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Winter is Coming

May 17, 2022

This is a sick, sick country. The mass murder in Buffalo brings together two of the most virulent diseases infecting America: white supremacy and gun worship.  I no longer have any hope that I will see anything constructive done about gun violence in my lifetime. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has made white supremacy the bedrock of its appeal to voters, and too many white people seem to be buying it. I think the two are tightly intertwined. Republicans traffic in racial fear, and fear fuels the proliferation of firearms.

There has been plenty of commentary about how the spread of propaganda on right-wing media about “white replacement” (and the linked hysteria about “critical race theory”) have fed into the fever dreams of infantile psychos like Dylann Roof, Kyle Rittenhouse, and now Peyton Gendron, who see themselves as heroes of White America–and who are indeed accepted as such within the MAGA crowd. There really isn’t any doubt that this is true. This pernicious nonsense is Republican dogma now–covertly for some, overtly for a growing number of others.

What I don’t see is any serious effort to do anything about guns. Democrats have basically given up on that. In state after state, the trend is to loosen, not tighten, access to firearms with new open- and concealed-carry laws that have increased the likelihood that the dude at the next table in a restaurant or at the next pump in a gas station is packing heat. Nothing makes any difference–not Sandy Hook, not Pulse nightclub, not Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, not Sutherland Springs, not Columbine, not the El Paso Walmart, not Las Vegas, and now not Buffalo. We are no longer surprised or even much shocked by mass shootings; indeed we hardly notice most of them. So far just this year, there have been almost two hundred shootings in the US involving at least four victims shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The US is an outlier in this regard among advanced countries. Racism exists to a greater or lesser degree everywhere, but only in the US do we see it manifested in lethal gun violence at anywhere close to the scale we experience in this country. Why? Because there are way more guns.

TV crime procedural dramas always talk about means, motive, and opportunity. Well, opportunity for an armed person to shoot people in a public place is everywhere and anywhere. Maybe we could do something about motive if the Republican Party and its enablers changed their tune, but we know they’re not going to as long as it’s working for them, which it is. We certainly could do something about means if there were enough political will to reduce the number of guns in private hands and eliminate access to firearms of mass destruction. But there is no such will, and it’s not going to happen. There will be other Buffalos, just like there have been other Sandy Hooks. It’s just maddening and infuriating, but we all know nothing is going to change because our government simply doesn’t work.

This country is in a sour, mean mood, for all sorts of different reasons. We are in our own Weimar Republic, and I fear that what comes next won’t be pretty.

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