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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Do Americans care enough to stop the carnage?

Another mass shooting. Another round of paralysis.

These all-too-common tragedies have come to produce paint-by-numbers responses. A young man walks into a church, participates in a Bible study session and mows down nine people.

It’s horrifying. Just like the last one.

It’s unthinkable. Just like the last one.

It will spark a dead-end debate. If we let it.

Americans numbed to these atrocities must shake it off. Sadly, even President Barack Obama seems resigned.

We’re trained to expect a stalemate after each mass shooting. We don’t look at the problem as cumulative, but over the past three decades, the toll has been sickening:

In 1984, a shooting at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California, left 21 dead and 19 wounded.

In 1986, a mail carrier went “postal” in Edmonds, Oklahoma, leaving 14 dead and six wounded.

In 1989, a gunman killed five and wounded 29 at a Stockton, California, school playground.

In 1990, a Jacksonville, Florida, man killed 10 and injured four after his car was repossessed.

In 1991, in Killeen, Texas, 22 restaurant patrons and workers were slain and 20 wounded.

In 1993, eight people were slain and six injured in a San Francisco office shooting.

In 1994, four people were killed and 22 wounded at Fairchild Air Force Base.

In 1998, five were killed and 10 injured at a middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The next mass shooting was at Columbine High School in 1999, where 13 people were killed and 24 wounded. That paled in comparison to the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University, where 32 people died and 17 were injured.

But the tragedy that seemed to convince Americans that nothing would ever change occurred in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six adults were systematically gunned down.

These 30 years of slaughter are uniquely American. It’s the kind of exceptionalism that ought to so shame citizens that they would never rest until substantive action were taken.

So each one of us must become the exception to the exception.

We are told to say something if we see something.

Dylann Roof’s friend saw something. Even took his gun away after a drunken rant against black people. But said nothing to authorities.

Roof’s alleged crime is not on him. We’re told a terrorist is the “other.” Foreign. Muslim. A stranger.

In reality, he’s next door. We know him (always a him). And, as with Roof, we notice a change in behavior, or hear talk of violence.

It’s time for an intervention, just as there would be if someone began talking about suicide.

We are told to live in fear, to arm ourselves, even in church. Hallelujah.

If American society as a whole cannot break its cycle of violence, as individuals we can. It’s not a matter of snitching. It’s a matter of caring.

Do we care?

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