FORTY years ago Neil Young sang “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?” and there is still no greater mirror to second amendment zealotry. It’s easy for a Canadian to critique American gun culture from across the border. Easier still for an Australian to criticise from across the Pacific. We can wear “Un-American” as a badge of distinction while we hum songs like Ohio or Southern Man and ponder the names and numbers of dead and wounded in their city streets.
This time there are more than 50 dead and 500 wounded. A new record. This time it’s an ageing white male pushed beyond sanity by enemies inside his head. Even a simplistic president can sum it up in five words – “He was a sick man.” He knows the whole story but only tells half. A sick man had access to limitless weaponry.
In the halls of power and in the churchyards the words of loss and mourning take flight with uncaged doves. Our prime minister rightly speaks the words we need to hear and the analysis begins. People are dead for no logical reason. Amen. Three days later and the current affairs programs are looking for clues amid the inside story. Mobile phone footage abounds. Track down the killer's relatives. Our gun laws are going to be reviewed.
There could be another person of interest with an itching trigger finger. Or not. My generation, my demographic, including that sick killer, grew up with the Vietnam War body count as a daily news item. Fresh body bags are being stockpiled in warehouses across America in preparation for the next shooting. And the next. It’s an industry.
In Myanmar, it’s just plain genocide. From across the Indian Ocean last week came news of an entire people being hunted down by an army as hundreds of villages burnt. They are still burning. Where can you run when your own country turns on you? No names, no mobile phone self-reporting and the numbers are too great to count.
Over the line, in another country, the Rohingya can staunch the bleeding and clutch at hope in a country already crowded with poor starving wretches waiting for decades in camps. Until that country rises up against them. Another generation waiting for a boat to elsewhere, anywhere.
Sing laments for them as their tragedy is eclipsed in the mass media. Our Prime Minister whispered soft words for them too. Then ...
A few generations ago, our families were the huddled masses waiting for a boat to anywhere else. Now we have HMAS Stop the Boats patrolling that cruel ocean.
Up here in the hills the skies are clear. Thanks to Big Milk, there are any number of disused buildings on farms across South Gippsland and Bass Coast. Empty farmhouses are bordered by good soil for vegie gardens, have access to water and grass to feed a few cows. Plenty of room for those desperate Rohingya people.