Quick! Does anyone remember what happened during the first week of the new year? It wasn’t another big winter storm or another actor or pop singer dying. It was big news – the man-bites-dog type, as opposed to another dog biting a man. Here’s a hint: it happened in Florida.
It should have been big news, and it should still be big news. That is, if this country, if not the world, made sense anymore. Instead, when a man went on a shooting rampage and killed five people and injured eight others at the Fort Lauderdale’s international airport, the Los Angeles Times relegated the story to the bottom of the front page and called the incident “the country’s first mass shooting of the new year.”
Think about that. “The country’s first mass shooting of the new year.” This was only the first mass shooting in America this year. This means there’ll be more mass shootings before long. This means that there will be another mass shooting in the next several months and another one not long afterwards. This means that more mass shootings will no doubt happen, that more mass shootings are inevitable – a matter of when and where, not if – that they will be no surprise, not big news.
The other night, I was watching the PBS Frontline documentary on how America became more divided during Barrack Obama’s presidency, leading to Donald Trump’s rise and election, and I was very much struck by one statistic: the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 18 young children and seven adults were slaughtered, was the fifteenth (and far from the last) mass shooting during the eight years when Obama was president. No doubt the only reason it is still remembered is that all those little kids were killed, and yet, as the documentary pointed out, it didn’t result in stricter national gun safety legislation.
Perhaps all this shouldn’t be surprising. Perhaps mass shootings no longer being big news shouldn’t be big news. As I post this, the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States is taking place. I am doing this instead of watching. Indeed, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.