Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As mass shootings become ever bloodier, American politicians keep shooting blanks

Félix, our jack-of-all-trades assistant at our ranchito, comes from a dirt-poor family plagued by illiteracy and other problems. Felix himself only reached the sixth-grade before going off on his own to work at whatever he could find, including a stint doing manual labor in Texas.

Yet if you were to dismiss him as a pitiable dumb Mexican it would be a grave and totally unfair judgment. Félix has a sharp brain that must keep whirring even when he sleeps. He and his family follow current events closely, including news about the U.S., plus sports shows and nature documentaries on an old TV set we gave him.

Sometimes he comes to work asking questions about some craziness in the U.S. he'd heard about and for which we have no answer.

Félix, this morning, about the massacre in Las Vegas: How can someone in the U.S. buy two dozen weapons, including quick-fire rifles and ammunition to match, and then bring them into a luxury hotel in broad daylight? Don't they have security guards at hotels in the U.S.? Didn't anyone at the hotel ask any questions? Why do these horrible mass shootings keep happening and the American government doesn't investigate and take steps to lessen the chances of their reoccurence?

When we visit the U.S. we're constantly peppered with questions about the killings and the horrible security situation in Mexico, which is admittedly alarming.

Now is our turn, for us living in Mexico, to ask some of the same questions Felix raised this morning.

Stew pointed out this morning that at least in Mexico—small consolation—the perpetual violence and killings can be blamed on the drug cartels, and largely confined to certain parts of the country. That helps us rationalize the situation and allay our fears.

In the U.S. there are no such qualifiers. You can get shot dead at a gay disco, a church, a cinema or a social service center in the middle of a Christmas party, for a variety of reasons or none at all. Geography makes no difference.

Some blame Islamic terrorists except they account for only a fraction of the mass shootings. One could shut out all Islamic immigrants and round up all the Muslims on American soil and that still wouldn't explain much less prevent mass shootings such as the one at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, or at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C. to name just a few—and tragically way too many—such incidents.

must confess that when I heard the news from Las Vegas my initial reaction was numbness, almost a shrug. Here we go again.

Get ready for cable news to unleash the usual barrage of pictures of wailing mothers; tearful strangers placing offering of flowers and candles on the still blood-stained site of the tragedy; preachers rolling out the usual pious cliches—and most offensively, politicians proffering their "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and extolling Americans to remain "united."

United behind or around what? What does a constant stream of thoughts and prayers do except get us through one tragedy until the next one inevitably occurs?

Stew and I used to watch a TV series called "Mayday!", which despite its title was engrossing rather than alarming. Each show reenacted a plane crash and then the exhaustive investigation into what caused it, followed by what measures were implemented to prevent similar accidents, whether the causes were mechanical malfunctions or human error.

Not such learning curve occurs with mass shootings. I was convinced that the Sandy Hook massacre of twenty children (children!) would surely lead to an examination of gun laws and possible legislation to try to lessen the chances such tragedies would reoccur.

But after the public uproar subsided, and the gun lobby unfurled the usual propaganda about the Second Amendment and the need for everyone to own guns, national amnesia set in.

If anything, the opposite happens after these mass shootings. At this moment there is legislation pending in Congress to expand gun owners' "rights" to, among other things, ease restrictions on the use of silencers on firearms ostensibly to protect the hearing of shooters.

I'm just waiting for Felix to hear about that bit of lunacy and expect me to explain it.

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