Oh, Kind Friends, Oh, Ain’t it Hard?

It’s no secret that I don’t like Las Vegas all that much, and that most of that dislike is focused on the Strip. Still, I’m flying there on Wednesday to work for a week and a half. And I was thinking of suggesting to my coworkers that we eat at Border Grill in the Mandalay Bay resort that evening, because one of the things I do look forward to on any trip to Vegas is their superb green corn tamales.

I suppose it’s strange– selfish, even– to focus on my own personal connection to a place at a time like this, but right now I’m searching for context. I want to get past the pithy “thoughts and prayers” line that people use to meet some sort of impotent social obligation that won’t change anything. Usually I would wait for the facts to simmer for a while. I would think about things. Think about what I want to say. Focus my ideas towards some end.

Today, though, I find that I am very nervous about what happens next, and more inclined to get my thoughts in before they marinate off to some less important realm. The president suggested that Americans always come together after tragedies like this. I don’t know if I think that’s true anymore. I feel like people on all sides of the socio-political spectrum are waiting to pounce or defend according to the motives of the shooter– the president included, if his usual behavior is any indication. I fear that once again we as a nation will not take the right lessons from this. If it didn’t happen after Sandy Hook or Charleston, why should it after this?

Accordingly, I sort of hope that we don’t find out why this guy turned a Mandalay Bay hotel room into a machine-gun nest. The truth will only obscure the essence of the act, inflame the passions that have made so many in this country blind to reason and allergic to discourse. There are things– very important things– that we already know need to be talked about in the wake of what is, unfortunately, an intrinsically predictable event in today’s America. For once, I hope we don’t accede to the perspective of a mass-murderer. His “why” should have nothing to do with our why. Whatever his brand of hatred, I don’t want my country to let it fuel the amorphous hatred that grips it. For if people can conflate kneeling during the national anthem with some brand of anti-American insurgency, how might they confuse an act of true abomination?

My wife’s cousin gave birth to a girl on Saturday, just a few minutes before midnight. She was born into a world where the worst mass-shooting in American history happened on the first full day of her life, and the country largely took it in stride, having become used to events of its kind. When she’s old enough, I hope I can tell her that we all learned something from this particular day, and that her country has gotten better with every day since then, concurrent with her own growth into a fine woman. I hope I can tell her stories about how our country rallied against violence, pushed back against war, cleaned up the Earth that will be her home, truly committed to treating all our citizens with the respect they deserve, did all of the things it needed to do to prove that it loves her. I hope I can tell her that we came to understand all of our failings– truly understand them– and that as a fallible people nonetheless of great character, we got over our own stubborn prejudices and started to get honest about what needed to be done.

But I’m unsure. I’m doing a lot of hoping today. And when people resort to doing a lot of hoping, the specter of despair usually isn’t far off. People rarely pray for the things they’re sure will happen, after all. I guess that’s why they meekly offer thoughts and prayers in the wake of a tragedy.

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