When is the next Outrage Festival? Grief Glorification Week? Horror Hullaballoo? It was about six weeks between Uvalde and Highland Park, so maybe we should all stay home on Aug. 15, which is six weeks after Highland Park. I have a feeling gun-crazed shooters notice stuff like that. But that’s only a feeling.
On the other hand, it’s an absolute certainty there will be another mass shooting and there’s nothing we can — or will — do about it. Maybe the shooter(s) will wait until school starts or maybe they’ll go after a crowded grocery store like the Buffalo shooter did, shooting 12 people, killing 10.
We can’t, of course, round up every young male who doesn’t get along with his family, has no friends, and has access to weapons that blow bodies apart. Why not? Because although those traits are sad, scary, and heartbreaking, they are not illegal. Neither, unfortunately, are the weapons. Further, a desperately unhappy teenager often makes his parents desperate enough to give in to his crazy demands.
The Sandy Hook shooter used a gun his mother bought for him. He shot her to death before going on a rampage at the school.
The Uvalde shooter, a school dropout, bought $2,000 plus worth of guns — through the mail — with his birthday money.
The Highland Park shooter’s father signed a permit for his son to get a weapon of war even after the shooter said he was going to kill everyone in his family.
My only comfort is that although the shooters wanted to be recognized and remembered — to be known — my faulty memory has already forgotten their names and I refuse to look them up online. It’s the very least I can do.
Since there’s nothing we can do or will do about guns, maybe we should consider the way these tragedies are reported — graphically and endlessly — and our reactions to them.
First there’s our need to know the basics: who, what, when and where are aired on every outlet. Our individual terror soon subsides as most shooters are quickly arrested and the details of their troubled lives are revealed.
Next there’s the extended kabuki of mourning: TV news sends its prime-time anchors to the site of the shooting, the President visits, protests begin, politicians promise to “do something” about mass shootings, gun manufacturers “take to the mattresses.” This phase does not last.
These shootings have become almost ritualized and scripted. Can it be that we get something positive from them? If they are as chilling as we say they are, why do we let them continue?
The term “sacrifice” comes from the Latin sacrificium, which literally translates as “to make holy.” Therefore, the act of sacrificing a human — practiced by ancient societies — is one in which a human victim, particularly a child, is made holy and becomes sacred by being killed.
In theory, all sacrifices are made with an intended purpose. They are undertaken with an anticipated function or some ultimate goal. According to religious historian David Carrasco, “Human sacrifices were carried out to restore authority and rejuvenate the well-being of towns and cities.”
Highland Park did not need to have its well-being restored. It was doing just fine without the phrase “Highland Park Strong.” The horrific videos of Uvalde’s emergency responders hemming and hawing and running away may have righted their response system, but our inaction on guns allowed these human sacrifices.
The Catholic Mass is the re-enactment of a human sacrifice: God sacrificed his son to save us. As a Catholic, I was taught that God the Father allowed his son to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. The Mass commemorated this sacrifice, with the priest eating a bread wafer, representing Christ’s body, and drinking wine, representing Christ’s blood. I didn’t get it then, although I thought I did, and I don’t get it now. Why do our children have to slaughtered (sacrificed?) because we refuse to ban guns?
Of course there remains the Mobile Mass Shooting and Murder Mash, which occurs every weekend — and sometimes every day — in Chicago. Young people on the move, in cars, in parks, on public transportation, shooting and killing for the thrill of killing, almost as a pastime. These kids often are born with two strikes against them: three if there’s a gun in the house. We won’t be able to stop these killings until we take guns off the streets and there is simply no public will to do that.
Why do we allow these mass shootings to continue? What’s in the minds and souls of the people who manufacture, sell, buy, and use these weapons (other than profit)? Who really thinks the new federal laws, designed to skirt the problem by largely funding more mental health assistance, will get guns off the streets?
Why do we allow ourselves to continue to live like this?
Mary Kay O’Grady has lived in Oak Park for 30 years, taught high school English in three states, and was an award-winning public relations specialist for school districts and nonprofits.