No thoughts, no prayers

How to be completely indifferent to the shooting in Maine.

A police officer guards Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, where a massive manhunt was underway for a gunman who officials said killed at least 18 people on Oct. 25, 2023.

A police officer guards Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, where a massive manhunt was underway for a gunman who officials said killed at least 18 people Wednesday.

Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Nah, I don’t care about the mass shooting.

This latest crop of gunfire victims leave me completely unmoved.

I know nothing about them and am indifferent to the tragedy, to the lives cut down in a hail of bullets. I don’t feel sorry for them. don’t want to know their names or see their faces. I’m not expressing any thoughts or prayers, no sympathy extended to their families.

In fact, were they to hear from me today, as I write this, they would not welcome my condolences, even though I would be the very first to reach out to them. Doing so would only leave them confused, even frightened.

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Nor do I care about the reasons the killer did what he did. Terrorism? Mental illness? Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. The breathless wait for a “motive.” As if that matters to the dead or anybody else. The only reason we want to know what prompted the murderer to pull the trigger is so we can dismiss the whole thing even faster than we already do, which is plenty fast.

I’m not even curious about the kind of gun, though it doesn’t take a genius to assume it’s another assault rifle, because it always is. That’s what these guns are made for, to mow down many people quickly.

Yet we’re always surprised when they do. Or at least we pretend to be. We put these guns in the hands of millions of people. Then press our palms to our cheeks when they use them. Pathetic.

To summarize: Don’t know anything about the shooting, its location, how many victims or who they are, who the shooter is or why he — it’s always a he — did it.

I don’t know because I can’t know, since I’m writing this not in the aftermath of the recent atrocity, as is custom. But before, on April 9, 2021. To prepare for the inevitable.

As I type, the victims-to-be are still going about their lives. Their as-yet-uncrushed loved ones have not seen the initial bulletin, felt the sinking dread, frantically tried to find out, learned the awful news and been stunned, stupefied, devastated.

I’d warn them, but I don’t know who they will be. They could be anybody. Could be me. Or you — well, not you, since you’re reading this. You were lucky. This time.

Journalism is a kabuki, a stylized form, the telling of the same story again and again. So please forgive me for trying to experiment within the confines of a long established tradition, the ritual post-slaughter hand-wringing.

I’ve been writing about gun violence since Laurie Dann shot up Hubbard Woods Elementary School in Winnetka in 1988. After 35 years of doing this, I think I’m entitled to play with the conventions. Surely you can’t demand that I respect the not-yet-dead. Congress sure doesn’t.

Writing beforehand is freeing. You can’t criticize me — if you say it’s unfeeling toward those who will be sacrificed at the altar of the American Gun Fantasy, then what about you? What have you done to try to save them? How did you try to stop this madness? Nothing. What will you do? Nothing. So save your griping. At least I raised my voice, hoarse from overuse as it is.

And no, I’m not advocating stronger gun laws. I’d settle with more education — even though that is also a tough sell. People should know, you buy a gun, it multiplies the chances you will shoot yourself, or your children will shoot themselves, or each other, or you.

Getting the drop on a bad guy coming through the window is a freakish rarity among those who mistook Clint Eastwood movies for documentaries. The best that can be said for gun ownership is, it makes terrified people less afraid. A metal teddy bear with bullets.

Well, my space is up. Time to set this aside and wait for the right killing, when I’ll crack my knuckles and press “Submit for approval.” My work done! Thank you, crazy shooter person for making my day a little easier — I mean, why should gun companies and Republican politicians be the only ones to benefit from mass shootings?

Heartless? Sure. But nothing compared to having the power to do something to curb gun violence and instead doing nothing. That takes a level of callousness I just can’t imagine. And I have a pretty good imagination.

People depart a reunification center early Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, at Auburn Middle School, in Auburn, Maine, after shootings in Lewiston.

People depart a reunification center early Thursday at Auburn (Maine) Middle School, after shootings in Lewiston, Maine.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

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