All The People Who Died

Maybe I’m just a crude little man. After 9/11, when people talked about the tragedy to the families of victims, I always thought, “I’m sure glad my mother wasn’t killed by a drunk driver on that day.” Death is death, right? If 3000 people die unnecessarily, that is more tragic than one person similarly dying. But no one of those 3000 deaths are more tragic than one single unnecessary death.

So I feel bad that I look at the shooting in Aurora in a purely analytical way. It is a tragedy that 12 people were killed and 59 wounded in a senseless act of violence. It raises important questions for our society about things like mental health and gun availability. But thus far, I don’t see any discussion. I just see people wringing their hands about an event that is, in every way that matters, the same thing we see all the time. Later there will be liberals, afraid to call for gun control, asking if we mightn’t be able to stop the gun show loophole. (Is there still a gun show loophole?) And conservatives will counter, “Tyranny!”

Tonight, one 16 or 17 year old will die in a car crash. Today, two people will die from an accidental gunshot. People die all the time. For stupid reasons. For evil reasons. By saying this I am not suggesting that young men gunning down large numbers of people in public places is not a problem. But I am suggesting that the public hand wringing only serves to justify inaction. I am suggesting that noting that the world would be better off if humans were nicer doesn’t help. I am suggesting issues such as these need constant attention, not intermittent hysterical cries of outrage.

It would be great to do something about all these problems. But as far as I can tell, we can’t do anything about gun violence[1] because gun manufacturers would block it. We can’t do anything about teenage driving fatalities, because car and oil companies want to get the kiddies driving as young as possible. We can’t do anything about global warming because, well, you know.

As long as we live in a corporatocracy, there will be few improvements. What ails us economically is the same thing that ails us culturally. We cannot have economic stimulus for the same reason we must watch our children die in movie theaters and on roadways. Conservatives believe that freedom is the lack of restraints. But when another’s freedom leads to my slavery, something has gone wrong. When one billionaire can spend as much money as he wants on political “speech” (Just like me!), we do not live in a democracy. Freedom is not an absolute; it is a compromise. Ditto for justice. As long as we allow conservatives to continue to claim that what is good for GM is good for me, we are lost.

As for the 71 in Aurora, I’m sorry. Now let’s get to work.

At least vote!

Update (20 July 2012 7:02 pm)

Darcy Burner has an article over at Crooks & Liars called Adult Conversation About Guns. She provides the following list of recent mass shootings, which gets to the heart of my point far more directly:

On January 17, 1989, a gunman in Stockton, California walked onto a playground and opened fire, killing 5 children and injuring 30 more.

On July 1, 1993, a gunman in San Francisco walked into a law office and opened fire, killing 8 and injuring 6.

On April 20, 1999, two gunmen in Columbine, Colorado walked into their high school and opened fire, killing 13 people and injuring 21 others.

On January 16, 2002, a gunman in Virginia walked into a law school and opened fire, killing 3 and injuring 3.

On July 8, 2003, a gunman in Mississippi walked into a factory and opened fire, killing 6 and injuring 8.

On March 21, 2005, a gunman in Minnesota walked into a high school and opened fire, killing 7 and injuring 5.

On November 20, 2005, a gunman in Tacoma walked into the mall and opened fire, injuring 6.

On March 25, 2006, a gunman in Seattle walked into a party and opened fire, killing 6 and injuring 2.

On February 12, 2007, a gunman in Utah walked into a mall and opened fire, killing 5 and injuring 4.

On April 16, 2007, a gunman in Virginia walked onto the Virginia Tech campus and opened fire, killing 32 people and wounding 17 others.

On December 5, 2007, a gunman in Nebraska walked into a mall and opened fire, killing 8 and injuring 4.

On December 9, 2007, a gunman in Colorado Springs walked onto a church parking lot and opened fire, killing 2 and wounding 3.

On February 7, 2008, a gunman in Missouri walked into a city council meeting and opened fire, killing 5 and wounding 2.

On February 14, 2008, a gunman in Illinois walked onto a college campus and opened fire, killing 5 and injuring 17.

On June 25, 2008, a gunman in Kentucky walked into a factory and opened fire, killing 5 and injuring 1.

On January 24, 2009, a gunman in Portland walked up to a nightclub and opened fire, killing 2 and injuring 7.

On March 29, 2009, a gunman in North Carolina walked into a retirement home and opened fire, killing 8 and injuring 2.

On August 4, 2009, a gunman in a suburb of Pittsburgh walked into a fitness club and opened fire, killing 3 and injuring 9.

On November 5, 2009, a gunman at Fort Hood in Texas walked into a medical center and opened fire, killing 13 and injuring 29.

On November 29, 2009, a gunman in Lakewood, Washington walked into a coffee shop and killed 4 police officers.

On January 7, 2010, a gunman in St Louis walked into a power plant and opened fire, killing 3 and injuring 6.

On January 12, 2010, a gunman in Georgia walked into a truck rental place and opened fire, killing 3 and injuring 2.

On February 12, 2010, a gunwoman in Alabama stood up in a college faculty meeting and opened fire, killing 3 and injuring 3.

On August 3, 2010, a gunman in Connecticut walked into a warehouse and opened fire, killing 8 and injuring 2.

On August 7, 2011, a gunman in Ohio broke into his girlfriend’s house and opened fire, killing 7 and injuring 1.

On September 6, 2011, a gunman in Nevada walked into a pancake restaurant and opened fire, killing 4 and injuring 7.

On October 5, 2011, a gunman in Cupertino, California walked into a quarry where people were working and opened fire, killing 3 and injuring 7.

Sadly, I could go on…

Update (20 July 2012 9:13 pm)

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is saying what ought to be said. However, I think the issue is bigger than just guns. But it is the main issue. Did I mention that Obama got a rating of F from the Brady Campaign?

Update (21 July 2012 11:04 am)

People saying a lot of smart and important things on Up with Chris Hayes this morning:


[1] There are three times as many murders committed with handguns than all other guns. There are four times as many murders committed with guns than with knives. Note: knives are far more common than guns.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “All The People Who Died

  1. Justice can mean a lot of things. There are many theories of how it works: distributive, restorative,and retributive – namely justice as vengeance. People have been talking about it (and conversely not talking about it) for millennium. There is justice in theory, de jure, and justice in practice, de facto. Of course there is social and economic justice too.

    I wish I had my "justice" quotes (Hitler’s law and order rants are among the best – one word for word it seems Reagan inadvertently (?) restated a number of time, as others past and present have and will do). There’s a lot to laugh as well as frown about. My favorite, however, is one that goes like this:

    Whatever justice is, it is not self evident.

    That justice synonomous with crime and punishment, law and order, and taken as such to be common knowledge. Of course in that sense it’s tongue in cheek in terms of dominant ideology. And, of course, these are all aspects to the problem. But as you wrote, and I agree, the biggest problem is just that – justice taken as obvious. So much so we don’t need to really talk about it.

    After all, justice is an open signifier. It has no timeless, inherent or absolute and universal meaning. It’s form and formula change, and will continue changing. How we will experience justice in the future depends largely on how we experience, or rather endure, it now. And a big part of how we treat it rests in how we understand it, our discourse (or again lack there of) surrounding it.

    There will always be people and institutions to who’s maintenance depends upon the notion of justice. The most foundational of foundational myths.

  2. @Mike – At this point, I’m not even sure what I wrote, and I’m afraid to look. The main thing on my mind was all the hand wringing (I think I used that clause twice). Yes, it is terrible that a guy walks into a theater and starts killing people. The problem is that as a society, we seem unwilling to do anything to stop it. We are more than willing to rant after the fact and call for "justice."

    I like Angela Davis’ discussion of retribution in "Are Prisons Obsolete?" I guess I’m just an ol’ liberal, but I don’t really get retribution. I don’t even get the idea of justice as other people talk about it. The universe is one big injustice machine, our efforts at the concept strike me as pathetic and often worse. Today, 12 people are dead who shouldn’t be. I don’t believe in God and the afterlife. So a terrible injustice was done to them. Nothing that happens to the shooter is going to offset that injustice in any way. If we care about justice, we have to do something *before* people die. But we seem more interested in gun maker profits and NRA power.

    I really want to start Foucault’s Pendulum, but Violence: Six Sideways Reflections keeps calling to me. I’m worn out with politics and such. If I am to remain sane I must pick Eco. Move toward the light!

  3. Lol, I’ll have to read up on Eco. Have you ever come across Jacques Derrida? He’s got a lot of good stuff on "violence." And much so my favorite school of philosophy, the Frankfurt School, has a lot of great stuff concerning it too. Consumerism can be pretty painful as a political culture…

  4. @Mike – The novels, not the academic work! I’m trying to take a break from nonfiction. And I definitely don’t feel up to tackling semiotics!

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