The Oberlin Review

American Apathy Perpetuates Gun Violence

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Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of violent imagery.

America is truly an exceptional place.

One exceptional aspect of American life is the possibility for an American to go to a concert and leave with wounds similar to those suffered by soldiers in wartime. Here’s another: An American can to go to church on Sunday and leave in a blood-soaked body bag. Here’s one more: Any American can be assured that, if an indiscriminately fired bullet puts them or their friend, sibling, parent, or spouse on the mortician’s table, the same is bound to happen to another person somewhere in America, without warning and with the guarantee that it will happen again. We all heard that it will happen again, after Sandy Hook, Miami, Charleston, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and more.

Why that awful refrain? More importantly, why here? Why is it that a nation with such a rich history of progress and change cannot seem to achieve the very basic goal of preventing mass murder?

The answer to that question lies in yet another exceptional American characteristic — one which has developed in recent years into a collective national attitude responsible for bringing out the worst in us. That characteristic is our own uniquely American brand of apathy.

There is more than enough well-documented evidence of the rise of American apathy on individual and national levels. We lag behind most developed nations in voter turnout. Across demographic lines, citizens express a lack of trust in government and its officials. Conservatives and liberals alike choose to reject compromise in favor of partisanship and ideological entrenchment. Much of our news cycle is dominated by information that is either frivolous or apocalyptically dreadful — a reflection of a public too dispassionate to pay attention to anything else. Our impassivity is demonstrated by an unwillingness to fix the problems which confront our society and a widespread loss of faith in America and her promises — promises which were once enough to draw many of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents from far away, promises responsible for some of our most admirable moments as Americans.

This apathy is so great that we are left unable to fix the problem of mass murder of Americans by Americans. After every mass shooting we are compelled to go through the motions, but not one call for gun control legislation or “thoughts and prayers” has prevented another massacre more twisted than the last — in fact, three of the five worst mass shootings in U.S. history have taken place in the last year despite these ‘thoughts and prayers.’ We react to these tragedies with a strange and surreal mournfulness that seems more appropriate for the death of a loved one suffering from terminal illness — as if each shooting is somehow inevitable and that burying our dead and moving on is about as much as we can do. But every time a mass shooting occurs and we do nothing, we are killing American citizens with our apathy. If we do not address this, Americans will continue to die senseless, violent deaths, and surreal melancholy may become all too appropriate. If we continue to make half-hearted attempts at addressing mass shootings, mourning will essentially become the only thing we can do in response to these shootings.

This attitude is also what motivates us to ignore the homeless person who sleeps on the sidewalk and asks for change. It’s also what brought about last year’s election season. It is what compels us to selfish, unthinking behavior and persuades us to stay comfortable and distract ourselves with whatever means necessary from the world at large — to stay sheltered inside of our own lives.

The same apathy is what tells us that mass murders are an immutable aspect of American life.

The best moments in American history have been characterized by engagement and concern in the most desperate situations. Now, we are at a crossroads. The situation is desperate: Do we abandon our apathy or allow ourselves to sink into the abyss?

If we don’t make a change, a doleful response may be in order for future generations who will inherit a dying America — an America made exceptional not by its promises, but by its complete lack of a soul.

Facing these possible futures, we must decide to either carry on the American experiment or abandon it altogether.

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “American Apathy Perpetuates Gun Violence”

  1. jack burton on November 10th, 2017 8:30 PM

    Okay, editor. Put up or shut up.

    Specifically,and with detail, give us your solution to removing the evil in people’s hearts that cause them to do such things as mass murder.

    Background checks won’t do it, as both the Las Vegas and the Texas shooter passed background checks. The Newtown shooter murdered his mother and stole her guns.

    Gun bans won’t do it, as there are 500 to 600 MILLION guns in society. If… by some Harry Potter magic you force all the law abiding citizens to give up their firearms it will not affect those who laugh at your laws at all.

    Gun confiscation won’t do it either, unless you really want to trigger that civil war so many on the left seem desirous of.

    So… as I said… put up or shut up. Stop whining and start in thinking.

  2. neal workman on November 11th, 2017 3:55 PM

    Short and sweet-good intentions wont stop an aggressor with a weapon. Only an opponent with more cunning and a better weapon can do that. The evolution of weaponry from sticks and stones to atomic bombs is proof-if a maniac goes in a church with a gun to cause harm-he should be silenced by 50 armed,God fearing gun owners ready to fire back-and pray for the attackers soul, after he is dispatched-or not.

  3. Man with the Axe on November 11th, 2017 10:12 PM

    I don’t see the problem of gun violence as apathy. Rather, it is the difficulty of trying to solve the problem such that the cure is not worse than the disease. There are lots of things to do that won’t do any good. And there are some things that will do some good and will also do some harm. And there are some things that will solve the problem but will create worse problems.

    Some problems are not amenable to win-win solutions. What should people we willing to give up in order to reduce the number of deaths in mass shootings? What should they be willing to give up in order to reduce the number of traffic deaths, a much higher number? What should they be willing to give up in order to reduce the number of deaths due to heart disease, a number many times higher than either of the first two categories?

  4. neal workman on November 17th, 2017 4:11 PM

    Well, i probably shouldnt bring this up. but abortion kills more than just about all that.

  5. JustA Student on November 29th, 2017 9:53 AM

    You’re right, you shouldn’t have.

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