“I am tired of the dying,” said Greg Abbott on Sunday.
And well he should be. The Texas governor was in Odessa, in the western part of his state, to preside over a mass shooting there: seven dead, not counting the shooter, and 22 wounded, one of them a toddler. This follows a May 2015 shootout in Waco (nine dead); an August 2015 mass murder near Houston (eight dead); a July 2016 mass shooting in Dallas (five dead); a September 2017 mass shooting in Plano (eight dead); a November 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs (26 dead); a May 2018 mass shooting in Santa Fe (10 dead); and last month’s shooting in El Paso (22 dead).
So if the governor is “tired” of mass casualties, “tired” of facing grieving new widows, widowers and orphans, who can blame him? But the question is: What does that mean? What does it change? And the answer is disheartening. It likely means — and changes — nothing.
Abbott, after all, is the man who tweeted in 2015 that he was “EMBARRASSED” to learn his state lagged behind California in new gun purchases. “Let’s pick up the pace Texans,” he chided. And Abbott is the man who told an NRA convention that year that, “The problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.” And Abbott is the man who, minutes after he declared himself “tired of the dying,” defended new state laws loosening restrictions on guns, including making it easier to carry them into schools and houses of worship.
All that said, the issue here is neither Abbott nor Texas. It is, rather, that his Republican Party is trapped in a state of cognitive dissonance that has had deadly consequences for too many people for too many years. The GOP, goaded by the NRA, has chained itself to a premise: Guns are good, and more guns in more places are even better. And that premise may not be questioned, no matter how many people die, no matter how transparently stupid the premise becomes.
Oh, you may question any and everything else to your heart’s content. You may lay mass shootings off on “hearts without God,” for instance, and it won’t matter that an InfoPlease list of “notable worldwide mass and school shootings” shows that Sweden, a country where 76 percent of the people are irreligious or atheist, has seen no mass shootings (i.e., a shooting with three or more victims) and just one school shooting (two people died) since 1996.
It won’t matter since this is not about logic. No, it’s about jamming the square peg into the round hole, something you have to do because the premise …
Cognitive constipation is not new, nor is it limited to the GOP. To the contrary, there is a body of research dating back to 1979 quantifying our human resistance to accepting facts that contradict cherished ideas. Science has found that not only will contradictory information not cause us to reconsider a false premise, but will actually induce us to double down on it. This is how we are wired.
The good news is, we are not prisoners of our programming. The blood of innocents cries out from the very soil for the GOP to understand this, to get past its cognitive roadblock. Step One is to acknowledge the problem, stop making asinine excuses and, for God’s sake, question the premise.
One can only wonder how many people will have to die before they find the courage to do that. Gov. Abbott says he’s “tired of the dying,” and he probably thinks he means it. But the truth — for him and his party — is heartbreaking and plain:
They’re not nearly tired enough.