Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Opinion | With all the mass shootings, I’m good with staying home

Opinion | With all the mass shootings, I’m good with staying home

Anxiety is a beast. It can have you running colorful reels of catastrophe in your head and then convince you that they’re real. For those who don’t suffer from it, you should thank your stars. Those of us who do would happily trade our symptoms: Stealth attacks out of nowhere, a racing heartbeat, the sweats, the rapid breathing. You can’t fight this enemy; you have to let it have its way with you.

I know because every day in the United States we wake up to some new horror involving gun violence. Angry men appearing out of nowhere to murder innocent people. Usually with military-style assault rifles. Their evil leaves me feeling as though we’re all surrounded by ubiquitous and invisible violence. And this feeling, coupled with my already entrenched anxiety, is the reason I rarely leave the house anymore.

It’s easy to do when you have the luxury of working from home. You can sit in front of a computer, make your money — and just not see people. I talk to friends on the phone and don’t volunteer myself for plans. I go out every once in a great while and have fun when I do. But I’m good with being a shut-in — and I had time to practice during the covid-19 lockdowns. That dystopian nightmare was a cakewalk for people like me.

I don’t stroll in the park; a backyard is good enough. I don’t go to parades. A concert is out of the question; a movie theater is the last place I would consider going. Wait a few weeks, and the film will be streaming; then I can sit on my couch without worrying about gunfire at the multiplex.

I once thought a great deal about whether my self-imposed isolation is healthy. I worried I might wind up being that old man on the block who lives by himself. The one whose yard the neighborhood children dare one another to go into. The one who holds Frisbees and footballs hostage. But I’ve decided that, in our circumstances, I’m fine if that turns out to be the case.

Angry and violent men (and yes, it’s almost always men) appear to be everywhere now, shooting people who made the innocent mistake of going to the mall or turning around in driveways or knocking on the wrong door. These shootings seem inevitable, a destiny that’s just around the corner. It is a pathetic condition for a nation as powerful as ours. Even Amnesty International, the human rights group, warns travelers to “exercise caution” when visiting the United States.

I’m sticking close to home these days because, right now, humanity scares me — this country scares me. All it takes is one angry lunatic with a gun, and it feels to me as though those people are everywhere.

The United States has had more than 200 mass shootings this year, and it’s only the beginning of May. Some blame “mental illness,” but if that’s the case, then this must be the most “mentally ill” country in the world.

We all know what the real problem is — there are too many weapons in the hands of the wrong people. As a nation, we are unwilling to address it. This is just the way we live now.

I worry constantly about my friends and family. You can call me paranoid if you like. Or you can tell me all about the statistical improbability of getting killed in a mass shooting. I think only about those whose lives were tragically cut short at random.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. Who passes on going to certain places out of fear that one of these men will appear. I know that the chances of getting gunned down in a mass shooting are low. And I know it is important for all of us to push back against all forms of violence. Because we need to see one another. We need to gather at the park, at parades, at malls and everywhere else if we are to survive as a people. We need crowds to gather if only for the purpose of enjoying ourselves without fear of violence.

But, for now, I’m good at home. I’m good with gardening and reading and painting. I’m good with having a few close friends over for dinner. I know that my anxiety tricks me into believing that bad things will happen. But our reality makes it impossible for me to believe they won’t.

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