Jan. 10, 2011 (The Rumpus) -- It’s a sunny winter day in Tucson, Arizona. There’s an event being held in the parking lot of a supermarket called Safeway. The local member of congress, a woman named Gabrielle Giffords, is meeting her constituents.
Among them is a young man with a gun who runs toward Giffords and shoots her in the head. He turns on the crowd. Before he can be wrestled to the ground, six people are dead, a dozen more injured. One of the dead is a nine-year-old girl recently elected to her student council. She wanted to see what a real political event would be like.
There’s a moment, in the beginning, when the enormity of the violence feels genuine. We’re compelled to wonder: How did we get here? How did we consent to live in a culture where an unstable 22-year-old can acquire a sophisticated weapon with such ease? Where his disturbed passions are not only tolerated, but reinforced, enlarged, given shape?
He didn’t just wake up one day and decide to murder a politician. He made a plan.
But remember: it’s just a moment. It dissolves.
Then we’re in America again and it’s all moving too quickly – our eyes, our screens, the facts. Someone says lone gunman. Someone says crosshairs. A surgeon in a strange hat announces that the bullet fired into Giffords’ head passed “through and through” and, after a moment, we understand what he means.
It’s like watching Kabuki theater, a saga of contrived sorrow and recrimination, the voices of a thousand news people sounding grave because it’s their job. After a while, we realize that we’re not just watching the Kabuki. We are the Kabuki.