UPDATE 2018: In the wake of the Parkland shooting and the #NeverAgain movement, I have revisited this article and wondered whether my pessimism was well founded. Like all mass movements throughout history, no one can predict when and where they will arise — but this time it genuinely appears to be different.
I have been living in America on and off for almost 12 years now, and for the most part love it. I have lived in California, Oregon and Washington DC, and have traveled all over the great nation. It is a beautiful country with weird and wonderful people, full of optimism and full of an entrepreneurial spirit you simply cannot find anywhere else in the world.
Yes, it is too materialistic, too money driven and too commercialized, but beneath the exterior beats the heart of a dynamic country with a spirit for creation, opportunity and justice. America spawned the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the women’s rights movement, and most recently the gay rights movement. And despite its brutal past, America is the first and only western democracy to elect a black man to the Presidency. Despite Britain being my spiritual homeland a part of me is American and I am proud to call it my home.
However, the latest shooting mass shooting in Oregon has again rekindled the doubt that creeps in every few weeks about my place in America, and my desire to live here long term. As our own Tommy Christopher reported:
The latest in a never-ending series of mass shooting tragedies when 26 year-old Chris Harper Mercer opened fire at the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon, killing 10 and injuring 7. As is usually the case with these (now routine) stories, details of the shootings themselves are much more sparse than those about the killer, who left an extensiveonlinefootprint.
This story has repeated itself over and over and over again, to the point where you can safely predict exactly how the nation will react to it. The media captures the public’s shock, anger and grief. This is followed by calls to curb gun violence, an emotional speech by the President, then the rebuttals from the gun lobby and Second Amendment nuts who insist more guns are the solution to gun violence. All of this takes roughly 4 to 5 days until the news cycle changes and we focus on the latest thing Donald Trump said.
I had a conversation with a fellow Brit living in America recently, and we came to the conclusion that this desensitization to horrific gun violence is part of the process of becoming and American. Both of us confessed a growing numbness to people being shot on live TV, endless police shootings, and tiny children murdered by rampaging machine gun nuts.
A part of me will not accept this though, and the thought of raising children in a culture that does absolutely nothing about this astonishing violence is genuinely terrifying. I live in Washington DC, and there are shootings on a regular basis. An innocent man was shot and killed outside my office several weeks ago. Another was killed 5 minute walk from my apartment two weeks ago. Last week I saw 16 police cars converge on the intersection I was stopped at to arrest a man who had just murdered someone two blocks away. This is not normal and it is not acceptable. Yet Americans go about there day while easily preventable acts of violence happen all around them.
The argument that guns don’t kill people is now so blatantly absurd anyone who uses it should be laughed off the air. Guns kill people, and they kill people with the simple squeeze of the hand. Rolling out statistics is now pointless. We know that no other industrialized country experiences this level of gun violence, yet the argument that more people should be armed is still taken seriously. It is not a serious argument. It is a preposterously stupid argument made by fantasists and ideologues.
This gun violence will not stop unless massive political action is taken, and as sad as this is for me to say, I see no possibility that it can, or will happen. And for that reason, there will probably come a point when, out of fear, I will feel compelled to go back home.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.