If I had been President of the United States for the past eight years, I don't know how I would have responded. Showing up at the podium for yet another acknowledgement of a mass shooting, I don't know if I could have held it together as well as our President has. Considering the number of these heinous acts has done nothing but grow since 2008, even the published timelines of these events go out of date on a ridiculously rapid rate. Who shot whom and why has ceased to be any sort of discussion. The fact that this has become a generally accepted part of our American culture is tragic beyond words.
And yet, that's what we are left with: Words. Names. And the faces. Casualties in a war that was never declared, but nonetheless we feel compelled to win. Arguing about guns and the Constitution is the way we make ourselves feel better about doing nothing to stem this bloody tide. Discussion of security measures like metal detectors and more police in the hallways of schools deflect the insanity of having the discussion of arming teachers. Wringing our collective hands about the state of mental health in our country feels like a proactive way to get to the source, but it's still a package deal. One lunatic with one gun can do so much damage.
There are too many cracks. The refrain, "He seemed like such a normal guy. We never would have imagined that he could do such a thing," has become such a cliche that it shows up in pop songs. TV shows. Movies. Video games. The lone gunman is an institution. As long as the targets happen to be bad guys, we make them heroes. When they are moms and dads and kids and fellow students, we recoil in fear.
How did it get this bad? I wish I had a mathematical formula that would reduce this to some kind of relate-able experience. There is no such algorithm. We are stuck with being shattered and shocked by the announcement of each new killing spree. We become numb to the effect it is having on all of us. The nation no longer mourns. We go about our business. Until it happens in our town. Then we stop and wonder how it got this bad. Local politicians promise to take a stand. Memorials and tributes pop up, only to be swept away months later when that town's name joins the list of those who have added to the roll. And once again, the President steps up to the microphone and announces another in a series. I know that I couldn't do it.