Old and busted: Learned helplessness. New hotness: Nihilism as survival trait.

 

by: Pariah McCree

They didn’t censor the gunshots, or the people getting hurt, or the blood… they blurred out a guy in the crowd standing up and flipping off the shooter. I guess we know where their priorities are.

Last night I finally had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a partner I don’t get to see very often, because our lives reside in vastly different orbits these days.  This quality time consisted of sitting on their couch sipping bourbon, shooting the shit, and occasionally glancing over at the television showing a queue full of episodes of Rick and Morty.  I’m not particularly interested in television but I can certainly appreciate the antics of a sarcastic, hedonistic, substance using and abusing mad scientist.  At some point last night, said partner’s phone began making noises as if it were about to explode, or possibly perish of a combination stroke and heart attack.  Knowing them as long as I have and being a product of my time, I immediately extracted my smartphone and began scanning social media.  Did the Oompa-Loompa in Chief finally start World War III?

“Bah.  Another mass shooting, this one at the hotel I stayed at this summer.  Whatever.”

I dropped both phone and drink, committing one of the few sins I actually care about (alcohol abuse).  “What?”

“Another mass shooting, this one at a festival in Las Vegas.  Initial reports are forty fatalities and at least two hundred injured.  Data is still being compiled.”  They sipped their drink and tossed their own phone onto the coffee table as Rick prattled on about the racial epithets of alien species.

“No,” I said.  “You just blew it off.  This isn’t like you.  How much did you have?”

“Just the one,” they said.  “It’s just another fucking mass shooting.  They’ll happen more and more often as people get more and more crazy.  After your ninth or tenth you stop rising to take the bait and flow with it.”

 

I don’t mind saying that I spent the rest of the evening drinking quietly and staring at my long-time friend, co-conspirator, and lover. This is a person who sends flowers when someone’s cat dies, and wept upon discovering that a hamster’s disappearance was due to the creature hiding in its cage to expire quietly. And they’re not even breaking a sweat upon discovering that several hundred people (at last count, more than 500 injuries and almost 60 deaths) were on the wrong end of a jackass with a room full of guns and a week’s worth of ammunition in downtown Las Vegas? Some days I’m not sure how human they are, but last night took the taco. I stayed as far away from the coat closet as I could, lest a cyborg facehugger spring from the shadows and shove its ovipositor down my throat.

In the shower this morning, where I always do my best thinking (don’t you?) I rolled the events of the previous night around in my head. By my take, there have been about 115 mass shootings since the year 2000. While the numbers bounce around a little bit they’re steadily creeping upward.  Add to that the sheer insanity of the past year and… this is our new normal. The pattern of how the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre is going to unfold is probably going to be just like all the others.

The shooter was a wealthy, retired white guy, so there goes the narrative of “brown people who are also Muslim killing good Christian ‘muricans (fuck yeah!)” Nobody could possibly have predicted that this poor, sweet man was going through such a bad time, he was mentally ill and acting on his own, he wasn’t radicalized at all… blah blah fucking blah. If he hadn’t offed himself before the SWAT team blew his door they’d have escorted him safely down to the basement garage of the hotel and whisked him away before sending a talking head to give a statement to the press. Once again, nothing substantial is going to happen, or at least nothing good. The usual talking heads are all whining that they don’t know how such a thing could have happened; they may as well re-run the interviews from the last nine shootings involving white guys and be done with it. The usual “abolish all gun laws,” “armed people don’t get gunned down,” and “Second Amendment uber alles!” crowd is running its mouth and that rattling sound you hear is the NRA shutting money around back channels.  People who absolutely cannot wrap their heads around the fact that a retiree might decide to open fire on a crowd for no good reason at all are blaming everything from an Illuminati human sacrifice ritual to forgotten MK-ULTRA deep cover agents getting the go-code are shitting up the Internet with their wild-ass speculations. The Oompa-Loompa in Chief is barely responding, per usual. He was too busy golfing to pay attention until somebody suggested that it would make him look more presidential to say something sympathetic in front of a camera. The Onion, possibly the last bastion of sarcasm-as-uncomfortable-observation has re-run its “mass shooting in America” article once more, and again changing only the dates and location.

As much as it makes my cold, black heart ache, I find myself agreeing with my partner-in-crime. We’re rapidly approaching a state of being in which the possibility of being gunned down at any moment by some rando is the new normal. Ironically — and this is the part that really fucks with me — some of the news media felt a need to censor some of the social media footage before airing it. They didn’t censor the gunshots, or the people getting hurt, or the blood… they blurred out a guy in the crowd standing up and flipping off the shooter. I guess we know where their priorities are. Conservative mouthpiece Bill O’Reilly even went so far today to say that the shooting in Las Vegas last night was simply “the price of freedom.

I now think I understand why my partner was so nonplussed about last night.  When you live in a world in which the worth of one single life pales in comparison to the value of being able to take a life with ease, one’s self-worth also diminishes. The math scarily balances: One life equals one death. It almost doesn’t even seem worth taking basic precautions to protect one’s safety, does it? The possibility that one may die a violent death at any moment is such a real one that acceptance and preparation seems like the most obvious course of action, because there really is no solution. Lies are the only thing that matter and evidence stating anything else is ignored or mockedPreconceptions born of bad television mean more than answers from real-life experts.

The takeaway from last night’s bourbon-and-cartoon marathon? The bit that stuck with me, aside from wondering if somebody I care about finally gave up?

“Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die.  Come watch TV.”

Goddamn.

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