When it comes to news coverage outside of our borders Americans seem to want to know only one thing: Who’s trying to kill us and are we trying to kill them? Consequently, in this age of fractured audiences and diminishing returns American media companies have slashed their presence overseas and have entered in news sharing agreements with foreign broadcasters and newspapers to provide coverage. That means that what little foreign news that is consumed doesn’t get much of an American perspective and what it does get is usually skewed to favor some domestic policy agenda.
Let us eschew using the buzzword “bubble” here. A bubble is a fragile thing. What we have created is a bunker, a mile down and almost impenetrable. And this has created unexpected problems.
In her syndicated column this week, Mona Charen characterizes the Las Vegas mass murder as something uniquely American. “Our culture,” she writes, “for complex reasons, has given rise to a new expression of madness – the mass shooting followed by suicide.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. (Emphasis mine.)
While Vegas was consuming us here at home, Damiao Soares dos Santos, a security guard at the Innocent Children’s People Municipal Education Centre, in Janaúba, Brazil walked into a classroom, locked the door, poured gasoline on the children, their teacher and himself and set fire to the room. So far, four of the children and the teacher have died as well as the perpetrator. While it wasn’t firearms-related, it was just as horrific, if not more so.
In 1996, Thomas Watt Hamilton walked into the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and shot 32 people, 17 of which died. Most of his victims were only five years old. This led to sweeping gun control in the British Isles. What it did not do is prevent Derrick Bird, a Cumbrian taxi driver, from using a bolt action rifle and a double-barreled shotgun while shooting 21 people (12 died) and himself in 2010.
In the last 30 years there have been dozens and dozens of mass murders overseas. And yes, many have utilized firearms and many have ended in suicide. Either we have never heard of them or when they were mentioned in passing we conveniently forgot about them because we had no plans in visiting that part of the world any time soon. But either way, through ignorance or neglect, it has given way to an emotional self loathing that is unhealthy, both to ourselves and the way we govern.
Terrible events like Las Vegas are not just terrible if the name associated with it is All-American as Stephen Craig Paddock or Adam Lanza. It’s just as horrible if the name is Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, Anders Behring Breivik, Éric Borel, Friedrich Heinz Leibacher, Ljubiša Bogdanović, or Yang Qingpei.
We need to climb out of our media and political bunkers. We have to combat the idea that America is some sort of Wild West Show while the rest of the world is this enlightened place where socialism has banned inhumanity and everyone lives free of violence and has universal healthcare.
The problem is not America. The problem is not guns. The problem is the human mind, an instrument that is both awesome and awesomely fragile. When it snaps into psychosis, terrible things happen. And as much as we want to stop these bad things from happening, we will never be able to legislate away the madness. Some times what we really need is grace and the perspective that these types of horrible incidents are not confined to our shores or our culture.