When I first heard about the shooting in Las Vegas, I was just about to go to bed. The initial estimates I saw showed a few people dead and a couple dozen injured. I was saddened but, honestly and depressingly, I was not at all shocked.
When I woke up the next morning and saw the end result of the absolute carnage –– 59 dead and upwards of 500 injured, not to mention the thousands whose lives will be forever tinged by the trauma associated with surviving what was like a war zone –– I was devastated.
For a time, I was just numb to it all.
But still, I wasn't shocked.
I refused to read anything more about the attack or any of the many profiles of the victims which are inevitably written after each mass shooting; I couldn't bring myself to do it. After about a day had passed, I watched the heart-wrenching Jimmy Kimmel monologue, in which he opined that "It feels like someone has opened a window into hell," and I teared up.
Then, after another couple of days passed and my numbness had faded, I went outside and sat on a bench, late at night, and read through the New York Times tribute to the victims. Halfway through the first entry –– on 46-year-old Lisa Patterson, mother of 3 –– I broke down. I wept through the next 58 entries.
Out of the 59 people dead, there were left so many years un-lived, so many hopes and dreams not realized. There were so many children left without parents or parents outliving children. So many people lost close friends or family or coworkers or neighbors or significant others.
So many others will be saddled with medical costs and debilitation for the rest of their lives. Countless more will have their memories forever tinged with tragedy, marked possibly by survivor's guilt or PTSD or just general trauma and distress.
In just one night, an unbelievable amount of suffering was enacted, an immeasurable amount of damage done. A 64-year-old man with no previous criminal experience stockpiled hundreds of bullets and a shocking amount of weapons designed with no purpose other than to kill, and then he used those weapons to carry out their most logical goal.
As easy as it would be to demarcate this as a so-called "lone wolf" attack, a simple case of a deranged man bereft of morality, the truth is that the Las Vegas shooting was not an anomaly.
Far from being a mere glitch in the otherwise perfect American landscape, it was a symptom of a culture which glorifies guns and violence, a culture which holds the right to keep and bear military-grade arms designed with the express purpose of killing other human beings above the right to a safe, secure, and happy future for its citizens.
The shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting carried out by an individual in modern American history, but, then again, so was the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, and that happened a mere 16 months ago. In the past 477 days, there have been 521 mass shootings in America, which is more than one per day.
I mentioned before that as devastated as I was, I was never shocked by what I saw and heard about the shooting in Las Vegas. It has become routine, predictable in a way that tragedies like this should never be.
There have been times where I've wanted to write or tweet or say something about guns or violence or solidarity or the ultimate, necessary good of humanity after some attack like this and thought, "I can just wait; there will be another."
And that is heartbreaking.
I've grown up in a country in which most mass shootings barely scratch the headlines outside of local coverage. And, when one manages to reach a national audience either by circumstance and luck or by its sheer size, nothing happens.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting shocked our collective consciousness, each successive shooting has felt less and less surprising and more and more inevitable and unavoidable. Rather than trying to stop these things from happening, our politicians offer up nice but ultimately meaningless "thoughts and prayers." I do not claim to know what the solution to our problem is, but I know that it is not whatever we have been doing for the last 18 years of my life.
I am so sick and tired of waking up and reading about the year's most recent mass shooting. I am so sick and tired of watching coverage of families weeping over lost loved ones. I am so sick and tired of hearing calls for something –– anything –– to be done, with politicians acting like men, women, and children dying from the bullets shot from a legally acquired killing machine just has to be a fact of American life.
Never mind that nearly every other developed country has managed to move beyond this and has found some way to eliminate or drastically reduce deaths from mass shootings and from gun violence as a whole. See, this is America, and America is exceptional.