Something subtle and remarkable has happened in American politics—and, it seems, in democracies across the developed world. The big arguments over what the state owes the people, in terms of services and public welfare, have been somewhat eclipsed. Now the focus is on who counts as people in the first place.
My American history teacher spoke in a monotone as he read a few paragraphs from the textbook about the Nazis killing six million Jews during the Holocaust. The boy sitting behind me leaned forward and whispered in my ear: “Kike. My grandfather was in the KKK.”
The first time it struck me, I was reading Henri Nouwen’s Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring. “It seems fair to say that between the ages of one and thirty, people are considered young; between thirty and sixty, they are considered middle aged,” Nouwen writes. I was 29 and a little terrified.
It’s damnable that any reflection on American gun violence is quickly out of date. I was in Texas when the October 1 shooting occurred in Roseburg, Oregon, leaving 10 dead including the gunman. I was revising an article provoked by that shooting when 14 were shot dead December 2 in San Bernardino, California. Now there are two statistics I can’t get out of my mind: first, mass shootings (resulting in four or more deaths) occur at a rate of more than one a day in the United States. Second, more American gun deaths have occurred since 1970 than American war deaths since 1775.