In these three American cities, at least 32 children and adults were killed by three shooters in a single week, 23 of them within just 13 hours over the weekend of August 3 and 4. While attending a garlic festival. While shopping at Walmart. While socializing in a popular entertainment district.
The Onion has run this headline and story at least nine times.
I’m exhausted and angry—furious, actually—and can’t think of anything original to say about my compatriots’ sick obsession with firearms. So I’ll refer you to a couple of posts from the Fritinancy archives.
Gundamentalist, published a week after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre of children and school employees. A gundamentalist is “a person who goes beyond the language of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and takes his or her unrestricted right to bear arms as a tenet of religious or quasi-religious faith.”
Ammosexual, published a week after a 9-year-old accidentally shot and killed her firing-range instructor. An ammosexual is “a person who exhibits an extreme love of firearms, possibly to the point of fetishization.”
By now, you may not want to read any more about any of this. But I urge you to read a few language-related items I found insightful and helpful.
As I watch the news from my homeland unroll on Twitter, I see this phrase again and again. An imperative to those in Gilroy, in El Paso, in Dayton. Tweeted when a gunman is firing, when the ambulances unload into the hospitals and morgues, when the broken people of a broken town are picking up the pieces. “Stay safe!”
The phrase has had a meteoric rise since the 1980s as the slogan of dozens of campaigns about fire safety, online safety, summertime skincare. With its alliterative esses and rhyming vowels, it’s a catchy reminder to put batteries in the smoke detector or to slather on the factor 50. But it is an utterly delusional thing to say in the gun-soaked United States today.
"The phrase is about as useful as 'be tall,’” Murphy writes. “Some people will stay safe, some won’t, and it will have little to do with their safe-staying efforts.”
Next, from The Economist language columnist Lane Greene. He’s quote-tweeting Dennis Baron, professor emeritus of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois.
Yes, I’m going to politicize this moment. Politics is the practice of organized decision-making. The 2nd Amendment was written to allow militias, not white-nationalist terrorists. Read how “bear arms” was used when the 2A was written. https://t.co/Rf2xhgQAyU— Lane Greene (@lanegreene) August 4, 2019
And finally, from Lili Loofbourow, a contributor to Slate.com.
I don't claim to know what the right media framing of any of this (re: the circulate/don't circulate debate), but I sincerely appreciate that AP used the phrase "rambling screed" instead of the stupidly aggrandizing "manifesto"
— Lili Loofbourow (@Millicentsomer) August 4, 2019
For more on screed, see my 2017 post (which for once was not about a mass shooting).