• Marc Johnson

What We Permit We Promote…

What we permit we promote.

It has all become so predictable, the banality of mass death and guns and race in our exceptional nation.

It is so predictable…


The first reports still shock – briefly. How many? Is this happening again? Why?

The somber television announcers pronounce a people shocked. Round up the usual suspects for instant analysis. He had to be severely disturbed how else to explain it? The town – this time Charleston instead of Newton or Aurora or Binghamton or Ft. Hood or Tucson – mourns the preacher, the grandmother, the track coach, the innocent murdered in a church. By one count America has had at least sixty-one mass murders by gun since 1982 and the reaction has become so predictable.

What we permit we promote.

Some of us thought it might be different, finally, after all those little kids were killed in their school. The president, the one coming after all the guns, said it was a moment to come together and address the crisis. It wasn’t and isn’t again.


“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said. “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point, it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

But this too will pass. We all know “the politics in this town” are unable to deal with reality. The candidates will move on, unable and unwilling to risk, well, anything. And we will move on, too. Once again we’ll explain it away as the inexplicable action of a disturbed loner. Guns aren’t the problem. Some will change the subject by saying it was more proof of a sinister attack on religion or that race had nothing to do with it or that as bad as it was – and will be again – these are not the kinds of problems government can fix.

We’ll talk about it on the Sunday shows. By next week the blood on the hands of the gun lobbyists will be wiped clean again and we’ll be reminded sternly that the Constitution protects our right to die in a church during a prayer meeting. Someone will invoke the Founders and someone else will remind us that a right invented by five conservative justices on the highest court in the land allows more handguns to exist in America than there are people in America. We should arm the preachers. That’s the answer.

The prayer vigils will be painful, but not so hopeful. We’ve done it so often before. The funerals in a few days will signal that we really can move on. The debate will soon enough take place about whether the young man who did it should die too. But soon his name and his actions and his .45 caliber handgun will fade away. It’s so predictable. It has happened before. Nothing more to see here. There is nothing to be done

What we permit we promote.

“The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity,” the Economist notes, while the rest of the world stares gap jawed at our exceptional country.

“The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become—for those not directly affected by tragedy—ritualized and then blend into the background noise. That normalization makes it ever less likely that America’s political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.”

Soon enough the painful and poignant stories about the victims will fade with only their families and friends left to wonder. The curious, deadly, hateful mix of violence and racism and guns that cut a gaping wound across American life and has since our beginnings will remain. It is so predictable.

What we permit we promote.

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©2019 by Marc C Johnson