A Culture That Kills Its Children Has No Future
Elizabeth Bruenig, writing for The Atlantic, makes an excellent point about gun violence.
Then there are some who say that every terrible thing—including even this untenable thing that no civilization could endure, this demonic murder lottery of schoolchildren—simply must go on, and somehow, they are winning. After all, wasn’t the Newtown massacre like the breaking of a seal, the final entry in a national catalog of stunned loss that had begun with Columbine? It wasn’t that there would be no more losses. It was only that we could no longer be stunned. Yesterday, before the families of Uvalde had buried their children, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a televised interview that he would “much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens, because it’s not going to be the last time.” That is to say: It’s going to go on indefinitely. It’s not an end, exactly, but life inside a permanent postscript to one’s own history. Here is America after there was no more hope.
We are already living through this. It is hard to bear. All around us things that ought to matter shrink in proportion to things that ought not to; a sense of real agency in politics or government feels limited, distant; lives that used to seem perfectly accessible to your average young person seem impossible now, while darkly fantastical lives—like those of the mass shooters whose profiles are now too many and too common to differentiate, with their weird paramilitary bravado and meme-inflected manifestos—are growing more familiar to us. I fear they’ll become more familiar still. When we say, in despair, that “these men are by-products of a society we’ve created; how could we possibly stop them?,” we could be referring to almost anyone in the great chain of diffuse responsibility for our outrageous, inexcusable gun-violence epidemic—the lobbyists who argued for these guns to be sold like sporting equipment, the politicians who are too happy to oblige them, the shooters themselves.
Moral decline of this kind produces strange and grotesque effects as it works its way, acidlike, through a society. Resignation takes the form of anger, mistrust, hypervigilance, depression, withdrawal. Nihilism arrives not as society fading quietly to dust but as fruit flush with lurid color, ripening until it bursts. It is the fruit of a culture of death.
Howabout we, as a society, stop electing the wrong people. Let’s just start there.