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The age of hate

We’re going to be talking about feelings. But I’m not going to take your guns away; I’m not going insult you and call you a heartless Republican or a liberal cuck. I’m not going to belittle you and anticipate a similar politically-charged attack. I’m not going to curse the party and call Mitch McConnell your hero, nor say that Hillary is still weaving her web and talk about how this country is falling apart — because that doesn’t serve anyone. I’ll talk about my feelings about shootings, and how this brings out the worst in us.

I’m not old enough to remember Columbine but I’ve heard stories. They say that it was horrific. These two kids had breached new territory in America in the act of killing children at a school. They say this was the beginning of the school shooting craze; it seems to be. In the 20th century there were more than 200 school shootings, according to K12 Academics. Since 1999, there have been almost as many incidents as in the whole 20th century — 207 so far, with 143 of those 207 coming in the last eight years.

The problem is ramping up — every year, another incident. They blur together, and we become desensitized, not by video games or violent movies but by exposure to these events, viewing them through the outline of a TV screen and throwing up photos of the villains. Desensitization is kind of like a societal coping mechanism. It helps us deal with the fact of an increasing annual school shooting rate that has no easy solution.

Just as annual as the incidents themselves are spikes in hateful political infighting. This politicism, in times of shooting incidents, doesn’t rise most prominently in Congress and the political establishment but in a public debate at the ground level. Internet forums and social media become battlegrounds for disgusting, vicious attacks on fundamental beliefs under political banners.

It’s as if these school shootings justify pushing an agenda. Something triggers in the mind and everyone immediately falls behind ideological lines. There’s nothing intellectual to this fight. It is stale and quite frankly inhibits real discourse. People wonder why these shootings are happening with increased frequency and nothing ever changes. Maybe it’s the fact that we have too many guns or maybe it’s that we have too few or maybe it’s neither of those —nobody knows because our senseless left-right dogma arrests our reason directly after the incident, when the importance of this debate is most potent.

Developing our gun debate around times of a shooting into something more sensible and less coercive will not stop shootings, but it will make the discussions for solving that problem a lot more productive.

I usually end my column with policy recommendations — something tangible that rallies the troops. Today I don’t have one. It’s not my wish to contribute to a hateful discourse because no serious dialogue can be had. Apply that message to all. The reality is that as long as we choose to mask horror, disgust and shame at these shootings with hate, a systemic solution is nowhere in sight.

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