From Sandy Hook to Las Vegas: Moral Injury and America

Yet another mass shooting in America. At least 50 dead and 400 injured in Las Vegas. This is the new normal former police commissioner William Bratton tells us on MSNBC this morning. What the new normal really means though is becoming use to abnormality.

My inner voice had been talking to me of late, telling me to be alert when I’m out in public. When in crowds I find myself scoping out places for shelter, looking for suspicious behavior. But I live in an open carry state so how the hell do you factor that in to your calculation for suspicious behavior? (As a black woman I am looking for white men with guns and heading in the other direction.) However, my inner voice was telling me it had been a while since the last mass shooting. Because mass shootings are our nation’s new normal I am on the alert.

There have been 90 mass shootings in the past three decades, an expert tells us on the news. So this morning I have to say, People, my fellow Americans we must talk. Seriously. I mean it.

I remember when the Sandy Hook massacre happened, thinking out loud that finally, now, when all these little children in an elementary school, all these little white children were murdered, finally congress will be moved to act to restrict access to guns. Because of course they would. That would be the sane thing to do, this was the opening, the leverage, the excuse congress and the country needed to finally stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby.

When congress buckled, caved, rolled over and showed its collective bellies to the NRA I knew it was over for us as a nation, it was a wrap. When the murder of 20 innocent mainly white children and 6 teachers at an elementary school isn’t enough to move us to revulsion, in a country that values whiteness then there was no hope for any of us.

As mass shootings have continued since Sandy Hook I am no longer surprised, nor shocked. It was, it is inevitable that the number of casualty’s will only increase as state after state passes laws making it legal to buy weapons, even automatic weapons like that used by Stephen Paddock. Nevada voters decided that anyone can buy automatic rifles, Paddock had 10 long guns in addition to the automatic rifle he used. I guess I’ll never make it to Las Vegas now, tourism and local citizens with automatic rifles don’t mix.

But it is insane to have to consider whether or not a place I may want to visit, I must now investigate their gun laws. However, given what has happened in Las Vegas, it would be irresponsible not to think about this.

America. Guns have only one purpose, to kill or maim. They have no other use, they add nothing of value to our lives, they don’t increase our productivity, don’t add to our GDP. Guns are agents of death and destruction. Period.

It clear that we love guns, have a crazy old wild west kind of love affair with them, worships our RIGHT to own guns to the exclusion of every other right including the right of speech, or the right to assemble, such as at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Which means our culture loves death and is willing to risk the destruction that comes with it if it means people can have guns. One cannot reach any other conclusion.

Our nation has reached a level of insanity that is unsustainable as demonstrated by our utter unwillingness and inability to wrestle with the moral injury we are experiencing at this stage of our civilization.

To be sure, moral injury is more often used to describe what happens to soldiers in war, who experience events, or actions that injure their spirit, their conscience. According to the National Center for PTSD, “Like psychological trauma, moral injury is a construct that describes extreme and unprecedented life experience including the harmful aftermath of exposure to such events. Events are considered morally injurious if they “transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations”

America is at war with itself, the level of violence allowed in our society because we love guns more than we love people should transgress our deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Year after year our country undergoes extreme and unprecedented life events with one mass shooting after another.

So there will be lots of hand wringing after Las Vegas. We’ll see lots of talking heads and experts trying to figure out who Stephen Paddock was, why did he kill more than 50 people and injure 400 more? But with more than 90 mass shootings under our belt does it matter why? Easy access to guns is the only common denominator linking all of these events. Easy access to guns is the only common denominator in the every day murders that happen regularly, daily. Somewhere, in some town or city, each and every day.

As a nation we have lost the ability to be truly horrified by the degree of violence in our society — it is a form of insanity. America, we are suffering from a collective form of moral injury and we need help. It is immoral and insane to conclude that the only answer to guns is more guns. It’s like saying the answer to cancer is more cancer, since cancer like guns have only one purpose, to kill.

The police will continue to rush headlong into situations where they will increasingly be outnumbered and outgunned as the gun lobby right now pushes a bill in congress that will make it legal to have silencers for guns! Yup, because you know who wants to go deaf from the sound of bullets being fired.

Former commissioner Bratton says he’s certain congress will pass the bill. Because, well, it’s the gun lobby and the NRA, and the Second Amendment, and congress can’t say no to them. So we’re screwed if we depend upon them.

I am not confident that Las Vegas is the event that will shake us up enough, wake us up to the moral injury we are doing to our country. I am ever hopeful. In the meantime I’m thinking it’s time to find an exit strategy because a country in the grips of insanity at this level is beyond unhealthy, it is unstable. Unless enough people wake up to the damage being done, hold our lawmakers accountable and fire every one of them who caves to the NRA. It’s us, citizens, or them — gun makers and the gun lobby. I choose us.

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