Senselessness and Inaction. What is a Life Worth?

It is hard to make sense of the world sometimes – and sometimes, we cannot make sense of anything. There are moments when everything seems pointless and without purpose. Maybe being present and experiencing them is an answer, as brutal and unsolicited a call out of apathy as they may be. It is the senselessness that exists in our world that defies comprehension. Sadly, the Allen, Texas shooting is another event in a long, far too long list of continuous irrational violence that cannot be made sense of. It is overwhelming. It is frightening. It is crushing. It is finality for the dead, despair for the families, and trauma for the survivors. If it is said to find meaning and purpose in our own lives and work towards creating a more sensible and thoughtful society, where are we looking? Are we?

I could write about statistics around firearms, how many and how they are used, where and why, by whom, and against whom. It would be more of the same: an endless pool of rationalizations, speculations, and scenarios resulting in monotonous and dreary, all-heard-it-before summations. As a society, we resist what should naturally follow: reflection and action start with us as individuals but affect us as people. The “I am but one” thought process somehow justifies idleness. We express outrage and sadness, call for change, remove ourselves from the broader equation, and often refer to a higher power to set the world to rights. Nothing or minimal changes. Surprising? Alarming. Such sequences seem to infer that we are blind to our ability, accountability, and responsibility.

When I heard the news of Allen, TX, and the number of dead and injured, as well as the stories of the survivors and those who did not even realize what was happening, I felt a mix of emotions. Not only sadness and rage but also bleakness and incomprehension. Nothing new. It has happened too many times before. I will not go into politics, social issues, mental health, the Constitution, and the interpretation of the second amendment. There is an Italian saying that goes, “Fatta la legge, trovato l’inganno.” (Translated as “every law has a loophole”) I will not talk about the laws and their loopholes either. What to talk about, then? People? Perhaps.

Mass shootings are primarily motivated by racism, hatred or hate manifestos, and disenfranchised people. Yet, their mental health is questioned first – not what or who led them to such an escalation nor what or who empowered them to plan a murder. As a society, we bear just as much responsibility and accountability as those who take innocent lives. Turning our eyes away, shrugging our shoulders, clicking off the remote, grabbing a drink, and staring at our children while they play in the yard during or after such events are common reactions, yet they should not be. Lives are lost, lives are changed forever, and all that matters is that people are relieved they were not there. Is that where it all stops? Not there, ergo, does not affect us. I get sick of hearing “thoughts and prayers” as the only reaction.

The rage and disbelief at mass shootings turn into a paradoxical (and disgraceful) spectacle of opposing sides: pro-gun and anti-gun, pro-faith and anti-faith, pro-right and anti-right, sane and insane, this state or that state, that race or the other. The only thing all mass shootings have in common is mass murder: there are no sides except one. It is atrocious. Many say that such events could be prevented by applying the concept of supply and demand (think on the “demand” bit for a minute, it makes it even worse): if there are no guns, there are no victims. Is it people who use guns? Right. Few use them for murderous intent, yet those “few” have access to firearms without anyone expressing concern for their age, purpose, weapon type, or the number of bullets they buy. The right to bear arms was intended “in defense”? Hmm.

We live in a beautiful and diversified neighborhood, yet not precisely the safest (is there such a thing nowadays? Not). The following photo depicts the collection, in a glass jar, of the spent shells I collected going on walks several times a week since the beginning of the year. None of these shells (as far as we know) resulted in death or injury. Gang turfs, drug dealers competing for territory, frustrated teenagers’ bravado, mentally unstable (yes, those too) individuals, adults “having fun” – all those have gun ownership in common (legally or illegally acquired). Shots ring out almost every weekend, not to mention during national festivities. Police are aware, get called regularly, seldom show up, and when they do, the only comment offered is “Stay safe.” We do not have a firearm in the house anymore. We used to, for defense purposes, as intended. We chose not to bear arms; it is an equal right.