TWO MORE mass murders in America in the space of 24 hours, and President Clinton has acknowledged that there may be a bit of a trend here. He has warned Americans that they are becoming too tolerant of violence, saying, "I don't think we understand fully just how much more violent the United States is than other countries."
I don't suppose he himself understands fully just how tolerant other countries are becoming of American violence, either. In April, when the world woke up to news of the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado, commentators across the globe began theorising hysterically over what it could all mean and how it could be curbed. Now, in November, after news of more shootings has broken every few weeks, few people bat an eyelid, let alone bat a cultural conclusion around.
Why is it that in the space of only seven months, the news of repeated mass murder in the world's most powerful democracy and dominant economy has become so uninteresting? While our general appetite for information about all things American remains insatiable, our reaction to these stories has become as lip-serving as the news of any supposedly insignificant tragedy in the developing world. American deaths are usually considered to have news value second only to British ones. But the serious matter of the US's burgeoning ability to breed battalions of lone gunmen seems to be something we feel we can no longer usefully comment on.
It is partly down to America's own stubborn paralysis. While, clearly, the easy availability of guns isn't the only thing that's wrong with a culture in which people regularly feel the need to massacre a bunch of work colleagues or schoolmates, it doesn't take a genius to work out that the right of every American to bear arms is a right for which many innocent people are paying the ultimate price.
What is the point of any further soul-searching, when the world's most powerful democracy falls at a hurdle as simple as this one? While Top- Man-on-the-Planet bleats that what he needs to see is sensible gun legislation from Congress, the rest of us marvel at how monolithic, and how utterly unable to generate positive momentum, the land of the free has become.
And if even this symptom can't be treated, what is the use of attempting to identify and combat the deeper causes of this awful malaise? Let's all just sit back and hope this madness all around calms down a bit after the turn of the millennium, seems to be the attitude of Congress. I'm sure the residents of Seattle are finding that pretty easy to do, as they muse about on whose back porch the man who walked into a boatyard and shot four men may be lurking.
But there are other conclusions, just as banal, that can be drawn from this spate of killings. Yet they are hardly worth mentioning, so unable are we to transform our knowledge into action. It's hardly worth pointing out that all of these killers have been men, and that it would therefore be uncontroversial to suggest that the sex divide is alive and killing.
Equality among the sexes is not a goal worth fighting for. But a far- reaching and honest critique of male behaviour - and not just towards women - is long overdue. So far it has been left to women to provide this, but really, they're the last people qualified to do so. Get a grip, guys, and start taking a good look at yourselves and the kind of world your freedom creates. Or rather, don't.
Since the guys can't even get together and apply enough self- analysis to come up with the conclusion that maybe not all of them are entirely to be trusted with vast armouries just for fun and pleasure and good times, then the idea that they might be able to undertake a vast evaluation of what masculinity is, and how it can be utilised most creatively, is as likely as the media deciding to leave Chris and Geri quietly to get on with living happily ever after for a few months. …