What number dead here would it have taken to give the nation real pause? There were 12 dead yesterday and none was taken.
For most of the day, while 12 people lay shot to death where they’d been trying to get into work and grab some breakfast, Major League Baseball thought it might hold a game a few blocks away. I’d like to believe dignity and reason and compassion prevailed in the late afternoon, but my gut tells me it was just logistics. No worries, sports fans, there’s a double header today.
The President walked to a microphone and perfunctorily noted that “yet another mass shooting” had occurred. He required no moment of pause to get control of his emotions, as he did at the podium after the last mass shooting, in Newtown. Perhaps because he knew that the massacre of 20 children and six teachers changed nothing when it came to meaningful violence prevention. That he changed nothing. He knows that our country is still beholden to a Congress that simultaneously shits itself at the thought of an unfavorable NRA voting record while it also tries 40 separate times to repeal the law making affordable mental health care available to those who desperately need it.
My Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of the usual last night. A poor performance at the gym lamented. Pictures of the pretty sunset snapped. Dinner plans debated.
I was no different. I went home and giggled through some silly games with my daughter before tucking her in. I didn’t hold her endlessly, terrified, broken, as I did after Newtown. I kissed her on the head and after a few lullabies, I walked out of the room and watched some television. I fell asleep easily.
Today, I learned that my co-worker’s cousin was killed yesterday. And that my daughter’s teacher spent the day panicked because her husband works two floors below where the shooter perched and took aim.
Unless you know us personally, the men and women who work and live here are considered faceless, pointless bureaucrats. They pay taxes and do not have a vote in Congress. Our work and our city is held up as a symbol of everything wrong with politics, government, media. Tourists from Real America come here and ask us for directions on Metro or to snap a photo of their family in front of a landmark and then they go home and talk about how terrible “Washington” is. Nice to meet you, too.
A New York Times writer just sold a lot of books by reducing us to a catchphrase: This Town. That he opened the book by making fun of a man’s funeral here spoke volumes, and foreshadowed the non-reaction to what happened yesterday.
When 12 people are massacred in Washington, it’s not people dying in Real America. The rest of the nation does not stand “D.C. Strong.” Profile pictures do not become ribbons. Phones do not ring off the hook, just to be sure we’re doing OK. After Hurricane Katrina, everyone who ever sucked down a drink on Bourbon Street claimed the Big Easy as their home. Likewise, after the marathon bombing in Boston.
When 12 people are massacred in This Town, our nation shrugs collectively and offers justifications for its apathy that all translate to: “There’s a viable reason we don’t care too much.”
Beyond the Beltway, our fellow Americans can be forgiven for not knowing the geography of the city. For not knowing that everything here happens within a few miles. That the site of the massacre is about a block from a park where we all take our kids to splash in the fountain. What cannot be forgiven, if it persists, is the dehumanization of an entire town and the disinterest when 12 of its residents do not make it home at night.
(Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Update: Late this afternoon, a fund was announced locally for victims and their families. Learn more here about how you can help through the Navy Yard Relief Fund.
Thank you to the Washington Post, which contacted me and requested to run the piece. A version of it now appears online on the Post’s site, “The Mass Shooting America Barely Noticed.”