Some of reactions to the FBI's announcement that the New Orleans Mother's Day shooting was "a flare-up of street violence" as seen on Twitter are quite interesting.
Is this so they don't have to say 'gun violence?
Wish the FBI wouldn't use "street violence" as a synonym for "it's just black people;
It's terrorism when white folks are shot in mass and "street violence" when it's mostly black folks.
FBI: New Orleans shooting street violence = Obama Voters Shooting it out over Drugs they SELL to other Obama Voters!
So the shootings in New Orleans are classed as "street violence" and not terrorism. The suspects aren't Muslim...go figure.
So take your pick. How is this going to be framed? Partisan politics, gun control, racism, anti-Islamic bigotry, pro-Islamic bigotry, class warfare, the Zombie Apocalypse? Take your pick because nobody just dies any more. Every death, each effusion of blood on the sidewalk lately has been a narrative waiting to happen. And if we don't know which narrative it is that is because it is still being worked out.
In an age where we've supposedly stopped believing in demons, where doctors lose their licenses for advocating "spiritual cures" Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has put out a bounty on a nonhuman suspect. He's spending a million dollars on a program whose "goal will be avoiding crime — and making sure law enforcement knows about potential powder kegs before tragedies occur".
The goal is to cuff a developing intent, to prevent crime that hasn't happened yet, but out there, waiting to strike.
Bradshaw said his proposal is a first-of-its-kind in the nation, and he hopes it will become a model for the rest of the state like his gang prevention and pill-mill units.
“Every single incident, whether it’s Newtown, that movie theater, or the guy who spouts off at work and then goes home and kills his wife and two kids — in every single case, there were people who said they knew ahead of time that there was a problem,” Bradshaw said. “If the neighbor of the mom in Newtown had called somebody, this might have saved 25 kids’ lives.”
Bradshaw is readying a hotline and is planning public service announcements to encourage local citizens to report their neighbors, friends or family members if they fear they could harm themselves or others.
This is exactly what intelligence agencies do. They anticipate hostile enemy actions, frustrate the plans of saboteurs, throw the wrench into devious plots. Who is the enemy in this context? What could it be but a hostile narrative?
“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him,” Bradshaw said. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ ”
What about if he says he hates guns, or hopes that the next mass murderer is a "typical white American" or dislikes people who dislike abortion? How about that? Would it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, "Hey, is everything OK?" Or does what happens depend on the Narrative, a spirit as insubstantial as anything ever exorcised with Bell, Book or Candle?
When in 1970 Carol Hanisch coined the phrase "the personal is political" she may have been more prophetic than she knew. Today most everything is political. Every event that grabs the public's attention is dragged like a fallen bronze age warrior in a tug of war between the lines, each side hoping to claim its narrative armor. Readers will recall how after the Boston Bombing activists on both sides were practically praying to whatever gods they worshiped that the culprit prove to be the Other.
Perhaps no one dies a personal death any more. Nor are mourned as they once were, for themselves. Rather they merely exist as devices in some tale; not the self-aware actors that Tolkien's Sam once thought could alter the story, but only as cardboard characters doomed to come onstage to illustrate a point, speak their lines and exeunt left forever.
Joseph Stalin was alleged to have said "the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." So perhaps he set about abolishing the murder of the individual and transforming it into a political act which after all is merely a statistic. A building block in the great cathedral of whatever.
And though poets have long railed against the idea of a mass death and inveighed against tragedy shorn of individuality, where shall we find the something that can weep for us in our insignificance and weigh us like a broken sparrow in its palm, like a mother oblivious to the thunder of history? If there exists no individual love in the palace of the narrative and the narrative is all there is, then there is no love at all.