It’s impossible to articulate how angry I am today. Yesterday, 19 children and one teacher at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas were murdered in one of the the worst and most gruesome mass shootings in United States history, less than ten days from the deadly shooting in Buffalo. The death count in Uvalde has gone up since yesterday because the victims — again, children — are still being identified from the remains.
There’s no words for how badly we have failed as a society to protect anyone inside of it. You would think that self-preservationist instincts would kick in at some point and we would stop ourselves from literally murdering our own, but somehow the idea of halting that has become an unrealistic and far-off fantasy. The cycle is always the same: an unthinkable loss of life happens at the other end of a gun barrel, we do our best not to talk about how it happens, and then we seek to blame anything and everything else as a possible contribution to the tragedy. We poke and prod the peripheries of these tragedies so we can feel like we have some control over it because we have given up on taking control over the central issues.
Today, the symptom we’re blaming is video games, rather than attempting to solve the disease.
There have been dozens and dozens of arguments defending violent video games from the idea that they contribute to mass shootings, and this isn’t that. Even with the best intentions, games like Call of Duty and Battlefield absolutely benefit from gun culture run amok. They slyly and subtly encourage radicalization by emphasizing a level of jingoism that is so overwhelming that it can’t stop itself from being influential. All media has this problem to some extent, but gaming tends to wallow in it. But anyone who today stands in the bully pulpit pretending that these issues are somehow the most important thing to talk about is being an intellectually dishonest nitwit.
We will do absolutely anything in America to not just admit the problem is easy access to firearms. We blame rock music and drugs, we say it’s a mental health issue and then do nothing to fund mental health programs, we do our best to avoid looking at every other country in the world where this doesn’t happen, and we without fail point to video games as a possible cause. They are distractions from the main issue, a conveniently-lengthy path to walk before we get to dealing with the tangible solutions sitting on our desks right now.
There is nothing about American physiology that makes us different in this regard. Europe has equal access to Rainbow Six: Siege that we do, but they are not piling the corpses of their young in schools with the regularity that we do. What makes these video games different for Americans are cultural factors that all still stem from the same issues with guns that keep the momentum of these mass shootings going. We owe each other better than to generate the moralizing distractions that keep us from acting on the common sense gun laws this country should have.
I am unspeakably and, loathe as I am to admit it, likely irreparably angry. I don’t know that as a nation we’ll ever be made whole from what we have chosen in the name of an amendment that was written before there were civil rights, much less machine guns. But we can choose what we do right now and we can choose not to get preoccupied by side issues while we work to solve the main ones. We can’t afford to fail each other and ourselves again.