Numbness Sweeps America: The Texas Shooting

By Bridget Smith

By now it’s routine. The country awakens, the residual innocence of sleep not yet dissipated. Coffee is brewed, the curtains fling open, and NPR flicks on. It isn’t until then that the soothing state of sleep is finally crushed; the news proclaims the most recent massacre or shooting. Body count, missing persons, various celebrities and politicians “thoughts and prayers,” and suspects flash on the screen. How did we get here? This violence is no longer outrageous or shocking; it’s almost expected. A numbness sweeps America, a seemingly incurable condition of apathetic acceptance.

At 11:20 A.M on Sunday, November 5th, the most recent of these violent tragedies was perpetrated against the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The perpetrator, now identified as 26 year old Devin Kelley, shot more than 450 bullets at the Sunday service at the town’s First Baptist Church. The most deadly mass shooting in Texas history, Kelley claimed the lives of 26 people. The youngest victim was only 17 months old. This was the heartbreaking news that America woke up to Monday morning — eliciting from many naught but a sigh and a pang in the chest.

As with most any breaking news story, the Texas shooting filled the air with the regular things: politics, gun control, terrorism, white privilege. These topics, though relevant to many, were nothing more than smoke still clearing after a fire. What America really must deal with after this disaster is the pain and outrage repressed by a year of heartbreak.

According to CNN, defining mass shooting as the murder of four or more people at the same time in the same location, 307 mass shootings have occurred between January 1 and November 5, averaging an estimated seven mass shootings per week.

Of America’s 30 deadliest mass shootings since 1949, 18 have transpired in the last decade. The Texas shooting has become another fleeting horror, all but ignored for the sake of our collective sanity.

As a national community, it is vital to reignite the outrage felt after Sandy Hook —  after Columbine — after Pilchuck. Although by now, our society has seemingly become accustomed to this brutality, we cannot become desensitized. This level of violence is not normal. 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings happen in America, a place with 4.4 percent of the world’s population and 50 percent of the world’s guns. This violence cannot become normalized. Only when we accept the presence of an epidemic may we remedy it.

Among those murdered in Texas last week were Crystal Holcombe — a pregnant mother of five — and three of her children, aged 11, 9 and 13; 16-year-old Haley Krueger, who was striving to become a nurse after graduating; Joann Ward and her daughters Brooke and Emily, her husband Chris and their two remaining children surviving. Also among the deceased are Dennis and Sara Johnson, who were about to celebrate their 44th marriage anniversary.

People ages 1 to 77 lost their lives in this tragedy, and their deaths should infuriate any American who wishes to live in a country where they and their family are safe. Kelley, the gunman, was found dead after fleeing the scene. He was not the first, and until something changes, he will not be the last. For the lives lost in Texas, there will be no more mornings. No more coffee brewed, no more curtains flung open — no news to uncomfortably inch around during the day. For those lives, the seemingly insubstantial and distant violence became reality. It is all too easy to cast off the number of dead as a vague statistic, with no emotional value or impact. But until our pain is felt, this cycle will spin, and spin, and spin. More blood will be spilt, the death toll will rise, and the statistics will be a vastness that our minds and hearts cannot bear to comprehend. Americans will be but numb, mindless spectators as their country falls apart.

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