In What Bullets Do to Bodies in HuffPost Highline from April 26th, Jason Fagone suggests: “The gun debate would change in an instant if Americans witnessed the horrors that trauma surgeons confront every day.”
Would it? If we were regularly confronted with gruesome images of gun violence would it have an effect? Would it move us to finally put a foot down? To say enough is enough? Would it kill complacency? Would it? Would it really?
Similarly, will spreading this article help anything or only become another thing for one group of people to agree with and nod their heads and another group to roll their eyes and cross their arms.
What interested me about the article is how it addresses not only the futility of gun violence, but also by extension the futility of writing about it.
Fagone opens the article with this: “The first thing Dr. Amy Goldberg told me is that this article would be pointless. She said this on a phone call last summer, well before the election, before a tangible sensation that facts were futile became a broader American phenomenon.”
And in an interview Leonard Lopate, Fagone elaborates:
“The first thing she told me is, you know, your article isn’t going to change anything. Nothing is going to happen because of what you write … and the article in some ways for me became about futility … about her kind of acknowledging the larger futility and then going head-on at that futility and trying to do something good even in a world where the bigger picture of gun violence is futile.”
For some time, I’ve had this question hovering over everything I start to write, especially during the last year of politics: Do words matter?
I struggle a lot with futility. Between doing something and doing nothing. Between writing a thing or not writing a thing. Between feeling that words have lost all meaning and that words are everything. I’m not sure that feeling is going to go away anytime soon.
But then I read a particularly good sentence. Or take a particularly good drive. Or have a particularly good conversation. Or eat a particularly good muffin. Or get a particularly good lick from my dog.
Sparks. Sparks are everywhere. No matter how small.
And they create a momentary sense of certainty that words do, in fact, matter. It temporarily quiets the doubt.