Gary Horton: Don’t normalize the outrageous


Carrie and I have been up visiting our daughter Katie in Seattle. She’s got a nice little townhome in Ballard that she was fortunate to acquire prior to Seattle’s housing market rocketing to unaffordability even faster than our own.

My mission there was to install a new bathroom vanity and sink. And so, I spent about six hours of my visit crouched over and under and sawing and plumbing and caulking… in the end, experiencing a very happy daughter who also got to help and learn along the way. Many folks know we almost lost Katie four years back after she was run over by a motorcycle in India. That she recovered fully, and that we can enjoy such normal, everyday activities as home improvement projects is simply wonderful and simply – “life normalized and enjoyed.”

It’s important we remember what’s “normal” because in today’s world the boundaries between normal, acceptable, reasonable – and outrageous, inexcusable, offensive, deplorable – have been blurred. We’re succumbing to outrageousness-overload and there’s nothing healthy or good about it. Rather, dulled minds are fertile ground for further outrage, manipulation, and abuse.

Case in point: During our visit, Katie recounted a moment earlier that day with a coworker. The coworker had been listening to the news when a piece on the Texas High School massacre came up. Ten were killed, 10 more wounded, and another school full of kids traumatized likely for life. The station reported the news dutifully, and then, without as much as even the now-popular “thoughts and prayers,” pivoted to the next story:

“First catch of the tasty and pricey Copper River salmon hits Seattle Friday:” “The first shipment of thousands of pounds of salmon is scheduled to arrive at 6:30 a.m., according to Alaska Airlines. “After the arrival of the fish, three Seattle executive chefs will compete for the best salmon recipe in the annual “Copper Chef Cook-off.”

Just Like That. Without fanfare or sorrow, the news jumps first from a massive slaughter of ten teenage students to – pricey salmon hitting hot-spot restaurants throughout Seattle.

A few decades ago a slaughter of this magnitude would have had us stopping as a nation for a good, long pause, flying flags at half mast, spending gobs of time on what the heck happened and why and what are we going to do about it?

Today? Just on to the next thing which this time happened to be a delicious fish.

Not much phases us Americans these days. We’ve been conditioned to just bear every piece of horrific, obnoxious, inhumane, offensive, outrageous news with not much more than a shrug, a few platitudes of “thoughts and prayers” and on to the salmon or perhaps the next crime scene.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told the NRA earlier this just this month, “The problem is not guns. The problem is hearts without God. It is homes without discipline and communities without values.” There will be more talk of “hardening our schools” and limiting gates and doors into them, all of which is outrageous in and of itself that we have come to this. Anything but face the real problem with us.

American has endured 288 school shootings since 2009. Meanwhile, the next highest rankings in school slaughter is Canada at 2, France at 2, Germany at 1, and Japan, Italy, and the UK at zero, apiece. We have the dubious “exceptionalism” of enduring 57 times more frequent school slaughters than the next six countries, combined.

And some say it’s a “lack of God.” Or, “too many doors.” “Evil Hollywood.” Anything but – logic. Godless France is 1/144th of the U.S. Evil Germany is 1/288th of us. And non-Christian Japan doesn’t even register, as you can’t divide by zero.

Literally, none of this computes. We’ve been conditioned to accept the outrageous, offensive, disgusting without nationally accepting that the concept of a nation having 8 times more guns than students might just have a gun problem and not a door or God problem or hardened school.

Guns, we’re told, don’t kill people, but damn, since 2009, 288 times we’ve seen with our own eyes that they have. Those murderers didn’t kill our kids with hockey sticks and textbooks, you know. Guns, guns, and more guns, all designed to kill people, did in fact, kill those kids. Let’s not play “make believe” anymore.

But our lack of outrage at outrage itself goes far beyond guns now. We accept a liar’s liar president who abuses others and labels them outlandish, derogatory names. We accept a president who attacks our nation’s courts and very Justice Department. Imagine, the Chief Executive of the U.S. attacking our chief law enforcement leaders to provide cover for his own shady dealing, from non-disclosed taxes (we’re about to learn why) to very real communication with foreign governments regarding the 2016 election.

Yet so many shrug shoulders and move onto the next fishy story or next crime scene.

Bathroom vanity completed in Seattle, Carrie and I traveled on to the Vancouver area. To a one, Canadians I met, both conservative and progressive, expressed that America and Americans have completely gone off our rails. From our guns to our politics to our never-ending warring – they wonder what happened to their once-richer, once savvier, southern cousins.

Separated from the every-dayness of the outrages surrounding Americans, our Canadian cousins look south of their border and see our crazy for the outrageous crazy it is.

Yet here in our homeland, Americans have fully normalized the outrageous to the point that the unacceptable, outrageous, offensive, and disgusting isn’t much more news than some pricey new fish hitting our bistros.

“SAD,” as our President has so often outrageously tweeted.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column, “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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