The headline read, "COVID-19, shootings: Is mass death now tolerated in America?"
I stared at it for a few moments before going ahead and reading it. The underlying assertion being that a million Americans and counting have died since the pandemic began two years ago, and rarely does a week go by without some sort of shooting rampage within our borders. These grim bits of news are regularly pushed off the front page by the crisis du jour, or the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial. From the standpoint of this article, the idea that Americans are dying by the thousands every month from what are potentially avoidable causes and we just yawn and move on to the sports section. As a nation, we have become tolerant of mass extinction events.
Back in the 1980s, we caught a whiff of this apathy when AIDS began to cut a swath through the gay community. "The Gay Plague" could be sensationalized and then set aside since it affected primarily homosexual men, a marginalized group whose losses were counted but that safe distance could be kept between us and the grim reaper. Gun violence is easy enough to ignore when the victims are black and brown, but once they start killing white kids in suburban high schools, we all take notice.
Or that's how it used to be. Now it's just another episode of "America's Funniest Mass Shootings." Twenty weeks into 2022, there have been almost two hundred mass shootings. “You expect us to keep doing this over and over and over again — over again, forgive and forget,” the son of one of the Buffalo supermarket shooting victims said. “While people we elect and trust in offices around this country do their best not to protect us, not to consider us equal.” Eight of the ten dead in Buffalo were African American. The initial wave of COVID deaths were people "of a certain age," and were easily enough pushed into the list marked for death. Then younger folks started to die. To date, more than fifteen hundred children have died from the disease. It's a number that may seem inconsequential to the million for whom we have briefly lowered our flags, and even smaller compared to the eighteen hundred children who die each year from gun violence, but these are children. We are letting this happen.
And rather than do anything about it, we seem to be tuning it out. People should be able to go to the supermarket, to school, to church with a high level of certainty that they will be able to come home without being shot or getting sick. We lower the flag and give our weekly round of thoughts and prayers.
Is mass death now tolerated in America? I guess they haven't read their history books, have they?