Las Vegas – the anger trumps the sadness

To be brutally honest, I found anger trumped sadness in my reaction to the Las Vegas massacre at the weekend. To express horror, grief and condolence is natural when people simply attending a concert are mass-murdered – yet the number of Americans who seem to find such levels of violence acceptable is astonishing. The number murdered in Las Vegas will be only a small proportion of those murdered across the United States this week.

It is worth emphasising a view I have expressed here before. Essentially, I do not think Americans are particularly violent because they have guns; I believe they have guns because they are particularly violent. There is a profound culture of using violence first and asking questions later, which in large swathes of the country engulfs everyone from law enforcement officers to average citizens. In a country where almost every administrator is elected or appointed by someone who is elected, it is this which blocks serious action on gun control, or indeed on many other things (such as proper police oversight). Quite possibly, this culture has a historical (and thus understandable) origin, but its continued political resonance in an otherwise civilised society is a mystery of horrific consequence.

Arguably, every country has its blind spots. The UK has its binge drinking, France its racially segregated banlieues, and the United States its culture of violence first. Yet for as long as a country as economically and technologically advanced as the United States cannot work out that everyday violence cannot be part of civilised culture, there will be more Las Vegas-style horror stories – and more grief overcome by anger.

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