I was going to write about nearly anything else. The possibility of the UK leaving the European Union, some interesting economic news, just about anything. But the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando fills every space it can. News reports, conversations, thoughts and prayers all turn to this horrifying event.
Normally, the mantra “I don’t break news, I fix it” would compel me to wait a few days for an angle on a big story that adds to the context and perspective on this story, helping everyone make sense of it. There’s no point. This was a senseless act that stands on its own. But there is a need for context as one more outrageous act produces more outrage. It seems to be the only emotion we have.
Violence is very much a part of our culture. Shootings like this seem to be a weekly event, each one more horrific than the last. Targets include an array of people, usually those who are somehow different.
It will be easy to blame Florida’s nearly nonexistent gun laws for this shooting, but this will be misplaced. An AR-15 can be had nearly anywhere, and there are so many around that it will always be available regardless of laws. Omar Mateen would never have been denied a permit for any kind of weapon – indeed, he had a low-level security clearance and worked for a security firm. Nothing would stop him from obtaining a gun.
Indeed, as the Boston Marathon Bombers showed us, guns aren’t necessary to commit outrageous acts. They do make it easier, and tighter gun laws may slow down the rate of mass killings, but it cannot eliminate them.
So why are these horrific events such a common feature of life in America today?
Even as we are outraged, outrage is all around us. Political rallies have decayed into violence on a routine basis, not all of it started by Trump supporters – people are apparently outraged by different views from their own. Mateen was apparently outraged by the sight of two men kissing. Dylan Roof was outraged by the appearance of a smaller role for white people in this nation.
As long as there is constant outrage there will be outrageous acts. We have to find a different emotion deep inside of us in response to events all around us.
Outrage and anger are easy emotions, after all. Toddlers are driven by a constant overload as they learn about the world and thus they tend to throw tantrums over nearly everything. It goes without saying that for adults this is not an acceptable answer, but for many adults it appears to be the only answer.
How did we get to the point where acting out with anger and outrage is such a common event?
We can talk all we want about policies and laws that need to be written, but like so many other things that have gone terribly wrong this problem is inherently cultural. In a world where everyone is constantly amped up over absolutely everything, violent outbursts are simply inevitable on a constant basis. Violent outbursts are simply a feature of a society always at full boil.
Is this any way to live? Of course not. But it is where our culture has gone.
Naturally, a time of great change creates a lot of anxiety. Everything is up for grabs and we all wake up every morning in a world we hardly understand. Frustration abounds. We do not get our way most of the time. But why on earth do we expect to get our way constantly?
Yes, one man killed 50 people in a nightclub with a gun, and yes he said he did it in the name of ISIS. But this outrageous act is nothing more than the expression of misplaced outrage, the only emotion Americans of all kinds seem capable of expressing.
We all need to calm down and look for other emotions. I suggest happiness and love. They may require a little work, but they are worth it.