I purposely didn’t watch any coverage of the horror coming out of Parkland, Fla.
But this stuff, kids being killed with the type of weapons that should be the sole preserve of the police and the military, is inescapable and unavoidable, like piped-in, insipid Muzak in an elevator or a dentist’s waiting room.
It is like the air we breathe, the food we eat, and so some of the details seeped into my consciousness.
Unstable kid with unfettered access to high-powered weaponry returns to his high school with a chip on his shoulder and a gun in his hands.
When the smoke clears, we record the numbers like we would a football game: 17 dead, at least 13 injured.
Then, as a culture, as human beings, we go into rote: Politicians on one side say we must do something to reduce the number of mass shootings; politicians in the pay of the National Rifle Association bang on about the Second Amendment, and, eventually, some lunatic posits that if all or even one of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were packing their own guns, all of this could have been averted.
That’s how crazy we are. We are as nuts as Nikolas Cruz, who at 19 was too young to legally drink a beer but had absolutely no problem acquiring a semiautomatic AR-15. There were so many red flags on this kid, you would think every coach in the NFL had thrown a challenge flag.
President Trump bangs on about how obviously unstable Cruz was. And, of course, he says absolutely nothing about the national epidemic and public health menace of high-powered weaponry in a country of 300 million that has more guns than people.
If only we really could throw a red challenge flag in the Congress, to demand that the paid prostitutes for the NRA would be forced to sit and watch a ceaseless loop of video, replaying every school shooting since Columbine. Maybe a long, extended viewing of this madness, like a video waterboarding, would persuade the frauds in Congress to do their duty and do something, anything, to reduce the odds of this stuff happening over and over again.
But you, I, and the entire billion-dollar gun lobby in the United States know that won’t happen.
There have been 18 school shootings in this country this year, 290 since 2013. It is getting to the point that this carnage has become so common, so frequent, so obscenely familiar that it is hard to summon the sufficient outrage. It is sapping our humanity.
When my editor asked me whether I wanted to write something about this, I initially replied with almost apathy, saying I have written this same column over and over again. It feels like “Groundhog Day,” a horrific nightmare from which we awake in the middle of the night, sweating, breathing heavily. And then we go back to sleep and wake again, startled and frightened and begging God not to let us fall asleep again because we will only awake again, feeling the same fear, the same disgust, the same hopelessness.
Christine Hunschofsky, the mayor of Parkland and a native of West Roxbury, spoke some truth when she said what happened in her city could happen anywhere. But she is kidding herself if she thinks Florida, where they sell guns like drinks at a lemonade stand, is the same as Massachusetts, where there are far fewer guns and far fewer gun deaths.
This is simple math, folks. If we make it harder for people to get as many guns as they want, we make it harder for people to commit murder, mass or otherwise.
I can’t listen to the gun nuts anymore. They are so morally bankrupt, so utterly corrupt that it is beyond any reason to try to reason with them.
The vast majority of Americans want some form of basic, reasonable gun control. The idea that any American without a criminal record can obtain as many military-style weapons in this country as they desire, and that criminals can obtain anything and everything designed solely to kill as many human beings as possible in as short a period of time as possible, is nothing short of obscene.
But nothing will be done. We all know that. If 20 dead elementary school children in Connecticut didn’t change anything, why would 17 dead high school kids in Florida change anything?
And so the dance, rehearsed and choreographed, resumes.
We watch televised images of children, marching, with their hands on the shoulders of the kid in front of them. They look like prisoners of war. And in some ways, they are just that.
There is something almost ritualistic about what we do in the wake of it all.
Seth Moulton, a congressman who served his country in combat as a Marine, rises to say he will not partake in a moment of silence because the fact that this country is awash in weapons is an abomination and that lawmakers are shaming themselves by taking part in empty gestures instead of action to safeguard American lives.
Chris Murphy, the congressman from Connecticut who has embraced and looked in the eyes of the parents whose children’s bodies were riddled with bullets, children whose wakes were held with closed caskets, rises, and with the righteous indignation of a preacher calling out his flock casts an accusing finger at his colleagues for their cowardice and their complicity in the slaughter of their fellow Americans.
And as Moulton and Murphy bear witness, doing their jobs as elected representatives and as human beings, the Republicans and some Democrats who take NRA money like gimlet-eyed hookers snicker at them behind their backs, dismissing them as showboats.
Because we are human and because we need something to reassure us in times like this, we find our heroes in all of these moments of horror. This time, it’s Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard at the high school in Parkland. Like the teachers at Sandy Hook who died while shielding their students from bullets, Feis used his body in an attempt to save the lives of those kids he loved.
But the bravery and courage and selflessness of Aaron Feis, like the teachers in Sandy Hook, like the heroes in Las Vegas and Orlando and so many other places that are synonymous with the madness of mass murder, were no match for the bullets from an AR-15.
And so, despite my resolve to not get sucked into the madness again, I clicked on a story about Aaron Feis, and I had read just a few paragraphs before I realized tears were falling onto my keyboard.
And I thought of Aaron Feis and those beautiful kids in Florida, and I thought of their families, and I remembered some of the last words that Jesus said, right before he died for our sins: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.