At 2 AM on Sunday morning, 50 people lost their lives while they were out at a club. They were dancing with their friends, lovers, partners, hook ups, crushes, and complete strangers. They were doing the same thing I have done on countless nights when I danced until last call forced me back into reality. For a moment, sitting in my car on the way to the grocery store and listening to live coverage from NPR, I wondered whether I would be too scared to go dancing again. But that isn’t how it works. That isn’t how it works in a society where mass gun violence has become the norm.
We still go to the movies, to churches and temples, and we still send our children off to school. The carnage here at home has developed the same qualities as the carnage that happens far away – it is white noise, the static that washes over us before we keep plodding on.
This shooting represents a unique, at least for now, confluence of the most terrifying specters in our society: the possibility of terrorism inspired by ISIS, a hate crime against the LGBT community, and a mass shooting. A massacre. A trifecta of the horrors that haunt us. And what do we do?
Do we demand stricter gun laws, again? Do we say our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, again? Do we breathlessly consume the coverage of the tragedy, mourning the lives we have lost as we learn more about who they were, again? Again? Again?
Do we listen to an ever-grayer president make yet another speech mourning victims of gun violence, and then shake our fists at the other side whose fault it is? Do the actions count if they are knee-jerk now? Can a person be self-righteous if they’re just going through the motions?
I listened to the reporters echoing the phrase, “deadliest shooting in U.S. history.” I was disturbed by how surprised I felt. Surely 50 people had been killed by guns before, but to be honest, I couldn’t keep up. Somewhere along the line, I’d lost count.
Whatever it is we now know to do when we hear about another mass shooting, we go do that thing. We go online to express our sadness, our sympathy, our anger and frustration because this just keeps happening. And it just keeps happening here.
We are so politically polarized, myself included, that all we can do is point fingers and cling to the solutions we hope, we hope, we hope would work if only those other guys would get out of the way and let us try.
Our hearts are lifted for a moment when we are reminded of the human spirit in the aftermath. Whether it’s a mile-long line to donate blood, the resilience of the LGBT community, or the refusal to let hate and Islamophobia win the day.
And then, if you’re me, you snuggle up with your dog on the couch and stream something that paints a prettier picture. You work on your newest knitting project, a blanket for a friend who is expecting a baby, and with every stitch you will it to protect that new life from the horrors this world has in store.
You wonder exactly when mass gun violence stopped making you cry, stopped making you feel anything at all. And then you write. Because that’s what you do.
What will we do? What will we do?