Make America Care Again

Photo courtesy of AP News | The Manchin-Toomey gun ammendment would have expanded background checks for the purchase of firearms. In April of 2013, the bill was filibustered in the Senate and failed to move forward by six votes.

In the season premiere of South Park, the always controversial show tackled the issue of gun violence, particularly school shootings. Throughout the episode, Sharon, Stan’s mom, tries to convince the other parents that this is a big deal, all while she seems to be the only one in town who is concerned.

Similar to any subject the show addresses, it stirred outrage as being insensitive.

South Park did not go far enough. Until the American public is so “offended” that they decide to do something about the scourge of gun violence, comedy must continue to tackle this issue. As I watched the episode, I realized the character I most aligned with was Sharon. At the end of the episode, she says “This used to be a big deal. I want it to be a big deal again.”

The only thing that seems to have changed with shootings is police response time. Each shooting, police heroically arrive faster to stop the carnage. But neither we as a culture, nor our elected officials, have done anything to seriously prevent the violence from occurring.

What makes American citizens take weapons into our schools, movie theaters, places of employment, churches, diners or parks and open fire? In the past two months, there have been shootings at the Fifth Third building in Cincinnati, a courthouse in Pennsylvania, a Rite Aid distribution center in Maryland and a software company in Wisconsin. Also seven law enforcement officers were shot, two of whom were killed, while serving a warrant in South Carolina. Those are just the ones I caught on the news.

In the time since I wrote my last op-ed regarding gun violence a man went on a spree in Bakersfield, CA, and killed five. A man walked into a Waffle House in Tennessee and killed four. A student walked into a Santa Fe high school and killed 10. I could go on, but I would run out of room to list all the other shootings that are not “newsworthy” or sensational enough for the media to report on.

There are a couple things that strike me in all of this. The first is that our politicians are not willing to end their careers for the good of the country or constituents. They vote along party lines and they rarely risk their careers to vote for the good of the country. There is no better example of this than the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey Background Checks Bill of 2013 that died along party lines.

The second is the coverage that these shooters get. They are glorified in media, or at least used to be. However, it seems that the big media is finally starting to follow the standards of #NoNoriety, the idea being that some of these folks are thrilled by the potential fame brought on by a shooting. To help curb that, the media should start focusing on the victims and not the perpetrators. Police forces are also increasingly responding to shootings faster, saving lives and putting themselves at risk.

These shooters do seem to have some similarities. A lot of them are men. They have warped senses of women — they either blame women or are violent towards them. For some of them, their neighbors or family members knew something was up, and there may have even been police visits to the home before. There may be something highly emotional that sets them off such as a breakup, being fired or financial hardship. They may even have been a veteran.

Overall, they tend to be loners either bullied in school or view themselves as the victims of society. Despite the prevailing rhetoric, not all of these perpetrators have diagnosable mental illnesses.

This issue is complex and it is not one sided. What makes us so violent? What disturbs me most at this point is the shocking extent of our desensitization. Why are we so willing to offer our thoughts and prayers and move on?

While we’re on the topic of thoughts and prayers, should we not follow the Bible in which James 2:17 says “So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead?” Our thoughts and prayers are not stopping the bullets. They’re not expanding the mental health services. They’re not enforcing the gun laws on the books or introducing new ones. They’re not doing anything.

We’re at a standstill, America. Columbine shocked us. Virginia Tech shocked us. When the threshold is broken, we’re shocked. But what is the normal casualty we’re acceptable with? 11 dead? 15? It seems we’re now willing to accept it all.
This used to be a big deal. I want it to be a big deal again. Let’s make America care again.

*In the time since I originally wrote this piece, a gunman killed 11 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A gunman, fueled by racism, killed two at a Kroger in Kentucky. Another gunman killed two at a yoga studio in Florida. Another gunman killed 12 at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA. And by the time the next piece about this is written, more gunmen will have destroyed countless lives and leave empty seats at countless dinner tables across this country.

Ryan Spolar is a senior Honors Bachelor of Arts major. He is a staff writer for the Newswire from Cleveland.