killed thirteen people in all; the oldest was 68, the youngest was two weeks shy of his third birthday. It all happened in a span of around twenty minutes.

Howard Unruh can be considered the progenitor of the modern mass murderer. He never stood trial for his crimes because he was adjudicated legally insane (though by modern standards, he’d almost certainly be considered fit to stand trial). When he died just over eight years ago in the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, hardly anybody noticed. He’s probably only remembered by criminologists.

Howard Unruh being arrested.

Here’s why Howard Unruh is important today. He committed his murders with a Luger P08, a semi-automatic pistol which Guns and Ammo magazine called “the most important automatic pistol ever.” It held eight rounds. Eight rounds, which means Unruh had to reload at least twice and probably three or four times (several of his shots missed). It took him around a third of an hour to kill 13 victims.

A week ago Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and wounded 14 in less than six minutes. In 2012, Adam Lanza killed 27 in less than five minutes in the Sandy Hook massacre. In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and wounded 25 others in less than nine minutes during the Virginia Tech shooting. Last year, Stephen Paddock killed 58 and wounded over 400 people in about ten minutes. And just to repeat myself, it took at least twenty minutes for Howard Unruh to kill 13 people.

Do the math. Then consider whether banning magazines capable of holding 30 rounds would reduce the butcher’s bill.

It’s worth noting the very last public statement Howard Unruh made. He was being interviewed by a psychologist. He said:

“I’d have killed a thousand if I had enough bullets.”

Today, he could have had enough bullets.

school shooting — alert the koalas

There’s nothing wrong with thoughts and prayers. I mean, they’re completely fucking useless, but there’s nothing wrong with sending thoughts and prayers to victims and their families. Hell, send along some unicorns as well, and a few koala bears in party hats. It’s all about letting folks know how you feel, that’s what matters.

Ain’t none of it going to stop the next school shooting, of course. I figure that’ll happen in the next ten days or so. Probably won’t be as bloody as the one in Parkland, Florida yesterday. The butcher’s bill probably won’t be as high. Most school shootings have a lower body count. But, again, it’s all about the shooter letting folks know how he feels, that’s what matters.

You know what else matters? Doing something. And if there’s one thing about which we can be absolutely certain, it’s this: we won’t do anything. Oh, after I finish writing this I’ll call both my senators and my local congressman, but I know they won’t do anything. Some of you may do the same. Most of you won’t; most of you will voice your anger on Facebook or Twitter, maybe repost a meme, maybe sign an online petition. But most you won’t do more than that.

I’m not being judgmental here. Well, yeah, I guess I am — but really, why should you do anything more? We all know it won’t make any difference, because Congress won’t do anything. And why should they? It wasn’t their kids who were killed or wounded. It wasn’t their kids who’ll have nightmares for the foreseeable future because of the shit they saw in the hallways of their high school. And let’s be honest, the folks in Congress won’t suffer any real consequence for not doing anything.

Sure, some of them will get voted out of office in the next election, but it won’t be because of this. By the time the next election rolls around, we’ll have had another half dozen school shootings and other mass killings — and when you enter the voting booth, the odds are you won’t be thinking about any particular school shooting, let alone any particular shooting victim.

Still waiting for the unicorn. In the meantime, here’s a blue daisy and some thoughts and prayers. Sorry your kids got all killed.

We’ve reached a point in this nation where we treat mass shootings as a sort of localized natural disaster or an industrial accident. A tornado in Oklahoma kills five, an explosion in a chemical warehouse in Texas kills eight, an earthquake in Alaska kills three, a mass shooting at a McDonald’s in Tennessee kills nine, a flash flood in Arizona kills six, a train derailment in Montana kills eleven, a school shooting in Florida kills seventeen.

Wait, that’s not true. A train derailment and a chemical explosion will lead to an investigation, after which there’s a decent chance legislators will seriously consider implementing a change in the law to prevent shit like that from happening again. And tornadoes might spark a drive to improve weather forecasting. And a flood might lead communities to prevent houses from being built on a flood plain. And earthquakes have led to more stringent building codes.

Mass shootings? Sorry, nothing we can do. Except call out those thoughts and prayers, Send in the unicorns. Alert the koala bears in party hats. Sorry so many kids got killed again.

what it’s come to

The deadliest mass shooting in a house of worship. That’s how the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas was described last night on the evening news. We’ve reached the point at which we find it necessary to categorize our mass shootings.

The deadliest mass shooting at a college campus, the deadliest mass shooting at a shopping mall, the deadliest mass shooting at a festival, the deadliest mass shooting at a public school, the deadliest mass shooting at a place of employment.

We’ve had two of these deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history within the last 35 days. In the 309 days of 2017 we’ve had 307 mass shootings (remember, not all mass shootings are mass murders). We’ve made mass shooting ridiculously easy to commit. Semi-auto weapons are readily available, high-capacity magazines can be found without any fuss, bump-stocks that permit even more rapid firing have become somewhat scarce because people bought them up after the Las Vegas massacre, bulletproof tactical gear — vests, helmets, masks, gloves, trousers — can be purchased online or very likely at some local shop. If you have an active credit card, you too equip yourself in the latest mass murderer style.

Ruger AR-556

And we don’t much care who can buy all that gear. Devin Patrick Kelley had no trouble buying a complete mass murder outfit, even though he’d been court-martialed for assaulting his wife and child, did a year in military detention, and got his ass kicked out of the Air Force. He also apparently had a misdemeanor conviction for cruelty to animals. Didn’t slow him down at all when it came to buying a semi-auto rifle. We make it easy because, you know, a man has to be able to protect his family in case some nut decides to start shooting up a church.

And hey, it’s just as easy to mourn the dead. A few thoughts, a few prayers, that’s all it takes. Oh, and the promise to remember the dead. Comrade Trump his ownself said this about the victims:

“All of America is praying to God to help the wounded and the families — we will never ever leave their side.”

Except that, yeah, we’ll absolutely leave their side. Of course, we will — just as soon as the next ‘deadliest mass shooting at a location to be determined’ takes place. Trump is always saying pointless shit like that. We “will never ever forget the beautiful lives that have been taken from us.” That was the eight people killed a few days ago as they rode bicycles down a bike path in Manhattan. And this: “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting.” The hashtag, of course, because this was TwitterTrump. And again: “We mourn them, we honor them and we pledge to never, ever forget their names.” The victims and first responders who died on 9/11. And this: “So wonderful to be in Las Vegas yesterday and meet with people, from police to doctors to the victims themselves, who I will never forget.” Yeah, so fucking wonderful, I’m sure that’s what the victims of the Mandalay Bay shooting thought. And also this: “We will never forget the 241 American service members killed by Hizballah.” Sure, Donald.

First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas

Does anybody really believe Donald J. Trump remembers the names of any of the Pulse nightclub murders, or the names of the cyclists in Manhattan, or the names of any of the Marines who were killed in Beirut? Does anybody really think Trump was even aware of the Marines killed in Beirut in 1983 until a speechwriter coughed up that fact for a speech on terrorism?

We will always forget their names. Always. We will always leave their sides. Always. As a nation we will never remember for very long, because there’s always a brand new horror ready to crowd out the old one. The nine men and women slaughtered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015? Now they’re just victims of the second deadliest mass shooting in a house of worship. Nobody remembers who came in second.

I am sincerely sorry for the victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre. I’m gutted with hopelessness over their tragic, pointless deaths — just as I’ve been for so many other victims of so many other mass murders. I’m genuinely sorry, but I’m also disgusted. I suspect many (or most) of that Texas congregation voted for politicians who believe that this sort of routine shedding of innocent blood is the price we have to pay for our national firearm fetish. And you know what it says in the Bible. ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’

That’s a pretty grim, tough approach. The apostle Paul wasn’t a very forgiving guy. You broke it, you bought it. Me, I’m more inclined to take the Socratic tack; I prefer the gospel according to e e cummings.

and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death

fuckwits and cowards

We are a nation ruled by fuckwits and cowards. There are people in this nation who truly believe a continuing cascade of mass shootings is a reasonable price to pay for the freedom to…to what? To own a lot of guns? And there are politicians who know there are practical ways to reduce that body count, but are too afraid of losing their job to actually do anything about it. Fuckwits and cowards.

We can talk about honoring the first responders, but it’s all bullshit if we’re not going to even attempt to reduce the horrors they’re responding to. We can talk about honoring the dead, but fuck them — they’re dead and they can’t vote, and even if the families of the dead make a fuss they can’t outspend the National Rifle Association. We can talk about honoring the Constitution, but it’s just a head fake — we routinely shit on chunks of the other amendments. We can talk, but don’t for a minute believe talk will result in anything. It won’t. Not as long as we’re a nation ruled by fuckwits and cowards.

Here’s a sad thing: I can no longer sustain any outrage about the butcher’s bill. 20 second-graders dead, 32 college students dead, 50 gay folks dead, maybe more than 60 country music fans dead. They’re becoming meaningless numbers. Meaningless deaths. Because we all know we’re not going to do anything about it beyond muttering something about thoughts and prayers. They’re good at that, the fuckwits and cowards; they have a never-ending font of thoughts and prayers.

It’s not just the mass shootings, of course. Every day about a hundred people die by the gun. They’re not all murders; some of them are suicides, some of them are accidental, some of them are a result of negligence. The fuckwits believe those deaths are inevitable, which means the world is a dangerous place, which means they’re afraid all the time, and because they’re fuckwits they believe the only way to protect themselves from people with guns is to have guns themselves. The cowards know better, but they encourage that circular thinking because it helps them stay in power.

Fuckwits and cowards. And the rest of us? The rest of us are worn out. You can’t win an argument with a fuckwit because they’re fuckwitted. You can’t win an argument with a coward because cowards lie. Making arguments you know you can’t win is just fucking exhausting. And discouraging. And disheartening.

But damn it, we still have to do it. Call your members of Congress today. It won’t matter, but do it anyway. Why? Because there are a bunch of dead country music fans to go along with our dead gay folks and our dead college students and our dead second-graders and all the dead spouses and girlfriends and co-workers and children and neighbors and siblings and no matter how fucking tired we are, we can’t just stay quiet.

If we stay quiet, then we’re also fuckwits and cowards.

totally fucking worthless

I’m hoping at some point today I’ll get angry. Anger might be nice. Right now all I can muster up is a sort of deep, abiding melancholy.

Today there’ll be the standard offering of thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families, which are totally fucking worthless. As usual, there’ll be a pointless search for ‘answers’ — why and how ‘something like this’ can happen here. But whatever answers there are to be found will be totally fucking worthless, because we won’t actually do anything. There’ll be the predictable calls for effective gun legislation, which will be totally fucking worthless — and of course gun sales in Florida will skyrocket for a week or so, also totally fucking worthless.

There’ll be tearful memorial services, and people will leave flowers and notes and teddy bears outside the nightclub, and some newspaper or magazine will print photographs of all twenty twenty-nine fifty (the butcher’s bill keeps changing) of the fatally wounded victims. And it’ll all be totally fucking worthless, because we’ve done all that before and we all know that we’ll be doing it again.

Waiting for the dead and wounded.

Waiting for the dead and wounded.

For the next few days we’ll be reading the tweets sent by folks in the nightclub, we’ll be seeing chaotic smartphone videos and facebook posts. We’ll be hearing accounts from those who escaped, and the memories of family and friends of the dead (“He was a good boy, never bothered anybody, always willing to help, loved animals”), and we’ll tell ourselves what a tragic event this was and lamenting how many young, innocent lives were cut short. But all that will be totally fucking worthless because absolutely nothing will change. Not one goddamn thing.


I’m back. I had to step away for a while. Because you know what else is totally fucking worthless? Another blog post on another mass shooting.

I’d probably have just deleted all this and got on with my day had I not had a short chat with a friend. Here’s the reason it was a short chat — he said “Bernie would have found a way to get gun control passed if the election hadn’t been stolen from him.” And that anger I’d been searching for, it started to perk up. I held it in, though, and said if the Democrats can re-take Congress, maybe Hillary can get something passed. Which is when he said something like “I’ll never vote for Hillary, I’m done voting for the lesser of two evils, I’ll vote for the Green Party, I don’t care if Trump wins.”

Here’s yet another thing that’s totally fucking worthless: that guy’s opinion. But it helped me find that anger.

If there any chance at all — even a remote chance — of passing even the weakest and most tepid gun safety legislation, Democrats need to keep the White House and win both houses of Congress. Trump sure as hell isn’t going to do anything about guns.

Don’t tell me you want to stop mass shootings but aren’t willing to vote for Clinton because your candidate lost the primary. I don’t care if you think Clinton and Donald Trump are both the spawn of Satan — only one spawn of Satan has professed any interest in passing some responsible gun laws. I don’t care if the Green Party candidate has a plan to seize and melt every goddamn gun in the US and turn them all into orthodontic braces for poor kids — the Green Party isn’t going to win; they can only suck votes away from Clinton. I don’t care if the notion of voting for Clinton actually makes you physically ill — vomit, then vote Democratic and start pushing for gun safety legislation.

You don’t have to like Clinton. You don’t even have to trust her. All you have to do is ask yourself which of the two candidates — which of the two major political parties — is most likely to press for reasonable gun safety laws. And if you loathe Hillary Clinton more than you loathe mass shootings, then as far as I’m concerned you’re also totally fucking worthless.