I wonder if we might contribute something to the discussion by focusing on what I’d describe as the “script” of the post-shooting responses. That script includes the following:
1. praise for the first responders;
2. exhortations from local political leaders that “this will not affect who we are” and “we will recover”;
3. a promise of thorough investigation;
4. detailed speculation about what charges the shooter might face (if he’s still alive);
5. a commitment to notify victims’ families as soon as possible;
6. muted descriptions of how gruesome the crime scene is (but an unquestioned refusal to show photos or videos of that scene);
7. preoccupation with make of guns and ammunition;
8. affirmation of great cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement;
9. absent-minded fascination with and speculation about the motives of the shooter;
10. quick mention of “manifestos” but no serious exploration of the actual texts;
10. easy offering of superficial explanations–mental health/video games;
11. calls for less guns and calls for more guns;
12. reports of memorial services and flowers at the scene.
Readers may know other elements that I’ve missed
The elements in the script all but ensure that the script will be read again. We might suggest that the time is long overdue for a new script.
I’d also point out one item that never makes the script–a serious discussion of alienation in America–where the state of being dispossessed of one’s personality has become the norm. In an odd incongruence, the mall (the site of the El Paso shooting) is perhaps the most common site of that dispossession.
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