By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on February 14, 2023)
In a 2016 piece about the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, I wrote:
But there is something about [Orlando] that screams “Last call for sane discourse and positive action!” on multiple fronts. This incident is akin to a perfect Hollywood pitch, writ large by fate and circumstance; incorporating nearly every sociopolitical causality that has been quantified and/or debated over by criminologists, psychologists, legal analysts, legislators, anti-gun activists, pro-gun activists, left-wingers, right-wingers, centrists, clerics, journalists and pundits in the wake of every such incident since Charles Whitman perched atop the clock tower at the University of Texas and picked off nearly 50 victims (14 dead and 32 wounded) over a 90-minute period. That incident occurred in 1966; 50 years ago this August. Not an auspicious golden anniversary for our country. 50 years of this madness. And it’s still not the appropriate time to discuss? What…too soon?
All I can say is, if this “worst mass shooting in U.S. history” (which is saying a lot) isn’t the perfect catalyst for prompting meaningful public dialogue and positive action steps once and for all regarding homophobia, Islamophobia, domestic violence, the proliferation of hate crimes, legal assault weapons, universal background checks, mental health care (did I leave anything out?), then WTF will it take?
Well, that didn’t take:
Morning dawned Tuesday on East Lansing to a rattled Michigan State University campus hours after a mass shooting left three dead and five others critically injured.
An alert was sent at 8:31 p.m. Monday, telling students to “run, hide, fight” with a report of shots fired at Berkey Hall and at the MSU Union.
Two people were killed at Berkey Hall, said university Interim Deputy Police Chief Chris Rozman. The gunman then moved to the MSU Union, where another was killed.
Students were told to shelter in place as authorities searched for the gunman. The 43-year-old suspect was Anthony McRae, Rozman said at a news conference Tuesday. McRae was found off campus early Tuesday before he could be arrested; he had died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. […]
McRae was not affiliated with the university, and authorities didn’t know early Tuesday why he came to MSU.
“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was,” Rozman said.
“Absolutely no idea” indeed. As in, I have absolutely no idea why our legislators cannot seem to take even one tiny infinitesimal step forward on enacting sensible gun reform. Well…I have some idea:
Every single shooting could be one of the last. Instead we continue the endless debate that drives the inaction which brought us here. Until we start making our response to these shootings finding common ground and acting like we did after Parkland- this won’t end. https://t.co/IbNHEqA11g
— David Hogg ☮️ (@davidhogg111) February 14, 2023
And today, Michigan’s governor (as any decent and compassionate leader reflexively does) has donned the mantle of Consoler-in-Chief:
Too many of us scan rooms for exits when we enter. Many have gone through the grim exercise of figuring out who would be our last call. Last night, kids at MSU made those calls. They worried for their lives, their friends, their fellow Spartans
We can't keep living like this. pic.twitter.com/SgDgQ3CbD1
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) February 14, 2023
It appears the governor and I are of like mind:
School hijinx in America, then and now. (L) 1950s: How many students can you fit in a phone booth? (R) 2023: How many students can you fit in a safe room? #GunControlNow #GunReformNow pic.twitter.com/cD38Bf5HlK
— Dennis Hartley (@denofcinema5) February 14, 2023
Saddest of all, the MSU shootings occurred on the eve of a grim anniversary:
As I sit here crying for my family & our loss of Jaime 5 years ago in Parkland, I'm watching the press conference in Michigan where treating physician is crying. Gun violence breaks families & breaks communities. BEFORE IT IS YOUR LOVED ONE, DEMAND WE FIX THIS ONCE & FOR ALL.
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) February 14, 2023
You remember Parkland, right? In my review of the 2020 documentary After Parkland, I wrote:
So where are we at today, in the two years since a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Stoneman Douglas High, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in just 6 minutes? According to a 2019 AP story, a report issued in February of last year by a student journalism project “…concluded that 1,149 children and teenagers died from a shooting in the year since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” citing that the stats cover “school shootings, domestic violence cases, drug homicides and by stray bullets”. Mind you, nearly another year has passed since that report was released. […]
The most powerful moments [in After Parkland] are in the beginning, which contains a collage of real-time cell phone audio of the Parkland incident. The chilling sounds of automatic gunfire and students screaming in pain and terror made me think of the Martin Luther King quote ” Wait has always meant Never ”. If every lawmaker was locked in chambers and forced to listen to that audio on a continuous loop until they passed sensible gun reform, perhaps they would all finally reach their breaking point.
You know what “they” say-we all have a breaking point. When it comes to this particular topic, I have to say, I think that I may have finally reached mine. I’ve written about this so many times, in the wake of so many horrible mass shootings, that I’ve lost count. I’m out of words. There are no Scrabble tiles left in the bag, and I’m stuck with a “Q” and a “Z”. Game over. Oh waiter-check, please. The end. Finis. I have no mouth, and I must scream.
Something else “they” say…music soothes the savage beast. Not that this 10-song playlist that I have assembled will necessarily assuage the grief, provide the answers that we seek, or shed any new light on the subject-but sometimes, when words fail, music speaks.
As the late great Harry Chapin tells his audience in the clip I’ve included below: “Here’s a song that I could probably talk about for two weeks. But I’m not going to burden you, and hopefully the story and the words will tell it the way it should be.” What Harry said.
“Family Snapshot” – Peter Gabriel
“Friend of Mine” – Jonathan & Stephen Cohen (Columbine survivors)
“Guns Guns Guns” – The Guess Who
“I Don’t Like Mondays” – The Boomtown Rats
“Jeremy” – Pearl Jam
“Melt the Guns” – XTC
“Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads
“Saturday Night Special” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sniper” – Harry Chapin
“Ticking” – Elton John