It was no surprise.
A shock maybe — 59 dead, more than 500 injured. But the headlines were quick to celebrate it as a new American record for single-handed mayhem — outdoing last year’s Orlando record-holder by 10 cold ones.
Yeah, that’s right ... celebrate. Nonstop massacre porn. Nothing like a new benchmark for gore and grief to drive up ratings. It’s the World Series of death, soon to be played out in a school, theater or festival somewhere near you.
The old Romans had to go to the Colosseum ... for us images of blood and death are close as the smartphone in our pockets.
And we all look. Then assume the proper postures of shock and outrage before we ... do nothing.
Oh yeah, from the president mouthing Bible verses from a teleprompter to every pundit and congressperson to offer an on-camera profundity comes the reassurance that “our thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families.
Thoughts stay in the thinkers’ heads while prayers fly off to a distant and disinterested God, apparently disinclined to directly intervene. The Lord, we are reminded, helps those who help themselves ...
We’ve prayed aplenty; made excuses aplenty. Then done jack-squat — save for the pious observation that all Americans come together in condemning the latest horror.
Huh? Lemme tell you, if we all don’t agree that having a guy shooting out of a 32nd floor window at anybody who might be in range is a bad idea, then we are in real trouble.
And folks, it doesn’t matter two hoots why he did it. When somebody’s decided he or she is going to go out and kill as many people as possible the why of it really doesn’t make much difference to the folks about to die, does it?
It didn’t matter to the Rwandan Tutsi. Or the Estonian Jews when the men of the Einsatzgruppen came to call. It didn’t matter to the Cathars in the 13th century or the Armenians in the 20th. We’re never, it seems, at a loss for reasons for killing.
Get rid of a Nazi and there’s a Red to take his place ... or maybe just a guy with a grudge against his boss; or the neighbor’s dog is conveying special instructions from the nether-world.
Getting rid of the why is pretty much out of reach. The how, that might be another story.
Truth is, unless you have the right tools, killing people isn’t all that easy. Folks tend to get right feisty when faced with imminent demise — squalling and scratching and swinging with whatever they might lay hands on. Having to do folks in one-on-one tends to keep the casualty rate reasonably low — which is likely why the species made it out of the stone age right through the middle ages. Gunpowder shifted that balance, but even an ace with a muzzle-loader couldn’t take out many more than one a minute — which went a long way toward evening the odds.
Thirty-two floors up looking down the barrel of an automatic weapon, Stephen Paddock suffered no such disadvantages.
No, mass killings aren’t strictly an American phenomena. Paris, Nice, Berlin, Stockholm — in recent months, all scenes of mass carnage, but with one overriding difference. In all those instances, the weapon of choice — or rather the weapon of necessity — was a truck. In most of the world, guns are hard to come by.
But not here. Portable, concealable, with a macho panache, guns are the weapon of choice for folks out to make a name in the mass murder game ... and because they’re so easy to come by, they’re also the means of choice for folks looking to engage in retail slaughter — an annoying wife, troublesome neighbors, you get the drift. About 11,000 every year.
Stephen Paddock’s 59 is barely a blip.
But you can bet your sweet bippy that somewhere out there some guy (always seems to be a guy, doesn’t it?) is planning his personal run for the gold, and 59 is the new number to beat.
Unless we do something, it should come as no surprise.
No surprise at all.