ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The outrage over the latest firearm-fueled carnage in our country always flames out once the shock wears off and the “breaking news” chyrons disappear.
Already, the demand that something be done to prevent the next mass shooting is fading. In days, there will be no more wringing of hands, no more moments of silence. No more sobbing, screaming, thoughts, prayers.
Until next time.
Because there’s always a next time.
It was just July 28 when a young white man with an easily available assault rifle killed three people and wounded a dozen others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but already it seems so long ago.
Then last weekend, two more mass shootings – the first on Saturday morning at an El Paso Walmart where 22 perished, the second early Sunday outside a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, where nine were killed.
In both, dozens more were wounded. In both, the suspected gunmen were young, white males with easily available assault-type weaponry.
Funerals for the victims are still being held, but already too many of us have had our fill of the sadness and rage and the not-again-ness of it all. We who are lucky enough not to have lost a loved one can shrug our shoulders and move on.
But we shouldn’t.
As both a columnist and a former police reporter, I find it frustrating to see how quickly a news cycle moves on with so little likeliness that we won’t see the same thing again.
John Temple, my former city editor at The Albuquerque Tribune, was the editor of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver at the time of the Columbine High School shooting, which killed 15, including the two shooters, and wounded more than 20 in 1999. He explains the frustration this way:
“Seeing what we had seen, what the attack had done to the families of the dead, to the wounded and the survivors, and to the community itself, we couldn’t imagine then that the nation would allow so many more shootings to follow. Yet despite our dedication to the work, despite the countless investigations, projects and special reports, it feels like nothing has changed. Columbine, if anything, opened a door that we can’t close.”
Temple, in a Monday article for The Atlantic, said he wonders about the usefulness of covering tragedies.
“I can’t say anymore that I believe we learn from terrible things,” he writes. “I can say that I’ve seen the limits of journalism – and of hope. And I’m struggling with what to do about it.”
The struggle seems worse than before, because the hate that fuels these shootings is so much more overt, the shootings more frequent.
That hate is why I believe that when we shrug our shoulders and walk away now, we do so at our peril, not just in terms of saving lives but saving the sanctity of the nation.
Hate poured out of the white supremacist screed apparently penned by the El Paso gunman who espoused his contempt for “the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” which, it is troubling to point out, echoes the words of President Donald Trump.
Hate was in the hit lists and rape lists the Dayton gunman penned years before he carried out his rampage.
Hate against gays was in the heart of the Pulse nightclub gunman. Hate against Jews was in the heart of the Tree of Life gunman. Hate against black people was in the heart of the Charleston shooter. Hate against everybody who isn’t white was in the heart of the Sikh gurdwara gunman. Hate against everybody who is white was in the hearts of the San Bernardino shooters.
Hate begets racism. It dehumanizes. It ends understanding. It thwarts the efforts of those who advocate for gun legislation – even those policies such as requiring enhanced background checks that are widely supported by Americans – when they are accused of hating the Constitution and the country.
Hate should not be our new normal. And yet here we are.
Before we shrug our shoulders and walk away, before the next person dies simply because of who he or she is or believes, it is time to examine this hate, particularly but not exclusively among our young, white males. Without a discussion on hate, it seems futile to have any meaningful discourse on the country’s love of guns.
Maybe we should begin this process by listening to 11-year-old Ruben Martinez.
To overcome his anxiety, the sixth-grader from El Paso initiated what he calls the #elpasoCHALLENGE on social media. It asks everybody to commit 22 good deeds, one for each person killed in his hometown Saturday. So far, his challenge has been liked 7,300 times and retweeted 3,900 times on Twitter.
That a lot of potential goodness.
It’s a small thing, perhaps, but better than looking away and moving on.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.