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A weekend of violence punctuates generations of hatred
(Video: Chelsea Conrad/The Washington Post)

The violence has been going on for so long that it has no recognizable beginning. Dozens of bullets were fired and sprayed at human targets – some of them were taken so completely unconscious that they did not flee the shooter; they are not even curled up. They just go about their daily business: shopping, praying, dancing, commuting, laughing. Existing.

To exist might just be the greatest leap of faith one can take in this land of hate, guns and fear.

There is also no end in sight.

The weekend was deadly. At least 14 people were killed in mass shootings; 39 were injured. Those days of rest and rejuvenation have been horribly, mortally heartbreaking. But the same goes for most every weekend. This time, the shootings echoed across the country, from California to Wisconsin to New York. They affected large cities and small communities. They were spawned by racism, by grievances, by elements of the human heart and soul that may never be fully understood, but somehow if anyone wants to survive to the deep-rooted animosity of this country, it must be contained. Already, no one is unscathed.

Flowers hang from a sign outside the Tops supermarket in Buffalo on May 15, a day after a gunman killed 10 people at the store. (Video: Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

What we know about the victims of the Buffalo grocery store shooting

Saturday afternoon’s shooting at Tops Friendly Markets in a predominantly black Buffalo neighborhood is the deadliest mass shooting of 2022, but it’s one of more than 200 to date. Authorities believe the alleged attacker posted his intentions and motives online. He declared himself a white supremacist and anti-Semite; he presented his plan to target a black community. He dressed in body armor, loaded up with artillery and opened fire – as he live-streamed his diabolical deeds. He killed 10 people and injured three others because he was convinced that a cabal of elites was plotting the elimination of white people from America. The evil man was bloodthirsty and feasting on a lie. He wanted to kill so badly that he started shooting in the parking lot as he entered the store. He fired and he fired. He watched innocent people do their weekend shopping and he killed them.

The suspect, Payton S. Gendron has been charged with first degree murder. He’s only 18, which is incredibly young to be filled with such bile already. But history has proven that youth is not an antidote to hate or revenge, indeed, it can simply be a more agile and tech-savvy vector. Dylann Roof was just 21 when the self-proclaimed white supremacist killed nine black members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015. Ethan Crumbley was just 15 when he was arrested for killing four college students in Oxford High School in Michigan. in 2021. Young people may be born predisposed to prejudice and hatred; the seeds are planted in the beginning to be selfish and inflexible and over time people grow into or grow out of their wilderness.

When did all this start? Was it Colombine in 1999? Was it with the angry postman in Royal Oak, Michigan in 1991 who killed four people? Or maybe it started in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921?

Americans are stubbornly insensitive to death

Over the years, every inhabitant of this country has learned that no cadre is prohibited from a mass shooting. When this happens, people utter the platitude of never thinking such violence could happen in their own community. It’s hard not to wonder if they are blind optimists or fools, because the evidence clearly shows that such things could happen anywhere and everywhere. No place is safe. No place is sacred. Everything passes for a shooting range.

Schools have long been unsafe and no matter how many children are killed in their classrooms, this country is doing nothing to try to quell the violence. Churches, synagogues and mosques are not prohibited. On Sunday, a man entered the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, and shot worshipers as they were having lunch. He killed one person and injured five others; most of the victims were of Taiwanese origin. We can’t watch a movie without fear, get tipsy at a house party, window shop at the mall, pick up a bargain at a flea market, or take a nap on a morning commute. Metro. The national pastime is not a safe space. There is no assurance of serenity and community in the shadow of public art. All of these places have been the scene of mass shootings. So host a basketball game, the local Walmart, and that quiet street where no one thought anything deadly could happen until it did.

In Buffalo, the shooter searched for his victims. He came for them. There are a host of historical, systemic and economic reasons. Black residents often live clustered in neighborhoods where they must lobby for basic municipal services. The effects of redlining remain and de facto segregation is a reality. The constant drip of racism has long been a caustic and never-ending burden. In Buffalo, the community of black residents had fought for a supermarket in their neighborhood. It wasn’t an exceptional grocery store and it didn’t transform their lives, but it was an oasis of convenience. And Gendron had the ruthless audacity to travel from his community to their oasis to kill them there.

The miracle of an open door

Gendron came from his hometown of Conklin, a predominantly white suburb of Binghamton more than three hours away, to a neighborhood of people whose lives have already been strained in countless nagging ways and he attacked them. He didn’t come out of his house with its tidy lawn, his basketball hoop in his driveway and his backyard pool, and started shooting people he saw daily, people with whom familiarity and closeness might have provided a real rather than an imagined opportunity. , grievance. He did not fire on the so-called elites he mistakenly believed were trying to eliminate him from the country. He did not target those with power, authority or influence. He went after people who were just living their lives with dignity.

Candles, flowers and signs supporting Black Lives Matter are left near the Tops supermarket in Buffalo on May 15. (Video: Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

These mass shootings are terrifying and mind-numbing because they defy logic. Human nature includes a fight for money or sex, although it does not tolerate a fracas either. Most people can understand the meaning of tit for tat, eye for eye – even if they recognize it as a basic, uncivilized way to settle a dispute. But mass shootings have none of this predictability and are therefore impossible to defend against. We’re looking for a motive, a grudge, a system failure. And it’s true that there are too many weapons too easily accessible. It’s true that social media is full of misinformation and groups aiming to radicalize disgruntled men and women. But violence, especially violence that targets people because of their race, religion, and sexual orientation, is not a creation of the internet or modern weapons. This hatred has always been there. It just got easier for people to act on their worst impulses. Rushing into a supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood and spraying customers with bullets from a jury-rigged semi-automatic weapon is far more effective than lynching them one by one. It’s faster to shoot a Walmart in a neighborhood full of recent immigrants, as one killer did in 2019, than to negotiate over immigration policy.

Last weekend reverberated because so many people were hurt and killed in such a short time and with such targeted hatred. But this weekend is just one data point on a continuum. It’s a terrible time with a before it’s too far to be seen and a after which, frankly, promises more of the same. We mourn the lives lost. In Buffalo, 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield was killed. She was the eldest victim and at the sunset of life, when every moment seems all the more precious, those last priceless days were cruelly taken from her. In Milwaukee, in a shooting following a basketball game, most of those injured were in their late teens and twenties. Their lives are forever changed. They have confirmation that terrible things can happen anywhere. They have proof that this is who we are.

It’s who we are. But maybe that’s not what we’re destined to stay.

These are the words of a blind optimist – or a fool.


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