What mass shootings teach us about divisiveness

Angela DaSilva – Assistant Copy Editor

As mass shootings have become normalized in our country, so too have the people who continuously deny politics’ stake in gun violence. They have said that shootings can only be blamed on the shooter, which is true in the sense that no one tells a gunman to go out and murder innocent people in presumably safe places. I am not denying this. However, I am saying that it is convenient to suggest that politics are not responsible for these events.

It is convenient because placing sole blame on the shooter lets us offer up our thoughts and prayers as means of pacifying the shock, because “it’s only the shooter’s fault and there’s nothing we can do about terrible people.”

These thoughts and prayers dismiss our country’s divisiveness. They forget that our daily rhetoric inspired by divisive politics fuels the violence in our culture. They forget that it is political when a man yells “All Jews must die!” before he kills 11 people in a synagogue, and that it is political when a homophobe kills 49 people in a gay nightclub. Even when there is no demographic in mind, these are all political events because they capitalize on the hatred that is boiling in our country.

This country’s weapon of choice is the gun, because the gun itself is political. It is in our constitution under the second amendment and it is used as partisan selling points for campaigns. Removed from these violent acts, the gun still remains political because we talk about it in terms of politics.

The result of our negligent refusals about political involvement is this: 17 in Parkland, 10 in Santa Fe, 11 in Pittsburgh, and 12 in Thousand Oaks. These are just a few of the mass shootings with the greatest casualties that have occurred in the US this year. Thousand Oaks was our country’s latest tragedy, in which 12 people were murdered by a lone gunman at a popular country bar in California. These tragedies have occurred so frequently in the past year––307 times, to be specific––that “latest” is an appropriate term to use because it does not stand out the way it should in our newscycle. Rather, it adds to the scary reality that has become our culture.

I do not distinguish culture from “gun culture,” because at this point there is no difference. As a product of incessant gun violence, our country has become one in which its citizens cannot be sure that they won’t be shot in a school or a church or a bar. This is the culture we have grown into: a culture encased in normalized fear.

We are wrong to think that this does not apply to us; that somehow the confined borders of our tiny little state protects us from what is occurring across the country. But hatred exists in Rhode Island, too.

This past January, my friends and I were at the Providence Place Mall when a man pulled out a gun on another man in Nordstrom. We heard the evacuation announcement on the intercom and we went through the collective motions of confusion, fear, and more confusion when we reached the exit and learned we still had to pay our parking fee at the kiosk. My friends and I had to wait in a line while a man was loose with a gun.

There is violence in this state because there is hatred in this state. This can happen to us because it has happened to me, already.

We are not immune to gun violence, and we are frighteningly not equipped to deal with it. Instead, we wait in lines to pay parking tickets because we believe it can’t happen to us, so we are never prepared. And to distant cities, we send our thoughts and prayers because we forget that blanket statements about peace cannot bandage a country scarred by political hate.